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Please stay tuned to this page for union updates on COVID-19 (the coronavirus).

 

March 23, 2020

March 23, 2020

March 21, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 16, 2020

March 15, 2020

March 9, 2020

March 6, 2020

March 5, 2020

March 4, 2020

March 3, 2020

February 28, 2020

 

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection caused by a novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. We will provide updates on COVID-19 as this public health matter unfolds. Public health officials anticipate that the virus will spread, so it’s imperative that eveyone stay informed and follow good hygiene practices.

pdf COVID-19 Coronavirus Basics for Front Line Employees (Feb. 28, 2020) (149 KB)

pdf COVID-19 Coronavirus Industry Best Practices (Feb. 28, 2020) (155 KB)

pdf Alaska DHSS Preparedness for COVID-19

Alaska Div. of Personnel & Labor Relations FAQ for COVID-19


March 23, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 shared a letter and petition with more than 400 signatures to the Governor urging immediate action on behalf of state employees.

pdf ASEA Petition Seeking Immediate Action for SOA Employee Protections (Mar. 23, 2020) (820 KB)

 

March 23, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 informed the Governor’s Administration about immediate legal action the union will take on behalf of the health and safety of all Alaskans if the Administration failed to act to address unsafe working conditions for employees.

 

March 21, 2020

State employees came together to share their stories and how the Governor's inaction threatens the health and safety of all Alaskans in a telephonic press conference on Saturday.

 

March 18, 2020

Executive Jake Metcalfe shared a video update with members on all we are doing to urge the Governor to take action ensuring public employees have all they need to keep themselves, their families, and the public, safe during this time. We are asking all public employees to help us pressure the governor to act now by calling his office: (907) 465-3500, and contacting your legislators. Please click on the button below to watch the video.

 

March 18, 2020

Representatives Zack Fields and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sent a letter to Dept. of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka requesting the Administration act swiftly to ensure that state employees are protected during this time. The letter made the same four requests that ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 has been urging of this Administration and is in line with the recommendations by the Governor himself, Chief Medical Officer for Alaska, and CDC and are summarized below:

  1. Enforce a policy of telework for those who can
  2. Provide all employees who must interact with the public with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe
  3. Reassure those who can't telework, yet must be home for a myriad of COVID-19 related reasons, will receive paid administrative leave
  4. Ensure direct public contact by employees is minimized and social distancing can be practiced at the workplace

 

March 18, 2020

An AFSCME Fact sheet on pre-screen questions for public employees continuing to interact with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic was sent to the Dept. of Health & Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Dpet. of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka urging that they ensure state employees utilize such procedures to keep themselves safe during this pandemic. The sheet was also sent to all public employees that continue to work with the public at the time as of March 17, 2020.

 

March 16, 2020

An AFSCME Fact sheet on using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for public employees working in a COVID-19 environment was sent to all healthcare workers encouraging them to follow these best practices and to inform ASEA if they do not have access to proper PPE.

 

March 15, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy seeking immediate action from the state to slow COVID-19 infections and extend medical resources. The urgent request is posted as a news item below.

 

March 9, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe sent a letter to Commissioner Tshibaka of Adminstration and Commissioner Ledbetter of Labor & Workforce Development to request consideration of the financial impacts facing public employees in case of work interruptions related to COVID-19. In addition, Metcalfe sought the Administration's support for activating federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance that would provide economic assistance to employees statewide whose income is affected by the coronavirus public health emergency. Commissioner Tshibaka replied the same day with appreciation for the union's position and encouraged continued communication with the Administration.

Commissioners Tshibaka and Ledbetter:

When the time comes that the SOA needs to declare an emergency because of COVID-19, and by all accounts that will be soon, I urge the Dunleavy Administration to follow Rhode Island’s lead as COVID-19 infections threaten to disrupt state government (see below). Alaska’s public employees deserve to know that emergency measures exist and are being contemplated to ensure best workplace outcomes as well as contingencies for prolonged work interruptions or quarantine, especially when they will result in lost earnings with little or no financial assistance.

Your employees, like workers in Rhode Island, deserve the confidence and security of financial assistance when weighing the decision to avoid infecting others, to leave work to take care of a family member or to respond to an office closure—all at no fault of their own.

A step further, I ask you both to request that Governor Dunleavy, like Governor Raimondo, seek activation of the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program from President Trump when a state emergency is declared. This additional assistance will aid all working Alaskans who will need financial support if they are forced to choose between work, their health, or to be home with family.  

Thank you for your prompt attention to the real life burdens and difficult choices facing dedicated Alaskan workers as a consequence of COVID-19 infection in the home or at the workplace. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 is happy to meet and discuss with you all avenues of assistance for employees in an emergency situation. It is essential for our economy and wellbeing that Alaska’s working people continue to be paid and have help if they are prevented from working and providing public services at no fault of their own.  

Please let us all know, as soon as possible, if you are planning similar measures to Rhode Island when an emergency declaration takes place.  We look forward to learning more about your plan for federal assistance, the kind of federal requests you have planned and the commitment of this Administration to help Alaska’s working families manage challenges and lower anxiety in the days ahead. 

In Solidarity,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52

 

March 6, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe reached out to State Personnel & Labor Relations Director Kate Sheehan on March 6, 2020 regarding the State’s plan for keeping public employees safe from COVID-19 infection (text below). The state has since updated its FAQ sheet for coronavirus best practices and personnel policies. Communication between the state and public employee unions is ongoing to clarify procedures for the safety of state workers and their families. If you haven’t already viewed that FAQ sheet, please use this link: http://doa.alaska.gov/dop/directorsOffice/covid19/ Your comments and questions are invited so all concerns can be addressed.

Hi Kate:

Understandably many ASEA members are concerned about COVID-19, especially as the worksite becomes a plausible place for infection from fellow employees and members of the public. Since we met with Nancy, I’ve heard from members who are unsatisfied with the information in the coronavirus FAQs posted by DOA. As I told Nancy, many persistent questions from our members could have been answered if the State had engaged in simple communications with unions which represent nearly 20,000 employees and their families. A willingness to communicate would save our members—your employees—a lot of stress, anxiety and frustration. I am optimistic that there’s still time to share useful, factual and constructive information about COVID-19 with employees and I hope the Administration will join the public employee unions as a partner in announcing best practices and appropriate policies to address the specific concerns of our members.

Here are member questions that we’d like added to the FAQ;

    1. Are or will N-95 respirators be available to first responders and nurses who deal with possible and confirmed COVID-19 infections?
    2. Is the state purchasing other protective gear and equipment, including but not limited to goggles, gloves and face masks for employees who deal with sick people and the general public? If so, will that safety equipment be free of cost to the employee?
    3. If an employee is suspected of having the virus, is direct testing available to determine if the employee is positive or negative?
    4. Does or will every state office have hand sanitizer (with 60%+ alcohol base) available for employees.
    5. If a state office is quarantined, will employees have to take personal leave?
    6. In the case a state office is closed for quarantine, will employees be able to work from home?
    7. Will health care premiums continue to be paid if an employee runs out of personal leave?
    8. Will the state increase staff if needed to deal with COVID-19?
    9. Will employees be disciplined if they refuse personal contact with people they suspect are sick?

In addition, questions have come up as a result of the COVID-19 FAQ distributed by DOA Commissioner Tshibaka. Members are concerned that supervisors will have authority to require employees who display COVID-19 symptoms to leave the workplace. If this occurs, it’s reasonable to assume there will need to an approval process to return to work. Approval could take weeks. Employees will be on leave, unless the supervisor approves telecommuting.

    1. Do supervisors have the expertise to make such judgements?
    2. Is there an appeal process in place where an employee can challenged a supervisor’s decision?
    3. Until a dispute is resolved, will an employee be required to use personal leave? If the appeal is decided in the employee’s favor, will leave be returned?

We expect to get many more questions from our members, especially related to the FAQs posted by DOA. For the sake of all union and non-union employees, ASEA requests DOA meet with all the public employee union representatives  as soon as possible to addresses the above and any new questions. Please let us know when that will happen. We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52

 

March 5, 2020

AFSCME has published COVID-19 resources here: https://www.afscme.org/covid-19

 

March 4, 2020

The Department of Administration has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for state employees here: http://doa.alaska.gov/dop/directorsOffice/covid19/

 

March 3, 2020

ASEA and labor unions representing more than 12,000 public employees across Alaska seek the Governor's support for protecting frontline workers from COVID-19 infection. The press release is posted as a news item below.

 

February 28, 2020

 

Prevention

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus, by taking everyday preventive actions as with the flu and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Get a flu vaccine.

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

 

Spread

COVID-19 is believed to spread between people who are in close (within 6 feet) contact with one another, mainly by respiratory transmission – via droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is possible that spread can occur from surfaces infected with the virus, but this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they show the greatest symptoms, although some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.

 

Risk

The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States. The disease is of concern because it is a novel virus – a new strain of virus infecting people – and it has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and exhibits sustained person-to-person spread, which are two of the three criteria of a pandemic. As the virus exhibits more cases of community spread, or cases for which the source of infection is unknown, COVID-19 will meet all three characteristics.

Although the general public health risk from COVID-19 is high, individual risk currently varies, depending on exposure. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk is considered low. However, certain people will have an increased risk of infection, for example health care workers caring for patients with the disease and other close contacts of them. And if the virus causes a pandemic, as health experts expect is likely, that will change the risk assessment for individuals.

 

Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms have occurred between two and 14 days of infection and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The severity of symptoms ranges widely, from mild – milder than the flu – to severe illness, and even death. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus. Some infected individuals exhibit no symptoms.