This week, we saw more confirmed COVID-19 cases within our DHS family. I know that these infections can lead to heightened concerns about work, at the same time you are processing rapidly changing information in your local communities. Across DHS, during this time, we are increasing our use of situational telework where possible, and we ask that you all be on the lookout for potential symptoms in yourselves or your loved ones. As the situation continues to evolve, I want to be sure you are familiar with terms that are being used and what may be needed from you during this challenging time.
If you are asked to conduct self-observation, this means you should remain alert for fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. During this time you should reduce your usual activities, but you are still able to work and may be able to telework if your duties allow, as you are not ill. If you feel feverish or develop a cough or difficulty breathing during the self-observation period, you should take your temperature, quarantine (see below), limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or your local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.
Quarantine means you are believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease (but are not currently symptomatic) and you need to separate yourself from others to prevent the possible spread of the disease. You may be able to telework during this time as well, but you should refrain from activities outside of your home, including work, school, errands, movie theaters, and social gatherings for example. You will self-observe for symptoms and while at home, avoid close contact with your loved ones. Public transportation and/or ride-sharing services also should be avoided. If you do become ill during this time, seek advice by telephone from a health care provider or your local health department to determine what medical action may be required.
If you are asked to take one of these actions and/or are teleworking, please work with your supervisor regarding duties, hours, and special circumstances such as childcare or eldercare. Due to the novel elements of this situation, supervisors have been given additional flexibilities to allow for changes to hours and telework policies to support you as you support our critical DHS missions. If you do telework, please remember our DHS requirements to only use Government-furnished equipment or Workplace as a Service and how to handle information. The complete guidance is available online as a refresher.
I know the speed of current events can feel overwhelming, but education and communication truly are our best tools against COVID-19. Each of us can help reduce exposure: refrain from shaking hands, practice social distancing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and practice proper sneeze and cough etiquette. Even if you are not in a high-risk group, your good habits help protect others. Please do not be afraid to report flu-like symptoms, especially those related to travel or direct contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Talk to your supervisor about flexibilities to support you and your family. Finally, if you hear rumors about an infection or exposure, please communicate with your leadership immediately. Anxiety and misinformation are not good for you, your colleagues, or your loved ones.
In closing, I want to reinforce the importance of working with health officials at the local level: both the medical and occupational health experts in your Component and the public health departments in your hometown. They will provide the most accurate and precise guidance for you and your family.
I will continue to update you as the situation evolves, and we prepare for return to our normal operational cadence.
Chief Human Capital Officer