COVID-19 and GVRA Information and Resources

With so much information going out about COVID-19 and GVRA's subsequent response, we wanted to provide a "one-stop shop" for all the information that GVRA has shared with staff and clients in recent days. We've divided the information below into sections for staff and the public at large, though much of the information has the potential to impact both groups. If you have any questions, please email Communications@gvs.ga.gov, and please check back often. This list will be updated as more information/resources are communicated. Please note that as new information becomes known, some of these items may no longer be applicable. We will attempt to remove them as soon as it becomes clear the information contained therein is no longer correct.

For the Public at Large

CDC Statement on COVID-19 Apple App (4.2.20)
In partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – released an app and website that guides Americans through a series of questions about their health and exposure to determine if they should seek care for COVID-19 symptoms.  The tool provides CDC recommendations on next steps including guidance on social distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, recommendations on testing, and when to contact a medical provider.
Read more here.

OneGeorgia Equity Application Deadline Extension (4.2.20)
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has extended the OneGeorgia Equity Program application deadline from April 10, 2020 to May 1, 2020.  The OneGeorgia Equity program provides grant and loan funding to promote the economic vitality of rural Georgia.  Applications are accepted on a quarterly basis.  All applications must be received (not postmarked) by May 1, 2020.   In the meantime, applicants do not need to contact DCA to qualify for this extension.  We encourage applicants to submit as soon as possible and welcome early submissions. 
Read more here.

State Home Mortgage: COVID-19 updates (4.1.20)
Our State Home Mortgage team understands the concern and uncertainty customers may be experiencing surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and is committed to being responsive to the needs of customers and employees. The passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stipulates that every borrower who attests that they have been directly or indirectly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of delinquency, is entitled to a forbearance plan.
Read more here.

Gov. Kemp sending National Guard to Georgia long-term care facilities (4.1.20)
The Georgia National Guard will deploy over 100 guardsmen to the state's assisted living facilities and nursing homes that have cases of coronavirus.
Read more here.

COVID-19 Communication Rights Toolkit (4.1.20)
Patients with the coronavirus who need communication tools and supports due to speech-related disabilities face greater risks of discrimination and isolation during this pandemic. Your legal and civil rights to access your communication supports do not go away during an emergency, in quarantine, or in the hospital! But, for safety reasons, your family members and others who help you communicate may not be allowed to join you in the hospital. And you may face other barriers to communicating your needs and desires while you are being treated. This toolkit: (1) explains your communication rights; (2) provides tips on advocating for them, and (3) has an accommodation request form you can bring to the hospital.
Read more here.

COVID-19: State Services in Georgia (3.31.20)
Many state organizations are involved in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and are working on related efforts or have made temporary changes during this serious health emergency. Here’s what you should know about the state’s most-accessed services.
Read more here

Volunteer for COVID-19 Response (3.31.20)
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is receiving offers from medical professionals and other individuals looking for ways to help with the COVID-19 response. An effective response relies on volunteers who are pre-credentialed and organized. Georgia Responds is Georgia’s health and medical volunteer program which matches the skills and credentials of medical and nonmedical volunteers to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia.
Read more here.

GDEcD Confronts COVID-19 in Solidarity with Georgia Small Businesses (3.31.20)
Nearly 800,000 small businesses have selected Georgia to establish or grow their enterprise, and as the No. 1 state to do business, this number continues to increase. When entrepreneurs and leaders come to GDEcD’s small business team for guidance, they typically ask three questions: How do I start or expand my small business in Georgia? How can I finance this? How do I market my company?
Read more here.

Kemp’s Coronavirus Town Hall: ‘It Is Going To Be Us As Georgians To Beat This Virus Back’ (3.30.20)
In a tele-town hall last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp continued to defend his decision not to put in place a statewide shelter-in-place order, like many other states have done.
Read more here.

Kemp, Williams: Officials Will Enforce Social Distancing at Parks, Lakes (3.30.20)
Today Governor Brian P. Kemp joined Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams to issue the following joint statement: “Across Georgia, there is a mandatory shelter in place order for medically fragile individuals, and gatherings of more than ten people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. This order applies to all 159 counties.
Read more here.

Kemp Closes K-12 Public Schools Through April 24 (3.30.20)
On March 26, Governor Brian P. Kemp issued Executive Order 03.26.20.02 closing public elementary and secondary schools for in-person instruction through April 24, 2020. Students may return to school on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Read more here.

Crisis Text Line Reports Increased Demand For Mental Health Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic (3.30.20)
A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association found one-third of respondents said the coronavirus is having a significant effect on their mental health. At the same time, organizations that provide mental health services have also noticed an uptick in demand for resources and counseling. Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that offers free crisis intervention via text, has reported a “surge” of new texters with anxiety due to the pandemic.
Read more here.

Coronavirus event cancellations in and around metro Atlanta
As news of the coronavirus continues to develop, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution remains committed to monitoring events, festivals, venues, and things to do in metro Atlanta that are canceled or changed. Below is a running list of events in and around the city that have altered because of a response to coronavirus concerns.
Read more here.

Senate Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a $2 trillion relief package Wednesday night designed to alleviate some of the worst effects of the swift economic downturn currently underway as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more here.

Contact COVID-19 hotline
The State of Georgia has a new COVID-19 hotline. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic, or your local federally qualified healthcare center. Please do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility.

Hotline:

(844) 442-2681

Kemp bans many gatherings, orders shelter in place for ‘medically fragile’ in Georgia
In a series of Executive Orders 3.23.20 intended to further protect vulnerable Georgia citizens, Gov. Brian Kemp reiterated the importance of social distancing and self-isolation for at-risk populations. He banned public gatherings of over 10 individuals (unless attendees can keep a safe distance of six feet from one another), and he urged those with underlying medical conditions or who may be otherwise susceptible to shelter in place for two weeks. Read more here.

Atlanta Mayor Signs Two-Week "Stay at Home" Order
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms late 3.23.20 signed an order directing Atlanta residents to stay at home for two weeks to help fight the spread of COVID-19. The order contains a number of exemptions, including essential city services and businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, laundromats, parks, the Atlanta BeltLine and restaurants serving takeout. Read more here.

Please Observe Local COVID-19 Guidance
Many communities across Georgia are taking widespread measures to help fight COVID-19. Please familiarize yourself with any orders impacting your local community, and we urge everyone to follow local guidance and stay safe.

Current Status Report
The Georgia Department of Public Health is continually updating its list of impacted areas. The regularly updated COVID-19 status report can be viewed here.

Track the CDC Response to COVID-19
This page is updated regularly with information related to how the Center for Disease Control is working day and night to limit the spread and severity of COVID-19.

Small Business Association Loans Now Available
Small business owners can now apply for disaster relief loans through the US Small Business Administration. Click here to apply or learn more.

American Sign Language Resources
The Georgia Department of Public Health is providing ASL-translated resources related to COVID-19. You can view their latest daily report (for 3.20.20) in ASL here.

Click here for a COVID-19 vocabulary video in ASL about the terms “Lockdown” and “Shelter-in-Place.”

Click here for a video in ASL explaining COVID-19 Coronavirus testing process in Georgia.

The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America - 15 Days to Slow the Spread
The White House has released the following guidelines on March 16, 2020. You can read them here.

Legislative Session Postponed
On March 13, the legislative session was postponed until further notice due to the spread of COVID-19.  Before General Assembly members adjourned for a recess, they passed the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.  Last weekend, Governor Kemp declared a public health state of emergency to combat the COVID-19, and this required the General Assembly to hold a special session on Monday.  The State House and Senate both approved a resolution granting the Governor temporary powers that would allow him to reallocate budget resources from other areas and use them for matters related to the Coronavirus. As of now, the General Assembly plans to reconvene to finish out the 2021 legislative session; however, by Georgia law, their only constitutional requirement is the passage of a budget.

Kemp, American Red Cross Encourage Georgians to Give Blood
Governor Brian P. Kemp joined the American Red Cross in encouraging Georgians to donate blood as federal, state, and local officials work to address the effects of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

“As we continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that we maintain the necessary blood supply to aid patients throughout Georgia and across the United States," said Governor Kemp. "Those who are healthy, without symptoms, and eligible to give blood or platelets should consider doing so. America has faced its challenges before, and when we face them together, we come out stronger. I am encouraging all Georgians to support their neighbors and donate blood as they are able."

The American Red Cross has issued the following messages regarding blood donation and COVID-19:

Donating blood is a safe process.

People should not be concerned about giving or receiving blood during this time.

More healthy donors are needed to prevent a blood supply shortage.

Please maintain scheduled blood drives, which allows donors to give blood.

As an emergency preparedness organization, the Red Cross has also taken additional steps to ensure the safety of staff and donors at each Red Cross blood drive. The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation and who meet other eligibility requirements, available at RedCrossBlood.org. The Red Cross is also pre-screening all individuals by checking their temperature before they enter any Red Cross blood drive or donation center, including staff and volunteers.

At each blood drive and donation center, Red Cross employees follow strict safety protocols, including wearing gloves, routinely wiping down donor-touched areas, using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub. Additional spacing has been implemented within each blood drive to incorporate social distancing measures between donation beds and stations within the blood drive. The average blood drive includes only twenty to thirty people. These mitigation measures will help to keep blood recipients, staff, and donors safe.

Those interested in donating blood may schedule an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

 

For Staff

Disinfecting Local Offices (4.2.20)
As we work to ensure safety for our employees and clients, we want to provide some insight into the methods we are using to sanitize and disinfect our field offices in response to COVID-19. As Executive Director Ryan mandated, no offices are to reopen for business as usual until thorough cleaning is complete. We are developing a schedule that aligns with the extension of the Governor’s Executive Order to state agencies through April 30.
 
Our cleaning contractors will use a product called EnviroShield. Below are some basic facts about the product.
 

  • It kills 99.9% of all harmful bacteria, i.e. MRSA, H1N1, E.coli and listeria
  • Meets CDC cleaning requirements
  • Hospital grade chemicals used
  • Prevents regrowth and spread of microbial germs for up to 3 months
  • EPA approved
  • Does not cause skin, eye or respiratory problems
  • Safe to use in offices on keyboards, telephones, desk printers, etc.

Additionally, a rigorous cleaning schedule is in development for our 200 Piedmont offices. That process requires no action on the part of employees. However, please monitor your emails for updates on days and times when the office will be off limits to staff.
 
We look forward to a safe, healthy return to operations in the future. Look for additional information regarding the preventative measures in place to make that return possible.

New Update from Executive Director Shawn Ryan (3.31.20)
I want to reassure you, your health and the wellbeing of our clients is paramount. In my message to all of you yesterday, I shared that I will not reopen any GVRA location before it is thoroughly sanitized to prevent the spread of illness. To accommodate that cleaning timeline, allow for social distancing and align with a new directive Monday night from the Office of Governor Brian Kemp, I am now extending our current operating status through April 30. 

While we continue to work toward fulfillment of our mission and provide responsive service to our customers and partners, we will do so primarily via telephonic and virtual platforms. This time provides an excellent opportunity to call clients, ensure case files are well-maintained, engage in digital training, update performance document templates and collaborate with colleagues digitally. Even with our physical office doors closed, GVRA remains open for business.

We understand some programs are largely ineligible for teleworking options. In these cases, program leadership will follow up with staff and reiterate response plans and procedures. Where individuals remain on the job, stringent preventative measures and protocol are in place to protect everyone involved.

Managers should continue to assist those staff who are on administrative-office closure leave by documenting their leave time in PeopleSoft. All other staff should report hours teleworked accurately, documenting time each day. In addition, supervisors and employees should maintain close communication, discussing work plans and progress on various projects. It is important that you make sure your manager knows how to reach you, both to facilitate continuing operations and also to ensure you are safe and well.

Thank you for your patience during these challenges. Please remember—these adjustments are temporary and will help us make sure everyone returns safely in the near future.
 
Shawn Ryan
Executive Director

A Message from the Executive Director: Continuing our important work during COVID-19 response (3.30.20)
I hope each of you are in good health and are following all ordinances and best practices intended to keep you and your families safe. As we receive further guidance from the Office of the Governor, we will pass that information along and apply any directives across our programs.

At this time, clean environments are our key priority. Our facilities and fiscal staff is coordinating with program leadership and local managers to ensure deep cleaning statewide. We will not restore any locations to standard operations until those sites are fully sanitized. Your managers will provide any forthcoming updates.

If you are currently teleworking, please continue to do so as we begin this new week. Ensure you are communicating regularly with your managers to prioritize tasks. Additionally, please check your email frequently and look for updates at gvs.ga.gov and on social media.

Thank you for your ongoing dedication and commitment to do good work. Though our present challenges are unprecedented, the importance of our mission remains constant, and each of you play a key role to fulfill that mission. We will navigate the coming weeks together.
 
Shawn Ryan
GVRA Executive Director

Georgia Human Resources Administration COVID-19 Response FAQ (3.30.20)
State governments throughout the United States are responding to the spread of COVID-19.  The state of Georgia is no exception to this effort.

Thus, to help you guide your agency through this situation, the Department of Administrative Services/Human Resources Administration has posted a COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions document on our COVID-19 website.

This document was created by the Department of Administrative Services, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, Office of Planning and Budget, State Accounting Office, and Department of Public Health.

The FAQ document provides guidelines and resources that may be helpful in responding to issues and questions related to COVID-19. It also addresses such issues as leave/pay status, workforce concerns, workers’ compensation, teleworking, and employee relations.
 
You may access the FAQs at the HRA COVID-19 website by clicking here.  In addition to the FAQ document, the site contains other HR COVID-19 related resources and information. Additional information will be added to the site as needed.

Managers: Entering Administrative/Emergency Closure Leave
As part of GVRA's decision to close some offices to the public in an effort to help combat the spread of COVID-19, Administrative/Emergency Closure leave is available to employees whose job duties do not support a telework arrangement. Managers of these employees will need to familiarize themselves with how to enter Administrative/Emergency Closure leave and should utilize the following guidance:

Managers will need to enter Administrative/Emergency Closure leave in Time and Labor on behalf of employees who are affected by office closures and are not eligible to telework. For a step-by-step breakdown of how managers can enter such leave for employees, click here.

Employees who are teleworking, yet may not have enough work tasks to fill their daily or weekly schedule, are required to record their actual work hours in Time and Labor for the part of the day they are working. Employees should record Administrative/Emergency Closure leave in Time and Labor for any time in which they do not have work tasks to perform.

NOTE: Administrative/Emergency Closure leave is not an elective form of leave and is only available to employees whose offices have been closed and whose job duties do not support a telework arrangement.

Questions regarding Time and Labor should be directed to the Agency’s Time and Labor Specialist, Arthur Bryant, arthur.bryant@gvs.ga.gov.

COVID-19 and GVRA: Frequently Asked Questions
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing rapidly, and we know you have questions. Here are some of the more frequent questions we've received as well as answers to those questions.

If an employee thinks they are ill and needs to self-isolate, do they need to provide a doctors statement?
No, at this time we are not requiring employees to provide medical documentation regarding any possible COVID-19 exposure or illness. The agency does not want to add any additional burdens on our current healthcare system and requiring employees to submit medical documentation would not only increase this burden but also be difficult for the employee to obtain. NOTE: If an employee reports a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 illness or a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 illness of a household member, it is imperative that GVRA’s Human Resources Director be notified immediately at: jennifer.statham@gvs.ga.gov or (404)232-1991. The Human Resources Director in conjunction with the Executive Director and General Counsel will provide guidance and communication on the Agency’s plan of action to handle these types of situations.

Can employees who are self-isolating telework or do they need to take sick leave?
This will really be up to the employee. If the employee feels well enough to telework, then they should be allowed to do so. Otherwise, they should use sick, annual, comp, personal or authorized leave without pay to cover the absence. Exposure to or illnesses related to COVID-19 are not eligible for Admin/Office closure leave, though Administrative Emergency Closure leave has been authorized for some employees due to other circumstances (see Managers: Entering Administrative/Emergency Closure Leave above).

If an employee wants to go to the office to print or mail documents are they allowed to go into the office?
This will be at the discretion of managers based on guidance provided by Program Directors. It is important to note that the Agency is using this time to ensure offices are cleaned and sanitized. Employees who can telework should be strongly encouraged to do so exclusively to avoid derailing the cleaning efforts of the Agency. Once an office has been cleaned and sanitized, and to prevent potential re-contamination issues, it is strongly recommended that employees not be allowed to go back into the office until such time that the Governor has determined the COVID-19 crisis has diminished and has lifted the telework requirement.

When staff are entering time, what time reporting code should they use?
It depends. If they are actually working – even teleworking – they would enter time as if they were working in the office. Although there is a telework code, employees are not required to use this code at this time. If they are on a type of paid leave, then they would enter the code for whatever type of paid leave they are using. If they are unable to telework and are affected by an office closure, then the employee’s manager should be documenting Admin/Office Closure leave for those employees in Time and Labor (again, see above).

If an employee was on previously approved paid leave or previously approved leave without pay or had an approved leave previously scheduled prior to any office closure, are they still required to use their paid leave?
Yes, employees who are on previously-approved paid leave or previously-approved leave without pay are not affected by an office closure and are still required to use their own paid leave or leave without pay, if applicable (this includes Family and Medical Leave Absences not related to the current COVID-19 crisis). Additionally, any employee who has a future-approved absence that occurs after an office closure must still use their paid leave during the previously-approved absence period, unless the employee requests, in writing, to rescind the leave and the manager approves the request. It is important to note that the Agency recognizes that employees who had previously approved leave for vacation purposes may have had to cancel their plans because of the current COVID-19 crisis. In these instances Human Resources encourages managers to allow employees to rescind their previous requests for leave. Once a pre-approved absence has ended, and if offices are still closed, the employee would then be eligible for admin/office closure leave or should resume teleworking.

Is Your Payroll Information Up to Date?
While most staff are operating remotely, please take a moment to ensure that all payroll information in TeamWorks (PeopleSoft) is up to date. You can access your personal information under the self-serve menu.

•           If you receive your check via direct deposit, ensure your banking/deposit information is accurate.

•           Paper checks will be mailed on our payroll date. Checks will not be available for in-person pickup. Please ensure we have a current mailing address in TeamWorks to avoid potential issues in delivery.

Thank you for attending to this matter in a timely fashion and helping us serve you more efficiently.

Use of Fleet Vehicles Suspended
In this time of limited operations in response to COVID-19, GVRA is suspending the use of all fleet vehicles. If you have dropped off a vehicle for a service or repair that is completed, please make arrangements to return the vehicle to its assigned location. If you have dropped off a vehicle for a repair that is not yet completed, and the vehicle is inoperable, please make arrangements to have it towed back to its assigned location.

Due to COVID-19, Customized Employment trainings have been postponed.

In light of the situation developing around COVID-19, the ACRE-approved Customized Employment Training to be delivered by UGA’s Institute on Human Development and Disability will be postponed.
 
All cohorts will continue to accept applications until further notice. You can apply online here. Information pertaining to the rescheduling of the Customized Employment training and the live Community of Practice sessions will be announced as it becomes available.
 
At this time, individuals are encouraged to join the Advancing Employment Provider Community of Practice (CoP), an online resource group where individuals with disabilities, their families, service providers and others interested in employment can learn from one another. The CoP provides access to upcoming webinars and information on competitive integrated employment.  More information regarding the Provider Community of Practice can be found here.