White House Tells Federal Employees to Prepare to Return to Their Offices

April 20, 2020 5:26 PM , Updated May 6, 2020 7:37 AM
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A memo issued today by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget outlines a plan for agencies to return to normal operations once the threat of the coronavirus subsides.

The memo says that agency operations will follow a gradual path back to normal as per the guidelines recently published by the White House. Those guidelines, titled Opening Up America Again, utilize a phased approach for restoring operations.

“Now, in partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and the private sector, the Federal government is actively planning to ramp back up government operations to the maximum extent possible, as local conditions warrant, consistent with the National guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” states the OMB memo.

The memo says that gating criteria for the coronavirus have to be met in an area before moving to implantation of the phased reopening process. These criteria stipulate, among other things, that there has to be a clear downward trend in virus cases and local hospitals must have the capacity to treat all patients without crisis care.

The memo adds that agencies must remain flexible to ensure they continue providing their required services and also to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

“Federal government-wide operating decisions will be informed by states’ phasing assessments and conditions, but implemented at the direction of agency heads or as delegated by the agency head,” states the memo.

The memo adds that agencies should maximize their use of telework for their employees “until agencies have resumed normal operations and risk is minimal.” This is particularly true for federal employees who are at higher risk of complications from the virus.

For employees in good health and under age 65, the memo says that these employees can return to work when it’s safe to do so per their local guidelines and that they can wear masks when at work. Agencies can issue facemasks or may approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings.

The memo says that federal employees should follow their agency’s process if they are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19 and that agency processes should protect the anonymity and privacy of federal employees as much as possible while disclosing only the information necessary for agencies to take appropriate actions of notifying potentially affected employees and cleaning the facility.

A copy of the OMB memo is included below.

Aligning Federal Agency Operations for Opening Up America Again

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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