It has been quite some time since I have written to you about COVID. Like you, I was truly hoping that I would not be writing to you about COVID, wearing masks, or getting vaccinated, hoping instead to be enjoying the rest of the summer with the virus in my rear-view mirror. And while life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, hope, or expect, there’s one thing I have learned about DHS this past year; that is—each of us, when we pull our collective spirit together—we not only survive, we thrive.
Now, with the delta variant, it seems COVID is not finished with us yet. I know how remarkably stressful, disheartening, and sometimes confusing all of this is, especially when we get guidance coming in from all directions and we’re just trying to figure out what is the right thing to do, not only for ourselves, but our loved ones as well. Our goal is to create clear, practical, and useful guidance to help you and your DHS colleagues keep safe and healthy.
Two major changes happened over the last couple of weeks. President Biden recently announced all federal employees must attest to their vaccination status and requirements for COVID testing for unvaccinated individuals. This requirement came right on the heels of new guidance to return to masking in many parts of the country, regardless of vaccination status. We are working to finalize procedures to do both of these things, while also maintaining your privacy and accounting for individual situations. Our goal is to balance as many of your interests as possible surrounding these requirements, without compromising the integrity of the requirements to seek your vaccination status and require that you wear a mask regardless of your vaccination status. As you can imagine, it is an evolving situation. We have a solid team of experts we consult with on a daily basis to address these requirements, including our health, privacy, and legal experts. While I can’t promise perfect solutions, I can promise that each and every day we strive to implement what we think are sound guiding principles, practices, and procedures.
As I have said since my first message last year, it is important to remain informed about COVID and to take the steps that are right for your situation. Vaccination, masking, social distancing, hand washing, and operational adjustments at your duty station are all critical parts of the battle against catching and spreading COVID-19 and its delta variant. The most important of these is vaccination. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I worry about the role stress plays in our lives. COVID is more than a physical challenge to our health, it is also a psychological one. Always remember, we are here for you, and we have designed our DHS resources to support you and your family’s medical and emotional health.
For the most up to date information about COVID, vaccinations, and our DHS guidance, please go to our COVID-19 workforce information page, which is publicly available for your family’s use too. This site will be updated with all new guidance as it comes out, including what we are finalizing now regarding vaccination status.
Our Employee Resources site is full of blogs (including mine), articles, links, and support information that can help you and your loved ones deal with stress, financial challenges, having additional family members back home, healthy living, domestic violence, suicide prevention, and more. You can subscribe to receive a weekly digest of these employee blog posts. My previous emails are also available here should you wish to review the resources mentioned in those.
Remember, if you need help, do not be afraid to talk to someone. Our Employee Assistance Programs are available 24 hours a day and are confidential, free, and do not affect your security clearance.
Keeping you and your families healthy is critical to our way of life, and the eventual recovery of our nation from this virus. Please watch for the new guidance that is coming out soon to help. I ask for your patience as our guidance evolves with the times. Just as importantly though, I want you to remember that, as Linda Poindexter said, “One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”