COVID-19 response plan approved in Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A COVID-19 infectious disease response plan was approved at a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, by the village board.
Village President Mary Kardoskee said the village has been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines related to COVID-19, and the plan puts the guidelines in writing for village employees to follow.
Kardoskee said Village Manager Joel Gregozeski will be meeting with village employees to go through the plan.
Gregozeski said the village “could have been, maybe, earlier to the punch, so to speak, in drafting this document, but I think there were other concerns and challenges that the village was facing throughout this past calendar year.”
He said changes were made on the federal level at the end of last year affecting the design of the village’s plan, such as Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) leave benefits no longer being mandated for public employees.
Under federal legislation approved in late December, Gregozeski said the conditions for leave remain in place, but the federal government did not provide reimbursement to public employers.
As a result, he said it is up to the local unit of government whether to continue to provide the level of benefit the FFCRA provided and a leave benefit to employees.
Gregozeski said the village will allow employees to take time off under the same conditions the FFCRA previously provided, but employees have to use their accrued time off, whether it is sick leave, vacation or compensatory time, to be paid.
“Ultimately, what we’re looking to do is make sure employees, who are sick or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, do not come to the workplace,” he said.
Gregozeski said the plan puts in writing the village’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Really what this is is kind of a hazard communication plan related specifically to COVID-19,” he said. “It puts into writing policies and procedures that we will follow for all of our employees, regardless of the department or the service area that they’re in.”
Gregozeski said there are village employees who are “routinely exposed to the virus, whether it be at work or at home or through other social settings.”
“Because of that exposure, there’s a level of response that we have to provide in order to mitigate the risk of exposure to others,” he said.
Gregozeski said the village has to follow proper protocols for employees who test positive for COVID-19.
“Ultimately, what this plan will do is help identify potential occupational exposures to COVID-19 for our employees, ways we can mitigate risk for our agency or organization and methods to appropriately and timely manage those risks and those exposures,” he said.
Gregozeski said meetings were set up with each of the village’s employee groups for training related to COVID-19.
“We also need to identify within our employee pools which ones are at higher risk, or rate of exposure,” he said.
Of the four exposure levels identified by the Occupational and Safety Health Administration – very high, high, medium and lower risk – Gregozeski said village employees considered at high risk primarily include police, fire and emergency medical service staff, who handle medical-type situations and provide care.
He said public works staff would be at a medium risk of exposure working in the public, while most of the office staff would be at a lower risk with measures in the workplace to lower exposure risk.
Gregozeski said measures in the plan the village will use to control the spread of COVID-19 include having employees exposed to COVID-19 being asked to stay home, practicing social distancing, requiring face coverings in certain circumstances, using flexible work sites and schedules and appropriate cleaning of areas.
In addition to the workplace, he said village employees will be directed to wear masks in group settings outside village facilities, entering private establishments and private residences.
Gregozeski said village employees who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 presently still have to wear masks, but that is subject to change based on state, federal or local recommendations.
He said exemptions from wearing masks for village employees would be accommodated upon receiving certification from a health care provider indicating those employees should not wear masks for medical reasons.
“It cannot be just simply a political reason why they just don’t believe in face coverings and they don’t want to wear it,” Gregozeski said. “They would need some kind of condition or reason that they could apply as kind of more of a reasonable accommodation request from that standpoint.”