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New COVID-19 resource: Respiratory Protection Toolkit

As we continue to look at returning to work as safely as possible, our Occupational Safety and Health Department has developed a helpful online toolkit union members can use as a resource to educate themselves about proper respiratory protection in the workplace. It includes information on what types of masks are appropriate for specific work situations, and how to properly fit and wear them. 

CSEA Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

As you know, Governor Cuomo has declared a State of Emergency. This allows him to suspend rules and regulations where necessary to address this public health concern. The NYS Time and Attendance manual has regulations that address mandated quarantines and other related matters as they apply to New York State employees. Other employers in both the public and private sectors have specific bargaining agreement terms and conditions along with regulations or practices they follow.  Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions concerning COVID-19. Questions or concerns specific to your place of employment should be discussed with your CSEA leadership or LRS.

If you have a medical question, such as a pre-existing condition and/or risks associated with potential exposure to COVID-19, please contact your health care provider!

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Q. Will I be paid if my employer shuts down operations or does not allow me to work?

A. CSEA’s position is that any member who is unable to work because their employer is closed, will not allow them to report to work or who are under mandatory quarantine shall receive full pay for their lost work time. We are having ongoing conversations with the Governor’s office to voice our position and urge the Governor to also hold all employers in the private sector accountable to pay any member who is unable to work because their employer is closed or will not allow them to report to work.

If any members are locked out of work or are under mandatory quarantine and are not being paid, please alert your unit leadership and LRS immediately.

Q. I’m a part-timer. Am I still eligible for pay if our employer closes or I am officially quarantined?

A. This is a labor management question that should be asked of your local president. Please contact them to work with your employer in providing the information that applies to you.

Q. SUNY and CUNY have sent student home so do I still have to work?

A. Yes.  Although SUNY/CUNY are offering students an option to finish the semester with online studies, all CSEA represented employees are required to report to work as normal.

Q. I’m a cleaner. Do I have to clean areas that may have the virus in it or may be housing people in quarantine?

A. Yes, but you must be provided appropriate personal protective equipment, supplies and training. If you are not, contact your CSEA leadership or LRS immediately. If you have any underlying health conditions that make you more likely to get sick, have been exposed to COVID-19 or a COVID-19 hotspot or have traveled internationally within the last month, immediately let your employer know that you are not comfortable with the assignment that may expose you to COVID-19. Contact your CSEA leadership or LRS if your concern is not resolved appropriately.

Q. What is CSEA doing to protect members?

A. CSEA continues to monitor the situation closely, and to work to every extent possible with state and local officials to ensure appropriate response and adequate protection for all our members.  As this is a rapidly evolving situation throughout the state, our biggest focus is in making sure accurate information is distributed.  We are working hard to verify that information we release is accurate before we release it.  Information is one of our best tools right now in combatting this challenge.

Q. Why isn’t my employer or CSEA providing hand sanitizer?

A. There is a massive shortage on hand sanitizer right now due to this outbreak.  There are plans to produce and distribute as much as possible as quickly as possible; this takes time and coordination.  Hand sanitizer may not be available everywhere.  The CDC continues to recommend washing hands with soap for 20 seconds whenever possible as the best defense.

Q. Should I wear a mask?

A. Governor Cuomo has issued an Executive Order requiring face masks for ALL New Yorkers in public and when social distancing is not an option, or for those that have direct contact with members of the public through employment.  Employers are responsible to provide PPE to employees deemed essential.

  • If you are sick:  You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.

CDC guidelines on face coverings

Q. What products work for the cleaning/disinfecting of COVID-19?

A. Any EPA/DEC registered product will disinfect surfaces of COVID-19.  For a list of these products, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/covid19.pdf.

Q. Do all schools need to close if COVID-19 is detected in a District?

A. The current protocol is for the building where the virus was found to be closed for 24 hours to allow for an appropriate cleaning. However, the Governor has mandated all schools be closed for educational purposes through April 15th.

Q. Can I refuse to report to work because I’m afraid of getting the virus?

A. No.  Unless your employer tells you to stay home all normal attendance procedures are still in place. Check your individual Bargaining Contract for rules and procedures for taking off time.

Q. Where can I direct questions or concerns about pre-existing medical conditions as they pertain to reporting to work?

A. Questions regarding pre-existing conditions and / or high risks should be discussed in a conversation between you and your healthcare provider.  You can see the steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting sick at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html.

Q. How can I avoid getting the virus?

A. It is smart for all of us, including our families, to use good practices such as washing our hands frequently with soap and water, keeping as much space from others as possible when in groups, wiping down all surfaces with approved products and sneezing into tissues and disposing of them quickly and appropriately. If you are feeling sick for any reason, use your accruals to stay home for a few days to avoid spreading any kind of illness.

Q. What should I do if I think I may have COVID-19?

A. Follow standard protocol by first calling your health care provider to discuss your symptoms and have them offer guidance on what you should do based upon your individual situation.

Q. How long will this crisis last?

A. It is unknown how long and how much further this virus will spread. The best efforts to stop it are to take all practical measures to identify where it is (call your health care provider if you feel sick) and contain it (stay home if you feel sick, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes and face, wipe down surfaces you contact and avoid extensive travel if possible).

WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?

We can do a lot now to protect members. Union officers should take this opportunity to meet with management in all our workplaces to discuss comprehensive infection control plans. An effective infection control plan can significantly reduce the threat of coronavirus and other potential infectious diseases. Topics for discussion with management should include at a minimum:

  1. Training and education of employees;
  2. Increasing frequency and scope in cleaning of surfaces in common areas;
  3. Providing cleaning and disinfectant wipes in common areas especially in locations with objects frequently handled by many people (E.G. printers, copiers, elevator buttons, etc.);
  4. Providing hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content in common areas;
  5. Encouraging proper hand washing by:
    • Washing hands by rubbing vigorously for more than 20 seconds with soap and water;
    • Properly applying hand sanitizer on the palms then over all areas of the hand including between the fingers; and
    • Avoid touching your face unless hands are properly cleaned.
  6. Encouraging early reporting of potential illnesses;
  7. Encouraging employees not to report to work if ill;
  8. Whenever possible encouraging workers to avoid contact with people who may be ill, or providing appropriate safeguards when they cannot;
  9. Following CDC facemask guidelines and the Governor’s Executive order regarding face coverings.
  10. Following CDC industry-specific guidelines as appropriate.

The most reliable information can be found here:

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

New York State Department of Health

The World Health Organization (WHO)