Q: How serious is COVID-19?
A: The majority of reported illnesses are mild, with fever and cough, but a smaller percentage of cases are severe and involve pneumonia, particularly in elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions. People have died of this illness, so it’s important to try and stop it from spreading as best we can by staying home whenever possible. Because this is a new virus, scientists and public health experts are still studying it. Those at higher risk include people: over 60 years of age; with underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes; with weakened immune systems; who are pregnant.
Q: If I feel sick, what should I do?
A: If you have symptoms like a cough, fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory problems, you should call your health care provider. In Washington, you can also call this hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (open 6am to 10pm, seven days a week). In King County, Washington, you can reach the county’s call center from 8am to 7pm at (206) 477-3977. Call your health care provider before you go in to see them so they can prepare their staff and stay safe while they treat you. You should also stay home from work and away from public places.
Q: What if I’m out of paid sick time?
A: We are working with employers to keep everyone safe and healthy. Many of our employers are following the CDC’s best practices, which encourages people to stay home when they are sick, and are being flexible with employees who have depleted leave banks. If you have specific questions about using your leave benefits, please reach out to your Union Rep.
Q: Can I work from home/telecommute?
A: We are working with employers to arrange alternative working schedules for non-essential personnel wherever possible. Many of our employers have already allowed for telecommuting, and/or are being flexible with the use of leave time. Please contact your Union Representative if you are having difficulty making an alternative arrangement.
Q: Will I get paid and keep my benefits if I am quarantined due to COVID-19?
A: Washington State has made an emergency ruling that health care workers and first responders have access to workers compensation benefits if they are quarantined. We are currently working with our employers to ensure everyone has access to paid leave and benefits if they are quarantined. We are also monitoring federal law for emergency benefit legislation. If you have a question about your benefits, contact your Union Representative.
Q: Is my job considered essential?
A: Based on federal and state guidelines, many government jobs fall under the essential category — but this does not necessarily mean that you need to be working at your office if your work can be done remotely for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Please contact your Union Representative if you have questions about whether your work is essential or you are having trouble making a telecommuting arrangement.
Q: Will there be layoffs?
A: We are talking with employers daily and keeping tabs on federal and state mandates with regard to temporary layoffs so that we may address any impacts to our members. As for the long-term, it is too soon to determine what the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis will be on employers moving forward. But one of the many benefits of being in a union is that the process for potential layoff scenarios is explicitly defined in your contract. Should we reach that point, we will work with employers to minimize the impacts on our members as much as possible.