March 2, 2020: Stay Informed and Vigilant

COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) is now spreading in the United States, and six people have already died from the virus here in Washington. This is a serious public health matter, and we are keeping a close eye on recommendations from the Washington Department of Health (WA DOH) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

I'd like to provide you with some important resources to help keep you and your family safe, along with an update on what our union is doing to ensure protections for workers.

Stay Informed & Vigilant
We applaud Governor Jay Inslee for issuing a state of emergency Saturday directing state agencies to use all resources available to prepare and respond to the coronavirus. Please stay tuned to the WA Department of Health’s website for updates and recommendations, and review the Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations here. If you have a specific incident to report that demonstrates an agency’s failure to meet these guidelines, please contact your steward or contact the Member Connection Center at 833-MCC-WFSE or [email protected].

The WA DOH has provided these tips to prevent illness at the office:

  • Please stay home if you have symptoms of respiratory illness.
  • Make sure you have plenty of soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), and tissues in your work area.
  • ​Be sure to clean your hands several times per day with either an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Cleaning with soap and water is the preferred method if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • ​Please cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then place the used tissue directly into a no-touch waste bin.  If tissues aren’t available, coughing or sneezing into the upper sleeve is OK, but NOT into the hands.
  • ​After coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available.
  • ​Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in your immediate work area (phones, doorknobs, keyboards, desks) using the wet wipes provided.

Our union is in regular communication with state officials and monitoring this situation closely. We are also calling for leadership at the federal level. Our international union—​AFSCME—​has weighed in with the House and Senate leadership staff and appropriations committee staff. We have asked Congress to quickly pass emergency measures that would include new funding for the following:

  • Purchase needed protective personal equipment (N95 respiratory masks, goggles, gloves, etc.) for health care workers and other workers;
  • Reimburse localities and states for COVID-19 preparation and response activities;
  • Strengthen the public health infrastructure by increasing staffing levels;
  • Direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to issue a temporary emergency infectious disease standard.

We have also raised the need to develop legislation to address a possible recession that may accompany a COVID-19 public health emergency.

Please review the two documents outlining issues that we may face at work and issues that employers should address.