Towns, state of Delaware prepare for sick leave

Local municipalities and state government are focusing on the welfare of their employees with relaxed policies governing time off and potential quarantine implementation amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.

In Delaware, both full-time and casual/seasonal state employees may receive up to 30 days of special emergency leave if they are directly impacted by the virus. Direct impact includes being sickened or having a workplace facility close due to an outbreak.

State employees indirectly impacted by things such as school closures can get up to 14 days of emergency leave. That policy aims to prevent workers from being forced to use regular sick time, which may not be sufficient.

Additionally, copays for COVID-19 testing will be temporarily waived for individuals on the state health care plan.

On Saturday, the City of Dover told its employees that Liberal Leave is in effect as of Monday.

Seaford City Manager Charles Anderson said several policies are in place in his western Sussex municipality.

“At the city of Seaford, our human resources – our employees – are the most important,” he said. “We deliver a lot of critical services – police, water, sewer, our electric service, a lot of critical services, so it’s really important that they are taken care of.”

The city has instructed any of its approximate 80 employees who feel sick to use the short-term illness policy.

“You get paid, and we ask that you consult with your primary care physician. That is the short term,” said Mr. Anderson.

The city has a policy governing quarantine, which could involve several employees with overseas connections. The city’s workforce has one employee under quarantine.

“And we have one on the way back from overseas. So, it will soon be two. And we have one person that has a trip pending, that if they go … so we might wind up with three,” said Mr. Anderson. “We have some people in our workforce that recently have traveled overseas. We have made the decision to quarantine them for 14 days. They are expected to work from home. We are providing them with work. We are asking that they check in with us every day to make sure they are OK, to make sure that they haven’t developed symptoms.”

Employees under quarantine, by the city or medical professional, will get paid.

“We are looking at quarantine being two weeks because, that is traditionally what happens. If it extends longer, we actually have a benefit that goes longer, so our employees will get paid if they are quarantined,” said Mr. Anderson. “Now, if you are not quarantined yet you’re concerned about your health, your family’s health, then we are allowing you to take vacation or other time off – AT (accrued time) – that some people have. So we are allowing you to do that as well, without a quarantine.”

Quarantine would only allow such vital things as going to the doctor, the grocery store or to get medicine.

“Because if you are quarantined, we want you to be quarantined,” Mr. Anderson.

The city is also checking into the possibility of possible ability of some employees working from home. “We have not done that yet with anyone,” said Mr. Anderson. “We are also looking at potentially, we may limit access to our facilities obviously for unnecessary travel.”

Friday, the city of Seaford announced all city buildings will be closed to the general public until further notice. This includes city hall and public utilities, wastewater treatment and parks and recreation buildings. Seaford police and public works crews will continue to respond to calls.

Seaford residents are encouraged to use the city’s website – payment portal option for making utility billing payments. Payments may also be made by U.S. mail, via the drive-thru window at city hall or the drop box at city hall.

“Whether it is blown out of proportion or not, it’s on people’s minds. It is a concern,” said Seaford Mayor David Genshaw. “It is impacting our economy. It’s impacting everything. We’re a global economy now. We are dependent upon imports from China and all over the world. It is going to be interesting how this all plays out.

At its March 11 meeting, Georgetown town council adopted a special COVID-19 policy. Effective immediately for at least 60 days, the policy establishes priorities to:

• Maintain a safe and healthy workplace, including minimizing the potential for transmission of the contagious disease;

• Maintain operational continuity; and

• Encourage fairness, open communications and concern for the wellbeing of our employees, residents and visitors.

Under this policy, employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are strongly recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4 Fahrenheit) or greater, signs of a fever, cough, shortness of breath and any other symptoms.
Employees who are well are expected to work unless they have been:

• Caring for someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, in which case they are required to self-isolate and follow any measure implemented by any regulatory authority;

• In a CDC Level 3 area of concern for COVID-19; or

• Instructed to refrain from attending work by their personal physician or public health officials, in which case documentation must be provided.

Town of Georgetown employees will not be required to use their accrued sick leave or vacation time should they be required to be quarantined as a result of exposure to or complications from coronavirus/COVID-19.

Employees with dependent children, partners, household members, or elders under their care who are ill or quarantined as described under “Sick Employees” will not be required to use sick leave or vacation time should they be required to provide care. Appropriate documentation may be required.

Employees will be afforded regular wages for up to 14 workdays to recover from any exposure. Should a time period greater than 14 days be required, the employee must notify their supervisor and the town manager immediately. Each case greater than 14 days will be handled on a case by case basis.

In general, written medical clearance will not be required for return to work from ordinary illness of brief duration. This is being done to avoid overtaxing health care resources. However, the town of Georgetown reserves the right to request confirmation of COVID-19, ongoing illnesses or that of family members. Documentation for any absences will be handled on a case by case basis.

The policy is in effect for 60 days unless extended by town council.

In the town of Millsboro, there has been discussion, but no action of as Saturday.

“We haven’t done anything special related to the coronavirus,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “We have talked about possibly a directive of sorts. In other words, something possibly that would come from my office so to speak as opposed to council, relative to the coronavirus just because of the time-sensitive nature as opposed to waiting for council to meet. But nothing has been instituted.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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