COVID-19 frequently asked questions for WSDOT employees

Updated: 5 p.m., Jan. 11, 2021

For the most up to date information on what’s happening within our state please visit https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.

Work

How is the agency responding to COVID risks?
We have been working closely with the state Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, Labor and Industries (L&I) and the state Emergency Management Division since January 2020 and continue to do so. All WSDOT Employees who are eligible to telework have been told to continue at least until June 2021. Ferries, construction and maintenance workers in the field are following stringent safety guidelines, including temperature checks, handwashing, physical distancing and wearing of proper PPE, including masks. We are advising all employees who are sick to stay home and reminding healthy employees to practice good hygiene at work and at home to help slow the spread of any respiratory illness.

Working during the COVID-19 Pandemic

When Governor Inslee announced the shutdown in March 2020, we took immediate steps to ensure our vital transportation system work could continue.

In terms of our construction and maintenance crews, WSDOT worked with the Governor’s Office, state departments of Health and L&I and contractors to help develop the state safety guidelines needed for the phased Safe Start return-to-work. We worked hard to ensure every crew and project would meet the new guidelines. Today, our ferries, construction, maintenance, and other field staff are following strict safety protocols and procedures under the guidance of on-site supervisors who are authorized to shut down construction projects and maintenance work for non-compliance.

Employees who are able to perform their jobs remotely will continue working from home at least until June 2021. Our IT department did a phenomenal job increasing the capacity of our network to reliably support over 3,900 concurrent remote sessions compared to just 600 simultaneous teleworkers pre-pandemic.

Is it safe for me to keep coming to work?
Ferries and field workers must learn and adhere to strict PPE guidelines to keep themselves, their coworkers, and the public safe. Those that are teleworking should continue to do so. If you must come to the office please check with your supervisor first and be sure you’re following all building access requirements. We are following state and local health officials’ guidance and our Facilities teams continue to ensure all work sites are properly cleaned. Please discuss any work site concerns with your supervisor.

Health and wellbeing

Staying healthy
We know employees have concerns about personal health and well-being. These are difficult times for all of us, and we want to ensure you are taking care of yourself, both physical and emotionally. We have resources available to help you, through the state’s Employee Assistance Program, WSDOT’s Peer Support Team (requires an employee intranet connection), the state coronavirus.wa.gov website or through your healthcare provider if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed.

Throughout this transition, safety remains our strongest core value, and we’re working hard to ensure we comply with current health and safety guidelines. Health screening, education, training, physical distancing, good hygiene practices, proper use of prescribed PPE, teleworking and, most importantly, staying home when you are sick are critical safety protocols that we all must follow. Your actions at work and off hours ensure the safety of yourself and those around you both at work and home.

Fill out the daily health screening tool via ReadyOp

Our daily health screening tool is sent via a program called ReadyOp. Each workday, employees are sent a form via email or text that asks a series of questions. Once the form is submitted and based on the responses, a Human Resources representative will reach out to the employee for next steps if there has been a change in their health. Employees who do not complete the daily screening will be denied access to WSDOT facilities, worksites and vehicles.

If you’re not receiving the health screening message through ReadyOp, you can sign up using this form: https://i5.readyop.com/contact/register/3. You can also reach out to your region/division Emergency Manager or agency Emergency Management Director John Himmel.

What can I do to reduce my risk to getting or spreading COVID-19?

  • Limit non-essential trips and gatherings.
  • Wear a mask when outside your home.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Consider adding the WA Notify app to your work and/or personal mobile phone to alert you if you’ve been near someone who later tests positive for COVID-19. App details are available on the Department of Health page.

What should I do if I feel sick?
Stay home, do not report to the worksite. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 – fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea – contact your health provider for advice on next steps. Contact your supervisor to notify them of any sick leave you may be taking, and quarantine based on conversations you’ve had with your health care provider. Please accurately fill out the ReadyOp Health Screening form. The CDC also has detailed information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

What do I do if I've been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19?
Stay home, do not report to the worksite. Follow directions from your health care provider, including self-quarantine. The CDC website has more information about quarantine to help prevent the spread of disease. Be sure to accurately fill out the ReadyOp Health Screening form. Human Resources will contact you for further instruction. Please notify your supervisor if you are unable to work online or report to work in person.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?
Stay home, do not report to the worksite. Notify your health care provider and follow their directions for care, which may include isolating yourself so you do not infect others. Visit the CDC website for more guidelines. If you are scheduled to go to work, fill out the ReadyOp Health Screening form and stay isolated until Human Resources contacts you. Please notify your supervisor if you are unable to work online or if you are taking sick leave.

How many days should exposed workers quarantine?
The Centers for Disease Control recently added an option for local public health departments to consider reducing the number of quarantine days in its guidance. However, due to the ongoing climb in cases within our state, Washington state agencies will continue to use the 14-day quarantine period for staff exposed to the virus. That includes all WSDOT staff.

How will I know if a co-worker has been exposed? Will that shut down my office?
We are notifying employees upon confirmation of close contact with an individual exhibiting symptoms and/or directly exposed to a confirmed case. We are taking additional cleaning steps for any suspected or known cases. We also will follow local county health guidelines if any additional steps are recommended for vehicles, buildings or offices. Please continue to practice good hygiene as a way to slow the spread of the virus.

How can I get more health information about COVID-19?
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about COVID-19 and that’s why it’s important to be sure you’re getting facts and not rumors. Please consult trusted sources of information such as the state Coronavirus site, state Department of Health coronavirus page, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s coronavirus website or your local county health department. If you want regular updates on COVID-19, you can sign up to receive the Washington State Department of Health Public Health Connection blogs that are related to COVID-19. To subscribe, visit https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOH/subscriber/new and follow the prompts to choose how, what, and when you want to receive information. When you get to the Subscription Topics page, click on the Emergency Preparedness and Response dropdown box and select 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

What resources are available for higher-risk employees?
Governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 20-46 (pdf 65 kb), amending Proclamation 20-05, which prevents all employers, public or private, from failing to provide accommodation to high-risk employees.

Returning to fieldwork could be particularly concerning for employees at greater risk for COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control has identified certain demographics and conditions that could make some individuals more susceptible:

  • People ages 65 and older.
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
  • People who have serious heart conditions.
  • People who are immunocompromised.
  • People of any age with severe obesity and/or certain underlying medical conditions such diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease.
  • While data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk to date, those who are pregnant should be regularly monitored since they are known to be at risk for severe viral illness.

We are committed to exploring all options for employees at higher risk to exposure. If you meet one or more of these factors and have health concerns related to transitioning back to the field, you should talk to your supervisor. You might find it helpful to contact your local HR representative or Leave@wsdot.wa.gov.

Childcare

What resources are available for parents and caregivers?
If you have concerns about returning to your worksite due to childcare constraints, caring for a household member who may be experiencing symptoms, and/or risking exposure to a household member who may be at greater risk for COVID-19 as outlined above, please work with your supervisor to discuss your options

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act program – which included the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act – ended as of Dec. 31, 2020, and the federal government will not be extending the program. Our HR leave team is standing by to assist those who need to transition in finding other leave options. You can reach the team at 1-855-707-8100 (option 2) or at leave@wsdot.wa.gov.

We understand the expiration of FFCRA leave may compound the anxiety for some, especially those who are balancing caregiving or schooling responsibilities. Please know that we are committed to working with our employees to take advantage of the remaining leave options during this difficult time. We encourage supervisors to continue to utilize telework options for employees to the extent possible as expected by the State Office of Financial Management and Governor’s Office, while we navigate work and personal lives through the pandemic.

Many parents and caregivers are carrying the burden of school closures and limited childcare availability while balancing a work schedule from home. In response, the state Department of Children, Youth & Families developed a resource guide (pdf 340 kb) with more information. If you have questions about the guide, please feel free to email DCYF at strengtheningfamilies@dcyf.wa.gov.

Additionally, you can always reach out for help through the state’s Employee Assistance Program, WSDOT’s Peer Support Team (requires an employee intranet connection), or through your healthcare provider if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed.

What if I need to stay home to care for a child whose school is closed and I don’t have any sick or vacation leave left? Or if I need to work reduced hours?
Explore your leave options with your HR representative (pdf 406 KB). You may also be able to telework for at least part of the day and use leave time for the rest. Leave without pay may also be an option, but reach out to Leave@wsdot.wa.gov or your supervisor to discuss options that may be available to you.

Telework Resources

What if I need to bring home additional WSDOT equipment (i.e. monitors, external drives, etc.)?
Check in with your supervisor on whether the equipment is necessary for your comfort or job completion. Supervisors need to track this equipment movement and status as part of accountability (please contact your IT Service Desk for details). Using thumb drives or other memory items is helpful for our current limited bandwidth with over 2,000 people teleworking at this time.

If our desk phones are forwarded via EX500, is there a way to change or turn this off?
Please contact your IT Service Desk or follow the directions below.

From your work landline phone:
The Avaya gray phone at your desk will have 2 new buttons added an EC500 button and an Extend Call button. Do not place your phone on Send Calls or it will bypass the cell and go to straight to your work voicemail.

  • Activate EC500 - From your desk phone press the EC500 button to have calls ring simultaneously to your cell phone. A triangle or light indicator will illuminate on the button label to show the feature is turned on.
  • Deactivate EC500 - From your desk phone press EC500 to have calls only go to your desk phone. A triangle or light indicator will no longer illuminate on the button label to show the feature is turned off.
  • Extend call - While on a desk phone call, press Extend Call on your desk phone to extend the call to your cell. Your cell phone will ring and you can take the call.
  • Taking a call back – If you have received a call on your cell phone through EC500 and you want to take the call back on your desk phone - pickup up the handset, press the active line on your phone, once you have established the connection with the caller hang up your cell phone.

From your cell phone:
We suggest adding these numbers to your cell phone. Keep in mind that when calling people at HQ, ELG, Aviation, Mottman, MatsLab, and Chandler Court from your cell phone, the display seen will be your work number rather than your cell number.

  • Remotely Turn EC500 ON – Dial 360-709-8071 It will beep and disconnect.
  • Remotely Turn EC500 OFF – Dial 360-709-8072 It will beep and disconnect.

If you are calling another Region or you want to call long distance and have your work number to show up, Call 360-709-8023 from your cell phone and this will take an idle line on your work phone to call out on. People will see your work number and not you cell number. You can use 4 digit, 9, or 88 depending on the call you would like to make.

Are remote workers able to get reimbursed for any teleworking related expenses?
The Telework Program Handbook (pdf 284 kb) is now updated to provide interim guidance while we continue to research and develop longer-term solutions related to:

  • Computer Equipment
  • Furniture
  • Dependent Care
  • Financial subsidy/incentive

The intent is to address the immediate needs of each employee working from home to the extent that we can during this emergency. For example, if you need equipment from the office, like a computer monitor or chair, you can arrange to take those home with you. Also included is guidance for when and how to take leave. Additionally, the handbook provides clarification that WSDOT is reviewing options, but is not able to offer financial reimbursement, subsidies, or stipends for telework expenses at this time.

Under Secretary's Executive Order 1105 Use of Mobile Communication Devices (pdf 102 kb), WSDOT may provide a stipend for use of an employee-owned mobile communication device for work. Please see the Mobile Communication Device Request form (pdf 154 kb).

I'm not eligible for telework, can I use leave?
Employees who do not have childcare may be able to use state shared leave provisions. This depends on each person’s unique needs on an individual basis so please contact your HR representative (pdf 406 KB) or send your questions to leave@wsdot.wa.gov.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provided additional leave options expired Dec. 31, 2020, and will not be renewed.

What if I need to bring home additional WSDOT equipment (i.e. monitors, external drives, etc.)?
Check in with your supervisor on whether the equipment is necessary for your comfort or job completion. Supervisors need to track this equipment movement and status as part of accountability (please contact your IT Service Desk for details). Using thumb drives or other memory items is helpful for our current limited bandwidth with over 2,000 people teleworking at this time.

Facility and cleaning protocols

Are there guidelines about who is allowed to enter WSDOT buildings, and during what hours?
The facility safety plan (pdf 156 kb) identifies general rules about staff and visitors entering WSDOT facilities. This plan has been developed to ensure the safety of WSDOT employees and prevent the spread of COVID-19. This plan is a working document that will continuously update to ensure compliance with any COVID-19 requirements and is intended for employees who must access WSDOT facilities. Employees who are able should continue to follow telework procedures. Anyone needing to access a building temporarily to retrieve items, etc., must get permission from their supervisor and be sure to follow all entry requirements for their building (such as wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, etc.) It is important that all employees take personal responsibility to protect themselves, their family, coworkers, and the public.

Are our buildings being sanitized?
Yes. We are working to ensure all WSDOT facilities – including those we rent – are cleaned with appropriate cleaning supplies as another way to help safeguard employees, passengers, customers and the general public.
The facility safety plan (pdf 156 kb) includes a link to the cleaning and disinfection (pdf 600 kb) guidance for WSDOT facilities.

What is the agency doing for passengers and customers at public-facing sites such as ferries and terminals, tolling customer service centers and toll booths, and safety rest areas?
We have implemented additional precautions by increasing the cleaning and disinfection of common touch points on our ferries, Amtrak Cascades trains, safety rest areas, customer service centers, toll booths and public facilities.

Workers are following strict PPE and physical distancing guidelines. The public is also required to wear masks and practice physical distancing on our ferries, Amtrak Cascades trains and indoor public facilities.

What are the guidelines for vehicle cleaning and disinfecting?
The safety and wellbeing of our employees is a core value of WSDOT and we all should take steps to slow and stop the spread of viruses and other diseases. This applies to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as several other seasonal diseases such as the flu. By employing regular cleaning and disinfecting practices after each use, we can effectively minimize the transmission of these diseases while utilizing vehicles and equipment. Cleaning and disinfecting these surfaces with approved cleaners and disinfectants removes the vast majority of bacteria and viruses that cause COVID-19, flu, colds, and other seasonal illnesses reducing the probability of transmission. Vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected between each use and marked in the vehicle log so the next employee knows that it has been completed. The synopsis and the full procedures and guidelines (pdf 90 kb), including a list of frequently touched areas, types of cleaners and a cleaning checklist, are also available online.

Records and electronic signatures

How do I manage agency records when I am using my personal computer/cell to conduct WSDOT business?
If you are using a personal device with Citrix or Remote Desktop Gateway to conduct your work, all agency records should be created and stored within the agency’s programs. There should not be any agency records on personal devices. Please review SEO 1105 Use of Mobile Communication Devices.

Is my personal computer/cell subject to public disclosure if I conduct WSDOT business on them?
Every record that is made or received by an agency employee in connection with official agency business is a public record and subject to public disclosure, unless there is a specific exemption that prevents its disclosure. If an agency employee creates a work-related document or email on their own personal computer or sends a work-related text message from their own personal cell phone, it is a public record and must be retained as a public record in accordance with the appropriate records retention schedule. Such records should be promptly saved to and retained on WSDOT’s system rather than a personal device.

However, if you retain work related records on personal devices, they are subject to public disclosure requests (PDRs). If an employee receives a PDR for information that exists on their personal devices they must provide the record to the PDR office to comply with the request. Per direction from the State Supreme Court, we require employees who are producing records from their personal device to sign a declaration we give them to attest that they have done a thorough search and have produced all responsive records.

Are Skype/Microsoft Teams text messages/shared documents retained and are they subject to public disclosure?
Skype messages are not retained. MS Teams messages, files, chats will be saved in the Cloud and thus subject to Public Disclosure.

How long should COVID-19 screening records be retained?
Please visit Using Records Retention Schedules: How Long Do COVID-19 Pandemic Records Need to Be Kept? (pdf 250 KB)

What are the retention requirements for records relating to the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The State Records Manager has recently developed a COVID-19 record retention advice sheet (pdf 250 KB) detailing what types of records should be retained for 6 years as part of our emergency/disaster response/recovery response.

What is the requirement for use of electronic signatures during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A new executive order for electronic signatures for the agency is currently in the works. In the meantime, here is a link to a document that outlines the Use of Electronic Signatures During the COVID-19 Pandemic (pdf 184 kb). More information can also be found on our employee intranet by searching for "Digital and Electronic Signature Usage at WSDOT" for the page.