First, let me begin by expressing that privacy laws prevent me from giving out identifying information about the individual – including the person’s name, date of infection and department – which the City follows for all employees facing any medical or health issues. A person with COVID-19 has the same privacy protections under the law as employees diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other illness.
I want you to know the person has been following Kitsap Public Health protocols and is safely isolating at home. The individual has given me permission to share with you that symptoms are improving.
Secondly, as part of health protocols, Kitsap Public Health has conducted contact tracing to notify City employees and people in the community who may have been in contact with the infected individual to self-isolate at home. Since the investigation, no other employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Please keep in mind that if you have not been contacted by Kitsap Public Health, it has been determined by public health officials you have not been exposed and you do not need to self-isolate.
It is a delicate balancing act to protect the privacy of infected employees and provide transparency to our workforce. Generally, an isolated case of COVID-19 may not be shared in a wider communication to all employees. Kitsap Public Health will always inform employees directly if they have interacted with or had exposure to an infected person and advise on the steps they need to take. They will also direct an infected individual to stay home and follow the appropriate health guidelines to help prevent spread of the virus and keep others safe.
In the event there is an outbreak within the City – defined by health officials as two or more linked positive COVID-19 cases within 14 days, I will provide communication updates to all city personnel. I will also share any steps that may be advised by Kitsap Public Health. We will do as much as possible to balance the need for disclosure and to safeguard the privacy of employees who may be ill with the virus.
Commitment to Health and Safety and Preventing Spread of COVID-19
My commitment to the health and safety of employees is a top priority, and I take the potential spread of the virus very seriously. Since March, we have changed the way we operate as a City. I have focused on putting in place the following measures to help protect our employees and the public:
- Closed public counters in the City, including at police and fire stations, City Hall at the Norm Dicks Government Center, and parks and recreation facilities, including the Sheridan Park Community Center and Bremerton Senior Center. (Additionally, Kitsap Public Health in the Norm Dicks Government Center also closed its counters to the public to limit spread of COVID-19.)
- Instituting remote work options and staggering shifts of employees whenever possible
- Establishing virtual meetings instead of in-person staff/public meetings
- Implementing the Governor’s mandate at City facilities and in vehicles, including mask wearing, social distancing, and other health protocols
- Investing in technology and instituting digital processes to decrease face-to-face contact between employees as well as with the public
- Purchasing plexiglass barriers for installation at counters and other high contact areas
- Distributing communications on practicing safe and healthy protocols at work
With COVID-19 spreading in our community, please remember that every day, every interaction with an individual should be treated as if interacting with someone that is infected with COVID 19. Please don’t let your guard down. No one should ever consider that someone doesn’t have the virus because they aren’t showing symptoms. Everyone should be self-monitoring for symptoms or paying attention to known contacts who become ill. Please be mindful that every person must hold themselves accountable for their actions while at work as well as on their personal time.
We are facing difficult months ahead due to the arrival of flu season and more people spending time indoors due to the colder weather. I ask that you help reduce potential spread of the virus and take the proper precautions to help protect your health and your fellow co-workers:
- Make sure to get a flu shot this year
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Wear a mask or face covering, maintain social distancing whenever possible, and follow recommended health protocols
- Observe guidelines and recommendations provided by the Washington State Department of Health at www.doh.wa.gov/coronavirus and Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
- Check out the links and resources by Kitsap Public Health on participating in lower risk activities to minimize spread of the virus, finding local COVID-19 testing sites and other health information: www.kitsappublichealth.org
These are difficult and challenging times, and I encourage you to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you are feeling stress or uncertainty about COVID-19 or other issues. The EAP offers confidential counseling and is available to all city employees. I hope you will reach out to them if you are experiencing any increased anxiety or concerns. [Note: An EAP brochure with an overview of the program was included in the message to all City employees.]
I am proud of the work you are all doing to serve the public during this pandemic while also focusing on caring for the health of yourself and your families. We will get through this, and I believe by working together we can help protect one another at work as well as our loved ones at home and in the community.