North Carolina government agencies announce changes aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — State government agencies are making a variety of changes in light of new recommendations aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Tuesday, and health officials made recommendations specific to the Triangle region, where seven people have tested positive for COVID-19.

Six of those people are in Wake County and one is in Chatham County.

On Wednesday, Cooper said there had been no increase since Monday in the number of positive cases in North Carolina.

Health officials are encouraging employers in the Triangle to allow people to work remotely as much as possible, consider staggering work hours and be flexible with sick leave.

“We do know our state employees are working hard on this very issue, and others who aren’t certainly deserve the same kinds of protection,” said Cooper.

CBS 17 contacted state government agencies to find out how they’re implementing the new recommendations.

These are the responses we’ve received:

Dept. of Health and Human Services

“Governor Cooper’s declaration on Tuesday of a State of Emergency activated the state Communicable Disease Emergency Policy, which provides additional options for agencies to address situations arising from this public health emergency. Agencies are encouraged to apply options that best support business continuity while prioritizing the health and well-being of our workforce, such as staggered work schedules and using social distancing to minimize potential exposure, and other creative approaches that align with agency needs.

“To protect our employees, their families and the greater community, state employees are encouraged make use of the established state Teleworking Program Policy as much as possible to limit exposure and blunt the impact of coronavirus spread. State government employees, temporary employees and contractors working with the state who live and/or work in Wake, Durham and Orange counties may telework to the greatest extent possible starting today, with supervisor approval and a signed telework agreement. While not all jobs are conducive to teleworking, this policy helps the state responds to the threat of the virus while balancing the needs of the people we serve.”

Kelly Haight

Dept. of Insurance

“There will be no impact on our services for citizens.  We are determining telework strategies as we speak.  The only thing that may be impacted in the public’s ability to come in one-on-one for counseling with SHIIP – a program within the NCDOI to assist with Medicare questions.  However, they will still be able to call and speak with counselors.”

Marla Sink

Attorney General’s Office

Our office has recommended that people who are at higher risk for contracting this virus telework. We are implementing this procedure while also ensuring that DOJ’s service to the state is not impacted.”

Laura Brewer

Secretary of State’s Office

“The Secretary of State’s Office is following the advice of public health officials and the Governor. We are evaluating and deploying telework options for employees, first to those at highest risk, who can do their work remotely. In addition, we are identifying ways to limit exposure for employees in our facilities through staggering work times and other flexible options. Many of the transactions with our office can be handled online and we are encouraging our customers, if possible, to use the online option in order to limit in-person interactions during this period. At present, customers should not be seeing any delays in service, but that could change depending on this evolving situation.”

Tim Crowley

Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services

“We are working to follow the guidance of the Governor’s directive on teleworking and social distancing in the workplace, and there are ongoing discussions now with directors and supervisors to provide guidance to employees. Maintaining a healthy workforce is a top priority so we have been sharing information from public health and the CDC on FAQs and best practices. We do have employees across the state, so there will be a continuation of services, but we do anticipate that there will be some delays in service because of implementing these measures. We will work to minimize those as best we can.”

Andrea Ashby

Dept. of Revenue

“All North Carolina Department of Revenue Service Centers are open to the public for assistance at this time.”

Schorr Johnson

Dept. of Labor

“NCDOL employees that work in Wake, Durham and Orange Counties have been given the option to telework. There should be no disruption of services we provide at this time.”

Dolores Quesenberry

Administrative Office of the Courts

“Based on the guidance of public health experts and consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order, the Chief Justice and I encourage all Judicial Branch hiring authorities to consider allowing appropriate Judicial Branch employees and contractors who live and/or work in Wake, Durham, or Orange counties to telework if their jobs can be done remotely. Judicial Branch employees now have access to many resources that make telework more feasible, such as Office 365, OneDrive, and WebEx.

“Because many of you will not be able to telework due to the nature of your jobs, and will continue to serve the public on the front lines with dedication and commitment, we will continue to provide information about best practices to help you remain healthy and safe. Those precautions include regular handwashing, sanitizing surfaces, and social distancing when appropriate.” 

NCAOC Director McKinley Wooten

Lt. Governor’s Office

“We are taking all the necessary precautions at our physical office to maintain a clean and sterile working environment.  As for teleworking and staggering hours, we will keep our office open as normal as of right now because of the small size of our agency.  If any of our employees feel under the weather, Lt. Governor Forest has asked that they work from home.  Lt. Governor Forest has also instituted a fist/elbow bump policy, rather than shaking hands with constituents and visitors.”

Jamey Falkenbury

State Treasurer’s Office

“The Department of State Treasurer (DST) received a communication from the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) entitled COVID-19 State of Emergency and Teleworking. This communication was generated by OSHR as a result of Governor Cooper declaring a “state of emergency.” The communication from OSHR “… encourage[s] all state government employees, temporary employees, and contractors working with the state who live and/or work in Wake, Durham and Orange counties to telework to the greatest extent possible starting Wednesday, March 11.”  It then identifies those that are at high risk and provides many common-sense recommendations to avoid contracting coronavirus.

“All employees at DST are reporting for work as usual.  We have been communicating frequently with employees regarding good hygiene routines to minimize exposure to coronavirus or other viruses. Employees have been told that if they fit the criteria for high risk of severe illness mentioned in OSHR’s email and need to take personal leave, they should talk to their supervisor.  The policy grants leniency and flexibility to this population.

“Additionally, employees have been told that If they are sick, then they should stay home.  Supervisors always have the right and obligation to keep the work unit safe.  If someone is exhibiting illness such that they cannot perform the essential functions of their job or they are exposing others, they can be sent home now using their own leave. 

“We have cancelled and rescheduled travel for employees. For the time being, the State Health Plan and Retirement Systems Division have cancelled all gatherings of retirees and pre-65 retiree outreach meetings held throughout the state.  One-on-one retirement meetings here at DST have not been cancelled at this time, but telephone meetings are being encouraged.

“At this time, we anticipate no disruption in services for citizens. However, we are preparing a robust plan should the situation worsen.”

Frank Lester

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