COVID-19 (Coronavirus) FAQs for Employees
Contact information and resources:
- For general HR questions and guidance, staff members should contact their HR generalist.
- For questions regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act, the department should contact their Payroll and Transactions contact.
- For guidance to employees for exposure to presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 - view the help guide.
- For questions involving collective bargaining agreement terms, managers or supervisors should contact Alison Kelly.
- If you have questions not addressed here and you are not able to obtain guidance from your manager or supervisor, contact Ann Feaman or Sandi Blaeser.
- For general COVID-19 questions, visit the Coronavirus Disease 2019 page.
See below for answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19/coronavirus.
Buildings and workplace
What should departments be doing to prepare their workspace for the return of employees?
As of May 13, with the announcement of the Governor’s Stay Safe Minnesota order, Ramsey County is continuing to promote employees working from home wherever possible. There is no intent for employees in any large numbers to return to the office for the foreseeable future. No workspace modifications (i.e. furniture configurations, plexiglass shields, etc.) should be undertaken at this time. As specific department functions are to return to an office setting, as approved by the County Manager through service redesigns, social distancing will be the primary focus within the workspace. If social distancing cannot be achieved, any workspace modifications will be determined through Property Management and Public Health.
What is being done to promote social distancing in buildings and workspaces that are open to the public?
Signage promoting social distancing has been deployed and will be maintained. Social distancing floor decals will be deployed in the public and common areas of buildings with public access. As interior lobbies are approved for public access, Property Management will install floor decals in these areas as well.
Can employees drop in the office as needed?
On occasion, based on a staggered schedule, departments may allow employees to drop in to the office to complete work not possible at home. Employees should practice social distancing and be mindful that the department work areas/surfaces are not cleaned and disinfected by the custodial staff other than within breakrooms. Frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer is recommended.
Can employees take home office furniture such as desks and chairs?
No, employees are not allowed to take home office furniture.
Can an employee purchase some home office furniture and seek county reimbursement?
No, there will be no reimbursement for home office furniture.
Employee leave related to illness or quarantine
Can a supervisor send employees home if they show symptoms of COVID-19? (Updated March 24)
Yes. If an employee appears to have symptoms of a flu-like illness, fever or other infectious disease, as a safety consideration, supervisors have the authority to require the employee to leave the workplace. Supervisors should first seek the approval of their manager or director prior to sending an ill employee home. In the event an employee is sent home because of symptoms, employees may use their accrued leave balances. The supervisor will follow up with the employee regarding return to work. To determine if an employee should be sent home, please follow the protocol for sending ill employees home.
What should a supervisor do if the Minnesota Department of Health or an employee’s physician tells an employee to quarantine themselves at home?
If the employee is able to work from home, departments should consider alternative and flexible work options, if possible. If an employee is unable to work, even with an alternative or flexible work option, continue to follow normal policies and procedures for leave under the applicable collective bargaining agreement or benefits policy. Additionally, departments must continue to follow normal policies and procedures for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other leave.
What type of leave will employees use if they are unable to work and diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to self-quarantine?
How much information may a supervisor request from an employee who reports feeling ill at work or calls in sick?
Supervisors may not ask employees about a diagnosis, but employees may choose to voluntarily share this information. If employees provide medication information to supervisors, supervisors must forward all documentation to their PTA to be maintained in the employee’s confidential medical file.
Should FMLA paperwork be sent to the employee if they miss more than three days of work due to COVID-19?
Can my supervisor rescind approval of a vacation?
Yes. Because the potential crisis may cause significant staffing shortages, previously approved vacation, holiday or compensatory time off may be rescinded in order to provide staffing coverage.
If my vacation is rescinded, will I lose my vacation hours if I have over the maximum allowed hours?
No. Employees whose leave is rescinded will be allowed to accrue leave above the designated maximum in consultation with Human Resources.
Paid Extraordinary Pandemic Event Leave (PEPEL)
What is PEPEL?
Paid Extraordinary Pandemic Event Leave, or PEPEL for short, is a paid leave benefit available to all employees (including represented and unrepresented, temps, intermittents, student workers and interns) of up to 80 hours that may be requested to be used in the event an employee must be absent due to a COVID-19 health-related reason, including school and child care closures related to COVID-19.
PEPEL is one part of an agreement/policy created to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on employees. The other pieces of the policy/agreement are:
- After using all PEPEL hours, employees may use their accrued vacation, sick and comp time, as is appropriate for the circumstance.
- After sick, vacation or comp balances are used, employees may receive an advance of up to 80 total hours of sick and/or vacation hours.
Why did PEPEL get created?
PEPEL was created as part of a strategic effort to keep providing services in Ramsey County while keeping our residents and employees safe. The services provided by local government are essential functions, and as such, Ramsey County employees are expected to work as required by their departmental service delivery models, unless there is a COVID-19 health-related reason they are unable to work.
Should I use PEPEL strategically?
Yes. First, if you are able to work, do that.
- Remote working options have been maximized; talk to your supervisor about remote work if you haven’t yet.
- Consider that low-risk work areas (those with little to no public facing duties), can allow for extra precautions to keep even those at greater risk safe while they continue to work.
- If you are working either remotely or on-site, and your ability to work is otherwise not affected by COVID-19, you will not need PEPEL.
- If your ability to work either remotely or on-site is affected by COVID-19, you may use your PEPEL hours.
- Use only the PEPEL hours that are necessary – this pandemic will be present beyond the end of the Governor’s order to “stay at home” on April 10, 2020.
- Therefore, use PEPEL hours only for the period of time you are unable to perform work during the following situations:
- Because you are caring for your children who are unable to attend school or daycare due to COVID-19-related closure of the facility.
- Because you must isolate or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.
- Because you are ill with COVID-19.
- Because you are caring for an individual in your household who has COVID-19.
- Because you or another person in your household is considered “high risk” by the CDC.
- Over 60.
- Existence of an underlying health condition like heart or lung disease, diabetes or cancer.
- Weakened immune system.
- You may combine PEPEL hours with regular hours worked to extend your 80 hours of PEPEL leave beyond one pay period, provided you are able to work.
Do I have to use PEPEL hours or other benefits?
No. You are encouraged to work, remotely if possible, and if unable to work remotely and otherwise unaffected by COVID-19, you may work consistent with your service delivery model.
What happens when PEPEL hours are exhausted?
If you use all your PEPEL hours (or don’t experience a qualifying circumstance for PEPEL or choose not to use PEPEL hours), you may use sick and/or vacation leave (comp time, floating holiday, holiday reserve) as is appropriate to the situation.
If you use all your accrued leave, you may request to advance up to a total of 80 hours of sick and/or vacation leave, as is appropriate to the situation.
What medical documentation will be required when using PEPEL, sick or vacation accrued leave/advances?
It depends on what you use it for; we want to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system by asking for doctor notes. If there is a reason to verify a high-risk status or reason for use of leaves, or if FMLA is being utilized, you may be required to do so pursuant to current contract language and processes.
What situations are not COVID-19 related?
Any other situation for which you would normally use sick or vacation leave – such as common cold, doctor/dentist appointment, vacation, etc.
I used PEPEL hours because I have a high-risk person living in my household, but now I want to come back to work, is that OK?
This enhanced benefit plan was developed based on the Ramsey County values of investing in people, serving with integrity, valuing community, advancing equity and empowering leadership at all levels. Our commitments to our residents and our employees are guided by these values. All that can be done to keep you safe at work will be done. We encourage employees to consider these values in their decision-making and exercise good judgement and use PEPEL strategically.
How does an employee use PEPEL?
Employees must request approval from their supervisor to use PEPEL or any advance of sick/vacation hours in the same way the employee would normally request to use any leave. Request can be made following your existing department procedures (i.e. Summit, ETS or by email.)
Are there new time reporting codes for PEPEL?
Yes. Use 361 or 362, which is available on the drop-down menu as you are submitting your time for payroll. Feel free to reach out to your supervisor or manager, Payroll, your Human Resources generalist, or Labor Relations with any questions as they come up.
Can an employee use PEPEL in increments?
Yes. Employees can use it in as small as quarter-hour increments, as long as the reason for use aligns with the intended purpose outlined in Table A (below). For example: An employee who is able to telework but can only telework for part of their normal day due to COVID-19 childcare-related issues, could use PEPEL hours to supplement the regular hours worked.
Can intermittent, part-time and temporary employees use PEPEL?
It depends, but yes for most. Current employees as of March 14, 2020, if and when the employee needs to use PEPEL hours, their hours have already been pro-rated based on average hours worked and their prorated PEPEL hours have been assigned for them to access in the time reporting system.
New hire intermittent, part-time and temporary employees: If and when the employee needs to use PEPEL hours, their proration will be based on average number of hours worked in the last four pay periods.
Intermittent employees without a regular schedule could use PEPEL for a shift they were expected to work, but are unable to because of a COVID-19 health related issue per Table A (below).
Can PEPEL hours result in overtime?
No. The 80 PEPEL hours are intended to replace or supplement regularly scheduled hours.
Do I need documentation to return from PEPEL leave or fitness for duty?
It depends. Contact your supervisor and describe the situation. Your supervisor will evaluate your request to return and determine if a "release to return to work" or "fitness for duty" statement is required from a health care provider. Our intent is to continue to follow MDH and CDC guidelines and the answer may change as the pandemic changes. Feel free to reach out to Payroll, your Human Resources generalist, or Labor Relations with any questions as they come up.
Workspace cleaning and disinfecting
Has Ramsey County implemented enhanced cleaning or sanitizing procedures at buildings?
Enhanced cleaning procedures have been put in place at facilities used by Ramsey County in accordance with CDC guidelines. This includes the use of an EPA-registered disinfectant and increased cleaning frequencies in the high-traffic, high-touch public-facing and common areas that are routinely cleaned by the custodial staff. The high-traffic areas include building entries, elevator lobbies, elevators, stairwells, break rooms and restrooms. The disinfecting includes high-touch surfaces such as door handles/knobs, push plates, hand rails, railings, elevator buttons, light switches, drinking fountains, countertops, paper towel dispensers, hand dryers, toilets, faucets and sinks. - Ramsey County Property Management.
Is Ramsey County providing hand sanitizer for employees and residents at buildings?
Property Management has deployed hand sanitizer dispenser stands to the entries of all buildings with redesigned service delivery and to specific service transaction counters. Supplies are in high demand and are prioritized to healthcare and resident-facing service locations. Employees are responsible for their own personal hygiene and should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or provide their own personal hand sanitizer in accordance with the guidance from the CDC and MDH. - Ramsey County Property Management
Should I disinfect my work space and common department work areas?
Cleaning of individual work spaces (surfaces, chairs, files, electronics, etc.) and common department work areas (conference room tables/chairs, office equipment, etc.) remains your responsibility and doing so routinely is recommended. No increased frequency is necessary in cleaning the surfaces of your personal workspace, unless you have been ill, in which case a routine cleaning would be advised. High-touch surfaces in common department work areas should be cleaned regularly. Best practice is for cleaning surfaces before and after use, then wash hands after cleaning is complete. Products for cleaning of individual work spaces and common department work areas are the responsibility of the individual and department. - Ramsey County Property Management
How should I clean electronics such as phone, computer and keyboard?
For electronics, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids. - CDC
Cleaning tips for your computer
Use only mild cleaning solutions (non-ammonia based and non-abrasive) and a damp lint-free, soft cloth to clean the painted cover surfaces of the computer.
- Apply cleaner onto the cloth.
- Absorb the cleaner into a sponge or lint-free, soft cloth.
- Squeeze out the excess liquid from the sponge or cloth.
- Wipe the cover using a circular motion taking care not to let any excess liquid drip.
- Wipe the surface to remove any left-over cleaner.
- Rinse the sponge or cloth with clean running water and squeeze out any excess liquid.
- Wipe the cover with the clean sponge or lint-free, soft cloth.
- Wipe the surface again with a dry, lint-free, soft cloth.
- Wait for the surface to dry completely and then remove any fibers left from the sponge or cloth.
Cleaning your computer keyboard
- Absorb some isopropyl alcohol on a lint-free, soft cloth.
- Squeeze out excess liquid from the lint-free, soft cloth.
- Wipe the keytop surface with the lint-free, soft cloth, ensuring no liquid drips on or between the keys.
- Allow to dry.
Never spray or pour any liquid cleaner directly on the LCD display or the keyboard. You can use compressed air from a compressed air can to remove any crumbs and dust from beneath the keys. Do NOT use an air compressor.
Cleaning your computer LCD display
- Gently wipe the display with a dry, lint-free, soft cloth.
- Wipe or dust the stain gently with a dry, soft cloth.
- If a stain, smudge, or other blemish remains, moisten a lint-free, soft cloth with water or a 50-50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water (distilled or deionized).
- Wring out as much of the liquid as you can from the lint-free, soft cloth.
- Wipe the display again; do not let any liquid drip into the computer.
- Allow the display to dry, then close the lid if the computer has one.
Anti-static LCD cleaning cloths, Kim Wipes, and some types of lens cleaning wipes are also acceptable alternatives for a lint-free, soft cloth. Isopropyl Alcohol is a flammable liquid. Do not use this cleaner near an exposed flame or when the system is on.
Is Ramsey County providing disposable wipes for employees at buildings?
Disposable wipes are not typically provided by Ramsey County. Property Management did place an order for disposable wipes weeks ago, but this order is unlikely to be filled due to the demand. – Ramsey County Property Management
What can employees do to clean or sanitize work areas if/when hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are not available?
The CDC recommends spraying surfaces with spray disinfectant and wiping away with a paper towel. When using a disinfectant, staff members should spray the solution onto the work surface, let it stand 2–3 minutes and then wipe it away. Please refer to the directions on the bottle.
The CDC indicates that diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1,000 ppm sodium hypochlorite) can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least one minute. Prepare a diluted bleach solution by mixing four teaspoons bleach per quart of water.
Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after completing any cleaning or disinfecting. It is important to remember that mechanically wiping off surfaces or washing your hands with regular soap and water removes the majority of contaminants. Cleaning does not kill the virus, but will lower their numbers and decrease the risk of spreading infection. Individuals and departments are responsible for obtaining these products. - Ramsey County Property Management
What should we do about materials in waiting rooms and waiting areas?
Department staff members should remove from waiting areas any and all magazines or other reading materials intended for shared use by residents. Similarly, any toys or other items intended for shared use by children in waiting areas should be removed. – Ramsey County Property Management
Would it be better if we had more air flow or more fresh air in our buildings to prevent COVID-19? Should we have HEPA air filtration units in our buildings?
Evaluating and implementing these type of engineering controls is recommended only for areas with high and very high exposure risk such as those encountered in healthcare facilities where there is a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. For most county facilities, these engineering controls are not necessary, not beneficial and not possible due to the design of the building systems. In addition, increasing air flow or outside air in most county buildings would lead to decreased personal comfort (i.e. drafts, humidity) and negative building pressure causing issues with exterior doors and elevators. HEPA air filtration is not possible with existing county building systems and is typically reserved for use in healthcare facilities.
Should we consider completely restricting food delivery and takeout?
The CDC has not recommended restricting use of takeout food but does recommend washing hands before and after eating with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. HR’s Occupational Health and Safety has recommended break areas and kitchens replace washable dishes and utensils with single use varieties and limit the number of staff members in these areas to maintain six feet of distance at all times.
Cloth face coverings (homemade masks)
Should employees wear cloth face coverings or home mademasks?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. If you are not having any symptoms and are going out in public, wearing a cloth face covering will help you from spreading any infection. If you do wear a cloth face covering, the CDC notes it is important to wash it every day to get rid of any trapped viruses or bacteria.
Ramsey County staff that want to wear masks are advised to use a cloth face covering, scarf or a homemade or “alternative” mask in order to prioritize existing limited supplies of surgical masks for needs in health care settings. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering is not mandatory for our employees or people visiting county offices and facilities.
While cloth face coverings may be an additional step you can consider, it’s important that we all continue to follow these proven prevention recommendations:
- Maintain social distancing,
- Cover your cough and sneezes.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Wipe surfaces down regularly to avoid them becoming infected.
How to make a cloth face covering
Here are some links to information about making a homemade mask from credible sources provided by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
- How to Make Your own Face Covering (CDC)
- Facemask Kit (Providence St. Joseph Health)
- How to sew a simple fabric facemask (YouTube)-
- How to make a face mask (Allina Health)
- Facemask directions (Joan Glass)
- Facemask: A picture tutorial
- Taiwanese Doctor teaches how to DIY cloth face mask
Stay at home order
What is a stay at home order?
A stay at home order directs Minnesotans to limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. By limiting social interactions, we decrease the chance of transmission of COVID-19 and help our health care sector prepare for increased demands.
Why is this stay at home order necessary?
The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented danger to Minnesota. If Minnesota takes no action to combat the spread or fails to prepare our health care system, current modeling indicates that more than 70,000 of our loved ones, friends and neighbors in Minnesota could die.
When is it okay for me to leave my home?
Minnesotans may leave their homes to pick up essential items such as groceries, food, prescriptions and gas, to relocate for safety reasons or go to work if their job is deemed essential in a sector. If you leave your home, practice social distancing measures and keep six feet between you and those around you. Everyone is encouraged to stay active outside during this time, provided they practice safe social distancing.
Permissible activities during the stay at home order include:
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies.
- Outdoor activities, such as walking pets, hiking, running, biking, hunting or fishing.
- Necessary supplies and services, such as getting groceries, gasoline or carry-out.
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to home from outside this state.
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend or pet in another household.
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency or homeless shelters if you are without a home.
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation or essential operations reasons.
- Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservations.
Will I need documentation or a letter to be outside of my home?
You are not required to carry any paperwork (letter, badge, etc.) when you are traveling to and from your place of employment, or anywhere else. Of course, you may need your work badge to access your work location.
I feel unsafe in my home, can I leave?
If you feel unsafe in your home, you should leave. If you are in an emergency, call 911.
How often should I purchase food and supplies?
Individuals and families should use their best judgement and purchase only what they need. Grocery stores and food supply chains are sufficiently stocked with enough food and essential items for all Minnesotans.
What stores will remain open?
The executive order directs Minnesotans to stay home and only leave to care for essential needs. The executive order includes exemptions for workers who work at stores providing groceries and other essential supplies, so many of those stores will remain open.
What if I need to get tested for coronavirus or to go to the doctor?
You may leave your home to receive health care, including COVID-19 testing, emergency dental care and other kinds of necessary medical visits. We recommend people call ahead to their health care provider or doctor before seeking medical treatment.
What workers are exempt from the order?
Workers who provide critical services are exempt. Our exemptions are based on federal guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For Minnesota’s local governments, the order defines essential services that must be continued by county and city employees and contractors around the state. In addition to 24/7 emergency operations such as law enforcement, 911 centers, chemical and mental health services and child protection, these essential services include:
- Elections administration.
- Housing and homeless services.
- Social (Human) Services.
- Operations to preserve financial systems.
In addition to the essential services outlined above, the order sets out a way for local governments to define priority services that are integral to our community - these services are critical to meeting the needs of individuals and families, particularly during this unprecedented emergency and period of increased social isolation. Local governments are required to define those priority services, and our board of commissioners will be calling an emergency session on March 31 to take declarative action. The action will clarify that our redesigned services model will continue as announced and implemented this week (March 23).
How will this order be enforced?
All Minnesotans are urged to voluntarily comply with this executive order. The state is working with local law enforcement to support the order.
When will the stay at home order be lifted?
The executive order is effective from March 27 at 11:59 p.m. to May 3 at 11:59 p.m.
Can employees wear a face mask or gloves at work? (Updated March 24)
If you are not sick, you do not need to wear a face mask or gloves in most workplace settings. For workplace settings requiring specific protections, instructions and material will be provided to employees who need it. Face masks are in short supply and they should be saved for those individuals who are sick or caring for someone who is sick who is not able to wear a face mask.
If you are handling documents, mail or other items, surgical gloves are not needed for this activity and will lead to a false sense of security (potentially increasing the risk). As soon as a glove is contaminated it is useless and the practice would likely further deplete supplies needed for health care workers who need them. The most important protective steps are to maintain six-foot separation, wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Touching your face with a contaminated glove is the same as doing it with your ungloved hand.
What should supervisors do if employees are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19?
Supervisors should be empathetic to their employees’ concerns. Employees should be encouraged to follow the same precautions used to avoid getting a cold, the flu or other infectious diseases. These precautions include staying home when sick, washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and not touching your face.
Employees who have safety concerns should discuss those concerns with their supervisor. Supervisors should provide guidance or consult with Human Resources and Public Health.
Can an employee be required to perform work outside of the employee’s job description?
Given that the employee absentee rates could climb as high as 40% during a potential pandemic, it may be necessary for each department to reassign staff in order to maintain essential services. If departments do not have adequate staffing to provide essential services, employees may be drawn from other county departments to fill the gap.
If schools or day care facilities are closed, can employees take leave to take care of their children?
Unless the employee is caring for an ill child, the employee is not eligible to use sick leave for child care. The employee may be able to use accrued vacation leave or comp time, or take unpaid leave, but must follow normal county policies and procedures to request and receive approval for leave use. There is also a policy for advancing up to 40 hours of vacation time.
Employees may work from home or use a combination of paid leave and flex time, while counting hours actually worked, subject to supervisor approval. For example, if an employee is able to perform five hours of work in a day and spend the other three hours caring for dependents, the employee would need to use accrued paid leave, unpaid leave, or comp time to account for those three hours when the employee is not working.
Employee may also take advantage of the Child Care Referral Program using the Child Care Referral for Critical and Essential Worker form (PDF).
Employees are not allowed to bring their children to work.
Is assistance available for employees with child care needs?
Referrals to and priority enrollment at YMCA child care centers and certain licensed family day care providers across the metro area are provided for employees whose child care is disrupted due to the pandemic. Financial assistance for child care costs incurred from March 23, 2020–May 1, 2020 resulting from the pandemic is available for employees who receive a referral from the COVID-19 child care team.
What does the program offer?
The program offers referrals to and priority enrollment at YMCA child care centers and certain licensed family day care providers across the metro area for employees whose child care is disrupted due to the pandemic, as well as financial assistance for child care costs incurred from March 23, 2020–May 1, 2020 resulting from the pandemic. This does not include after school care.
Can any employee use the program?
Any employee with a child or children up to 12 years old who has unmet child care needs, because their previously existing care was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, may use the program.
Will the county reimburse me for payments made to a child care provider outside the licensed family day care providers identified by the county?
Reimbursement will only be made for the cost of payments made to the licensed family day care providers referred by the county.
How do I apply for reimbursement of my additional child care costs as a result of the pandemic?
Fill out the child care reimbursement request form (Word) to request reimbursement for the cost of a referred licensed provider. If you enrolled your child in a YMCA child care center, you do not need to do submit a reimbursement request. Please note, the amount Ramsey County pays to the YMCA or other licensed provider for your child care costs will be added as a fringe benefit on your paycheck. All applicable taxes will be deducted from your regular paycheck.
Is the reimbursement for child care costs taxable?
Under current law, child care expenses paid on your behalf or reimbursed to you are considered taxable income and will be included on your W-2. The amount reimbursed will be included in your regular paycheck and the reimbursed amount for child care will have the applicable taxes deducted prior to payment. You should check with your tax advisor for further information.
Will the program be extended past May 1, 2020?
Referrals to and priority enrollment at YMCA child care centers and certain licensed family day care providers will continue through the pandemic. Financial assistance for child care will not be available after May 1.
What is the process for being reimbursed?
- The employee will receive a referral from the COVID-19 child care team.
- The employee will complete the payroll child care reimbursement form (Word). This report should be completed on a bi-weekly basis.
- The employee will provide a receipt of payment (Word) to the day care provider.
- The employee will submit the completed reimbursement form and the receipt of payment to the Sam Howell.
- Sam Howell will review, approve and forward the original email commenting “approved” to Andrea Wilson in Finance.
- Andrea Wilson will update the employee’s time and labor in Summit using TRC code 723 and assignment code ER12B.
Who should I contact if I need a referral or have questions?
For a referral, email email@example.com.
Has the county restricted work-related travel?
Necessary work-related travel related to core service delivery needs will continue. Check with your supervisor or manager if you have concerns. Any other form of work-related travel outside of Minnesota needs to be approved by the County Manager.
May a supervisor require an employee who traveled recently to stay home?
If an employee returns from an area that has a Level 3 Travel Notice (as designated by the CDC), the employee should inform their supervisor and stay home for 14 days from the time the employee left an area with widespread, ongoing community spread and practice social distancing. If the employee should stay home but the employee is otherwise able to work, supervisors should consider alternative or flexible work options that may allow the employee to work from home, or the employee can use their accrued leave balances.
Refer to the CDC website for the most updated information to determine whether the employee should stay home.
What responsibilities do employees have to report that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19?
An employee’s diagnosis of any type of illness is considered protected health information. Employees do not have to disclose their diagnosis; however, employees do need to follow proper call-in procedures if they are not able to report to work.
What does an employee need to do if they have been exposed to the virus?
Employees who have a household member with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis are required to stay home in accordance with public health guidance. Immediately notify your supervisors and follow all applicable department call-in procedures.
You will be required to stay away form county worksites, even if you are medically able to work during the period of self-quarantine recommended by public health authorities. Discuss work from home options with your supervisor, if feasible. If work from home is not an option or the employee becomes sick, employees must use accrued leave balances or leave without pay for the duration of the quarantine period. There is a policy to advance up to 40 hours of vacation time.
Employees who misrepresent their exposure or medical status may be subject to discipline.
What should a supervisor do if an employee has been confirmed to have COVID-19?
The Minnesota Department of Health is conducting contact investigations related to any confirmed COVID-19 cases. Individuals will be notified by MDH if they need to self-quarantine.
Health insurance, workers' compensation and short-term disability
Will our health plan cover the cost of COVID-19 testing?
Yes. If you are a HealthPartners member, HealthPartners is waiving cost-sharing for administration for the COVID-19 laboratory test (regardless of where the test is performed). HealthPartners is also waiving cost-sharing related to an office visit or urgent care visit associated with the test. For more information, visit the HealthPartners Coronavirus page.
Should I file a workers’ compensation claim if I tested positive for COVID-19 and believe it occurred as a result of work activities?
If an employee believes an exposure event involving COVID-19 has occurred as a result of work activities, they are encouraged to report the event to the county’s workers’ compensation program through the online claim reporting portal. Minnesota statute and the specific details of the exposure will be reviewed to determine whether coverage under workers’ compensation is appropriate given the event’s circumstances.
May I use short-term disability for COVID-19?
If you are enrolled in a short-term disability insurance benefit, it may be used to cover some income if you miss work due to illness or injury. Payments only apply to your own illness or injury, not an employee’s family member’s illness or injury.
When your short-term disability benefit begins depends on the plan in which you are enrolled. You may use your accrued leave balances to cover the waiting period.
Who is most at risk?
People of all ages have become infected with coronavirus, but people over the age of 50 with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes are at greater risk of serious illness. -MDH and Twin Cities Public Television (TPT)
When should I stay home or consider self-quarantine?
If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, you should stay home no matter what is causing the infection—coronavirus, influenza, rhinovirus etc. If you have mild symptoms and cannot stay home, you should minimize your time in public, wear a mask, wash your hands thoroughly, and avoid people with chronic medical conditions who are susceptible to coronavirus. - MDH and TPT
Who gets tested for coronavirus, and who does the testing?
If a physician determines a patient has symptoms, travel history and other factors compatible with COVID-19, they call MDH to discuss the case. When a patient requires a test, a sample is taken from their nose and mouth and sent to the Minnesota Department of Health Public Health Lab.- MDH
Do people completely recover from coronavirus?
Yes. Most people do. Those who have chronic medical conditions or a severe coronavirus infection may take longer to fully recover. - MDH and TPT
How long does the virus last on surfaces?
Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings. -CDC
Should staff be using Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)s like masks or gloves?
That is something that is necessary only for a small number of county staff who work directly with sick people in health care settings and in certain situations in correctional settings.
PPEs are a question that need to be addressed within individual work teams and departments based on your existing protocols, and the work you do. Check with your supervisor, but for most staff, PPEs are not needed.
The CDC advises that face masks are best used by ill people to prevent spreading infections and by health care workers providing direct care to ill people. CDC is not recommending use of face masks as a preventative measure for the general public. Using masks in settings other than health care puts strain on the availability for those who truly need face masks. - Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health
How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How can I receive updates about COVID-19?
With Workspace Alerts, you can be automatically notified about relevant COVID-19 updates wherever you are. Review the instructions for workspace alerts to sign up.
How will I be notified if I should not come to work?
If the facility is closing and/or release of county employees is brought about by an official declaration of an emergency or related closings, the County Manager or designee will report the closing and/or release of employees to department directors and affected staff members. The notice will may be sent out via the county’s adopted notification system, Everbridge. Department directors will also notify affected staff members directly of any changes to their operations.
How can I re-watch the COVID-19 online training video?
You can re-watch the COVID-19 online training video by accessing your transcript in the Learning and Development Center and clicking on the drop-down menu that says "active" and selecting "completed." The COVID-19 training video, along with other previously completed trainings, will appear. Click the "launch" button to the right of the COVID-19 training video to replay it. You will have the option to return to where you left off or restart the video.
Telecommuting and remote work
What is the county policy?
Do I work 8 am to 4:30 pm work hours?
Telecommuters’ daily work schedule will be agreed between the Telecommuter and his or her supervisor. The Telecommuter must notify his or her supervisor to report any schedule changes.
Will Ramsey County pay for or reimburse the cost of WiFi?
No. Ramsey County will not pay or reimburse employee WiFi cost.
How do employees keep up to date with news and announcements from Ramsey County?
Employees, including those working remotely, are expected to stay up-to-date on employee news and announcements by reading Ramsey News (emailed every Tuesday), and regularly visiting RamseyNet (employee intranet) or the “Employee Information” section at ramseycounty.us/coronavirus. Other ways to stay informed include following Ramsey County on social media, subscribing to Ramsey County e-newsletters and signing up for Workspace Alerts (PDF).
When do I have to complete the training for COVID-19 Ad Hoc Telecommuting?
Telecommuting employees must complete the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Telecommuting training. The training can be accessed by visiting the Learning and Development Center. The Telecommuting employee should complete the training before beginning offsite work. Training is due by March 27, 2020; after which, supervisors and managers will be notified of non-compliance.
How to track performance for staff who telecommute?
For work performance: Supervisors will establish individual expectations and monitor performance to ensure that department standards are met. Supervisors are expected to review the performance of their telecommuters on a regular basis to ensure compliance with agreed upon expectations and the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Telecommuting Policy. The Supervisors’ review should occur bi-weekly at a minimum during the COVID-19 Ad Hoc Telecommuting period.
If the telecommuting arrangement is not working, the supervisor should take immediate actions to assess the problems that are interfering with the work arrangement. The employee should work with his or her supervisor to find ways to avoid or mitigate the problems. If the problems persist, the supervisor should reconsider whether the employee or the role is suitable for the telecommuting working arrangement.
How to track schedule and hours for staff who telecommute?
Supervisors must ensure adherence to the agreed upon work hours. The daily work schedule will be agreed upon jointly by the telecommuter and his or her supervisor. The supervisor may allow occasional changes in telecommuting days or hours; changes to the established schedule should be agreed to by the supervisor and telecommuter in advance and in writing.
Can I use my personal computer or personal phone to work from home?
Information Services is working with county leadership to expand remote access services such as Office Web Access, Citrix and VPN, based on each departments’ service redesign plans and priorities. Please direct questions regarding what tools will be used for remote access to your supervisor.
Can I take my Ramsey County issued monitor, key board or mouse home?
Information Services is working with departments on their service delivery redesign requirements. Users who may be granted permission to take home equipment would be notified. If not approved for equipment take-home, you cannot take equipment home.
What do I do if I can’t login?
Your first point of contact should be the service desk via the self-serve portal.
How can I access my desktop and files ?
Information Services is working with county leadership to expand remote access services such as Office Web Access, Citrix and VPN, based on each departments’ service redesign plans and priorities. Please direct questions regarding what tools will be used for remote access to your supervisor.
My computer was lost or stolen, who do I contact?
Your first point of contact should be the service desk via the self-serve portal.
My computer is damaged or just doesn’t work, who do I contact?
For county-owned equipment, contact the service desk via the self-serve portal.
Is Information Services working with departments to prioritize IT equipment distribution?
Yes. Equipment requests are fulfilled on a triage bases, urgent needs are prioritized, based on feedback from each department’s leadership team.