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Memo: Many County Employees to Continue Working Remotely Through October

Arlington County employees who are currently teleworking will likely continue doing so well into the fall, County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a memo last week.

The internal memo, obtained by ARLnow, announced that the county will continue its current approach to operating during the pandemic — which includes an emphasis on telework for non-front-line workers — through Oct. 1.

“I am fairly certain that our current approach to doing business will continue much longer into the future beyond October 1,” Schwartz added, noting that the “need to allow space for absentee voting for the upcoming Presidential election… will most likely make a return prior to November 3 infeasible.”

Telework among county employees is up 15-fold since the start of the pandemic.

“County employees logged nearly 118,000 telework hours in late May/early June compared with about 7,700 hours in late February,” Arlington County spokeswoman Erika Moore said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.

The county has been working hard to provide services to residents as safely as possible, Moore said.

“County employees have continued to work at a high level throughout the pandemic, providing government services to the community using virtual and other innovative and creative strategies,” she wrote. “Many services are available online and virtually, including permitting, inspections, and our call center operations. Arlington Public Library has developed many virtual options, along with e-books and grab-and-go services.”

“There are some important services that cannot be done virtually, including street and water maintenance, trash and recycling services, and public safety operations,” Moore added. “Those continue with specific public health protocols in place to protect both employees and the community.”

The full memo from Schwartz is below.

From: EmployeeUpdate
Sent: Wednesday, July 8, 2020 2:07 PM
To: All County Employees
Subject: Memo from the County Manager: Update on COVID-19 & County Operations

Thank you. Thank you for your commitment to serve our community throughout this pandemic. I am inspired every day by the creativity you have demonstrated over the past four months — allowing us to continue to serve our community in new and innovative ways. I wanted to update you on County operations and offer thoughts on what the next months may look like.

As of today, our public health officials note that there is still community wide spread of COVID in Arlington, in Northern Virginia and the wider region. While the number of patients in our hospitals infected with COVID continues to drop, we are far from “normal.”

I am announcing that we will continue our current approach to providing services through at least October 1. Knowing what has
happened over the past four months, I am fairly certain that our current approach to doing business will continue much longer into the future beyond October 1. We also will need to allow space for absentee voting for the upcoming Presidential election — and this will most likely make a return prior to November 3 infeasible. I will be back to you with more direction on how the rest of the calendar year is looking as we get closer to October.

For our front-line workers providing public safety, public works, public health or community service (Parks & Libraries) programs for residents, please continue your amazing work. In doing your work we ask that you continue to take all necessary precautions, keeping a six-foot distance when possible, wearing face coverings and other PPE if warranted and taking time to wash your hands. Also, please let us know what we can do to make your working conditions as healthy and safe as practical.

For those who are teleworking, we encourage you to keep up your efforts and creative ways to provide services. Our work spaces in buildings have not been retrofitted to allow staff to return in substantial numbers, but as many of you know, an occasional trip to or day in the office can be a good change of scenery provided you follow all the required protocols and coordinate with your supervisor.

The Committee working on ways to bring staff back to buildings has nearly finished a series of policies and practical recommendations on face coverings, office configurations and building access issues. While the facility changes may not be complete prior to October 1, a new administrative regulation will be issued in the next week requiring employees to wear face coverings. There will be exceptions and more detail to come. Visitors will also be required to wear face coverings. In addition, we will ask all employees to self-certify each day that they are healthy prior to coming to work. This self-certification will be required to allow continued access to your workplace. While we have many unique operating conditions across 70+ buildings, the Bozman Government Center will link self-certification to access through our new security system, going into place in mid-August.

Several work groups continue to review how to enhance cleaning protocols, customer service areas, telework tools and flexible
scheduling. Employee and customer safety continue to be our top priority, and much more on these areas will be coming out over the next few weeks. Also, I know many families are struggling with child care needs. By clarifying our status for the next 3 months I hope that will allow people to continue to adjust as schools reopen.

I also wanted to update you on our fiscal situation. We just finished Fiscal Year 2020. We have received tax payments in line with our projections – so that is good news. However, as the commercial office market is in a state of disarray and unemployment remains at historically high levels, I remain concerned about revenue for the rest of the calendar year. We will continue the hiring freeze (with exceptions as needed) and I will provide you another update on the situation in September.

I will be discussing all of this in a town hall this Friday, July 10 at 9 a.m. As I mentioned back in March, this is a marathon. We have miles to go before we cross the finish line.

Thank you,

Mark Schwartz

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