COVID-19: Archuleta County letter to staff

March 16, 2020

Dear Staff,

The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) are working closely with San Juan Basin Public

Health Department (SJBPH) and other local government entities and school districts to manage

the County’s response and communication efforts to citizens and employees. Although there

have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Archuleta and La Plata Counties, the number of

cases statewide is increasing.

The World Health Organization has officially declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic,

which means the outbreak of the disease is no longer isolated to one or several communities but

rather spreads throughout the world. While guidance and information are constantly evolving,

Archuleta County’s top priority is employee health and safety. With that in mind, the BoCC has

implemented some new policies and frequently asked questions for all employees to follow.

Questions about the county’s response or guidance can be submitted to Mary Helminski at

extension 1308 or


How can I keep myself safe?

If you get sick: stay home, at least six feet away from other people, and call your health care

provider. Everyone should continue to wash their hands often, cover their cough with an elbow

or tissue, then throw away the tissue and wash their hands immediately.

What if I feel sick?

Employees who have symptoms of a possible respiratory illness (fever, cough, symptoms of

flu/COVID) need to go home. Such employees shall be encouraged to virtually connect with

their medical provider, to determine next steps, including testing. NOTE: Some people infected

with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, these can include lowgrade

fever, body aches, coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. COVID-19 can

also occasionally cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, severe cough, and shortness

of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.

 Employees who go home sick and have no evidence of COVID-19 may return to work

once they have been free of fever for 24 hours.

Employees that are determined to have contracted COVID-19 can return to work only upon

completion of isolation/quarantine protocol (two negative tests).

What if I test positive for the virus or may have come into contact with someone who has


Employees who are or may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19

shall be sent home, unless they have already been tested and it is clear they do not have COVID-


 Such employees will not return to work until the latter of:

o The timeframe for contracting the illness has passed, based upon the probable

date of exposure, and they do not have symptoms of the illness, or

o Any mandatory quarantine or isolation period has passed.

 Employees who are sent home due to exposure to a person who has tested positive shall

be evaluated to determine if they can work from home.

o If yes: will continue to work.

o If no: will receive paid administrative leave.

Is the County doing anything to keep our buildings and work areas safe beyond the normal

cleaning procedures?

 Cleaning crews will continue to focus on high-priority areas.

 Based on SJBPH guidelines, public spaces and some high-traffic work areas (such as the

Clerk’s Office) may be sanitized.

o Departments that want sanitization service should submit requests to the

Buildings & Grounds Department.

 If an employee is sent home because they are sick with a respiratory illness, or because of

exposure to someone with COVID-19, then their work areas shall be sanitized pursuant to

protocols from the CDC or SJBPH.

 The County has also been proactive in providing hand washing signs to all department

heads for posting in all facilities and will be posting information on COVID-19 in

common areas. If you need additional materials in your work area, please contact Mary


How long should someone who stays home wait before returning to work?

 If there’s no evidence of COVID-19, employees can return to work after 24 hours of

experiencing no fever.

 Employees who have tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19 and have been

quarantined by SJBPH or other health officials, can return to work upon completing the

isolation/quarantine protocol, which includes two negative tests.

o NOTE: Quarantine is a legal classification that could result in civil or criminal

action against employees who return prior to quarantine expirations and expose

others to the illness.

What is the County doing to accommodate vulnerable/high-risk populations (as defined by


 The County will determine whether high-risk employees serve an essential function

and/or whether these employees can:

o Work from home

o Complete an alternative assignment (e.g., front-facing vs. back office)

o Take a temporary leave of absence (unpaid or paid via vacation or compensatory


What are the County’s plans for holding or canceling events?

 Whether the County is staging or hosting an event, all attendees will be instructed to

follow established guidelines. These include:

o Use social distancing to whatever extent possible. Social distancing is defined as

ways to increase physical distance between people, such as not shaking hands,

keeping six feet of separation, or “attending” via conference calls, if possible.

o The County is working with partners to postpone or reschedule large-scale events

at the Fairgrounds (including 4H) for the near future.

o The County is postponing large internal events, meetings, training, and

celebrations with more than about 20 attendees, including employee and volunteer

appreciation gatherings, and meetings.

o In-person meetings (including interviews) will be suspended for the foreseeable

future. This also includes in-person visits to our offices. Signs to post on

entrance doors can be found on the public drive in the “Office Closure Signs”

folder. However, staff should be available to meet via web conference. We will

resume in-person meetings when concerns about the spread of the virus have


What about public meetings?

 The County will avoid or postpone scheduling unnecessary hearings that might draw a

large audience.

 For meetings that do take place, the County will post signs requesting that attendees

practice social distancing and that sick persons not attend.

What is the status of business travel?

 No new travel will be booked until future notice.

 We strongly discourage intra/interstate travel until further notice, even if already

planned. Please discuss with your supervisor and manager.

 No international travel.

 No travel to locations that have implemented local government restrictions or been

identified as hot spots.

Are there any special guidelines for front-facing employees?

 Front-facing work areas will receive extra intermittent cleaning.

 The County is encouraging residents to access services online as much as possible.

 Employees and the County will encourage social distancing using signage and visual


 New communications efforts will ask sick customers to reschedule appointments to reduce

spread of disease.


Q: Where can I find trustworthy resources on COVID-19?

A: The San Juan Basin Public Health Department provides our official guidance on the disease,

transmission and the epidemiological response to COVID-19. Check the SJBPB website for

official information. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also offers

extensive resources about the disease. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention offers additional information about the disease.

Q: What is the County doing to manage COVID-19?

A: There have been many activities occurring throughout the County for the official response to

the COVID-19 epidemic. Here are a few notes:

 The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) opened the Emergency Operations Center,

which is the clearinghouse for our official response to COVID. As well, the EOC formed

a Joint Information Center (JIC) to help collect and disseminate information to key

stakeholders. OEM staff work closely with the Sheriff’s Office, the BoCC, elected officials

and SJBPH.

 Departments are working to establish their own contingency plans, which help guide us if

we have a significant reduction in workforce; that is, if we have a reduction in the number

of employees on hand for critical operations.

 The Elected Officials, Finance and Administration department heads met this week to

develop policy recommendations to the BoCC. These include guidance for employees and


 On Tuesday, the BoCC is slated to adopt several measures and will continue to meet as our

needs change. Staff have been briefed via All County email and information will continue

to shared.

Q: What are your recommendations for our custodial staff?

A: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has offered specific recommendations for those

cleaning areas that are visited by the general public. The CDC recommends that you:

 Wear disposable gloves for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.

 Use a gown or mask if the cleaning process has traditionally required those items.

Otherwise those items are not necessary.

 Carefully remove gloves and gowns to avoid contamination to yourself and surrounding


 Clean your hands often, especially immediately after removing your gloves.

 Report any tears in your gloves immediately to your supervisor.

Q: Are we providing extra cleaning of our public areas? Staff areas?

A: To the extent possible, our fantastic custodial crew is making every effort possible to focus on

high priority areas: customer facing counters, restrooms, common areas, break rooms. Some

departments are also providing additional cleaning of public spaces using their own staff.

Sanitization work should be requested to the Buildings & Grounds department.

Q: I work with the public; specifically, I visit the public at their homes. How can I be assured

I’m safe?

A: County staff and leadership are preparing guidelines for staff who meet with clients or the

general public outside of our facilities. We’re also adhering to state protocols and/or national best

practices for employees that serve customers in a residential environment. Check with your

particular work group for details and new protocols to follow when leaving a County facility. In

many cases, as much as possible, you’ll be urged to call ahead and ask some screening questions

to help determine what steps and equipment you’ll need to take or what alternative plans you can

help provide.

Q: I’m feeling stressed about all of this coronavirus stuff. What can I do?

A: The County health insurance provider, Cigna, provides all employees with an EAP (Employee

Assistance Program), at no cost to you. Through ComPsych GuidanceResources, you can access

short-term counseling services to help you handle your concerns constructively. You can find

GuidanceResources at Click on “Register” and use

“ONEAMERICA6” as the Organization Web ID to set up your account. Or you can call 1-855-

365-4754, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Q: Why aren’t our offices closing like some other Counties are?

A: Every county is different. There are many factors to consider when choosing to close a facility

or even an entire county. Our BoCC are committed to maintaining service levels as much as

possible while also looking out for the health of our staff. Contingency Plans help guide managers

and directors in these decisions. These plans are reviewed by the Office of Emergency

Management, who then works with departments on implementation and communication to the


Thank you for your ongoing professionalism and dedication to serve. We will get through this


This story was posted on March 16, 2020.