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Introduction

The Department of State is committed to addressing essential work requirements consistent with the best public health practices. As the United States’ lead foreign affairs agency with personnel and facilities in nearly every country in the world, we recognize the unique challenges of protecting our global workforce while ensuring their continued ability to provide services to U.S. citizens, promote U.S. interests, protect national security, and advance the President’s foreign policy agenda. Our paramount concern is the health and safety of the entire Department workforce – throughout the United States and overseas – including other agency personnel at post, the career workforce, contractors, and locally employed staff. We are committed to taking a safe, cautious, iterative, data-driven approach as we consider bringing people into shared workspaces and as we continue to protect our employees who must come into the workplace. Our COVID-19 response efforts align with Executive Orders (E.O.) 14042 and 14043, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (SFWTF) Model Safety Principles , which are the requirements for ensuring a safe workplace and are based on expert guidance from public health and infectious disease experts, and OMB Memorandum M-21-25.  Further information can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce website. 

Where a domestic locality has imposed additional pandemic-related requirements more protective, than those set forth in this plan, those requirements should be followed in federal buildings and on federal land in that locality.

Goal

Personnel health and safety is our highest priority. The goal of the State Department’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan (WSP) is to minimize risk, reduce transmission, keep the federal workplace safe, and accomplish the critical work of the federal government. This applies to the Department workforce in the broadest sense (Department employees, contractors, and any other individuals, including visitors), both domestically and overseas in all Department facilities owned, rented, or leased, to include communal spaces in residential compounds.

Background

The Workplace Safety Plan is the Department’s overarching guidance to ensure a safe workplace. The principles in this plan align with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for employers and for fully vaccinated people  and with guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on protecting workers based on the evolving understanding of the pandemic. This plan will be updated as new CDC, Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, and Department guidance is received.

Complementing the WSP is the Department’s decision-making framework that incorporates key COVID-19 risk indicators with the safety principles outlined in the WSP. The framework provides a process for determining appropriate workforce posture changes and risk mitigation specific to a facility’s location.

Health and Safety

Vaccination Requirement

To meet Executive Orders 14042  and 14043 in requesting vaccination status information from employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors, the Department complies with any applicable Federal laws, including requirements under the Rehabilitation Act, the Privacy Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, IT security requirements, and any applicable collective bargaining obligations. For federal employees and personal services contractors (PSCs), vaccination information held by the Department is maintained by the Bureau of Medical Services (MED) and only shared as permitted.

In implementing Executive Order 14042, the Department will comply with all relevant court orders, including by following relevant OMB and Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance.

State Department Employees*:

As required by the President’s Executive Order 14043 Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees, to ensure the safety of the federal workforce, domestic and overseas, all (including those working remotely or teleworking) State Department direct hire Foreign Service and Civil Service, Eligible Family Members employed by the Department on a Family Member Appointment, and Re-employed Annuitants, serving overseas or domestically, whether working onsite, or via telework or remote work, must be fully vaccinated no later than November 22, 2021. To be considered fully vaccinated employees  must have received the requisite number of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or with emergency use authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or that has been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, at least two weeks prior to November 22, 2021. Employees can obtain a vaccination through the Department’s health units overseas, at the Bureau of Medical Services exam clinic in Washington DC, or visit www.vaccines.gov to find the closest vaccination location in the United States.

Employees must complete an electronic Certification and Proof of Vaccination (“Certification”) Form. When completing the Certification form, employees will be required to provide acceptable documentation (“proof”) of vaccination or proof that the employee received an approved disability or religious accommodation. Acceptable proof of vaccinations includes copies of the record of immunization from a health care provider or pharmacy; the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card; medical records documenting the vaccination; or immunization records from a public health or state immunization information system. The official document provided as proof must include: the type of vaccine administered, date(s) of administration, and the name of the health care professional(s) or clinic site(s) administering the vaccine(s). Employees may provide a digital copy of such records, including, for example, a digital photograph, scanned image, or PDF of such a record that clearly and legibly displays the information outlined above. Employees must certify under penalty of perjury that the documentation they are submitting is true and correct by November 22, 2021, other than in limited circumstances where the employee is entitled to a legally required exception. Employees who fail to complete the Certification form and/or comply with the COVID-19 vaccination requirements may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including separation.

Federal employees must be fully vaccinated other than in limited circumstances where the law requires an exception. In particular, the agency may be required to provide an accommodation to employees who communicate to the agency that they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 because of a disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Determining whether an exception is legally required will include consideration of factors such as the basis for the request; the nature of the employee’s job responsibilities; and the reasonably foreseeable effects on Department operations, including protecting other Department employees and the public from COVID-19. To request a reasonable accommodation because of a disability or a medical condition that specifically relates to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, employees will utilize the Department’s established Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Division (DRAD) electronic reasonable accommodation request process. Requests for a reasonable accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement due to sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances will be reviewed centrally in the Office of the Director General (DGTM). Detailed instructions for both processes can be found on the Department’s Reentry SharePoint Site, accessible from the Knowledge Portal homepage. Employees were strongly encouraged to submit their request for an accommodation on or before October 18, 2021.

While a request for exception to the vaccine mandate is pending, employees must adhere to enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols, to include masking, physical distancing, travel restrictions, and any testing protocols that may be implemented. Employees whose accommodation requests are denied must comply with the vaccine requirement. The notice of denial of the accommodation request will confirm the deadline for the employee to comply with the vaccination requirement. The process for reconsideration and appeal of a denial of reasonable accommodation for a disability is outlined in 3 FAM 3674.2. If a request for a religious accommodation is denied, employees may file an EEO complaint through the Office of Civil Rights’ website, or a grievance in accordance with the procedures outlined on the website of the Grievance Staff; however, employees must still comply with the requirement to be fully vaccinated while any such action is pending.

State Department employees covered by Executive Order 14043 who fail to comply with a requirement to be fully vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination and have neither received an exception nor have an exception request under consideration, are in violation of an order. Employees who violate orders may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal. Consistent with the Administration’s policy, the Department will initiate an enforcement process to work with employees to achieve compliance.

*Requirements for Locally Employed (LE) Staff at overseas posts may vary in accordance with host country law. LE Staff will be advised of their obligations by post leadership.

Federal Employees of Non-State Agencies Visiting a State Department Facility:

Domestic:  All employees from other federal agencies seeking to enter a domestic State Department facility will be asked to provide information about their vaccination status by completing the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination Form . The form must be kept on their person for the duration of time on the Department premises. Forms will not be collected or stored by the Department. If a non-State federal employee is not fully vaccinated or declines to provide their vaccination status, they will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result from within the previous three days, and must follow enhanced safety protocols, including mask wearing regardless of community transmission levels, and physical distancing at least six feet from others at all times, including in offices, conference rooms, and all other communal and workspaces. The Department office hosting the non-State government employee is responsible for ensuring compliance with these requirements.

Overseas: Employees of non-State federal agencies, including those at post on temporary duty (TDY), under Chief of Mission (COM) authority overseas must comply with their home agency’s vaccination and certification requirements under Executive Order 14043. Their agency may share with the COM or their designee, information about their employees necessary to ensure that appropriate safety protocols applicable to their agency employees can be implemented. Non-State federal employees under COM authority will not be treated as “visitors” required to complete the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination form , nor must they present vaccination documentation to enter Department facilities under their COM’s authority.

Contractors Subject to Vaccination Requirement: (See the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force website for information on covered contracts subject to the requirement.) As required by the President’s Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, federal contractor employees on contracts awarded on or after November 14, 2021, including domestic Personal Services Contractors (PSCs) must be fully vaccinated no later than January 18, 2021, unless exempted because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. (For details, see Safer Workforce Taskforce Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors , issued September 24, 2021.)

Contractors Not Subject to Vaccination Requirement: Contractors not yet subject to vaccination requirements will be asked to provide information about their vaccination status by completing a Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination form  and carry a copy with them when physically present at any domestic Department facility. Individuals who disclose that they are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their status must follow enhanced safety protocols, including mask wearing, regardless of community transmission levels, and physical distancing at least six feet from others at all times, including in offices, conference rooms, and all other communal and workspaces. Additionally, they must carry proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within three days prior to entry into Department facilities. Forms will not be collected or stored by the Department, nor will they be reviewed by Department staff at building entrances. The Contracting Officer Representative (COR) is responsible for ensuring that contract vendors set up methods for collecting, completing, and tracking compliance of forms within their company. A/OPR/RPM will work with GSA CORs to ensure that forms are completed for GSA contractors working in multi-tenant facilities that include Department elements.

Individuals on PSCs and Eligible Family Members (EFMs) employed on Personal Services Agreements (PSAs) who perform their work on-site at overseas posts are excluded from the vaccination requirements of Executive Order 14042  COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. Since they are not currently required to be vaccinated, there is not an accommodation process for them at this time. However, contractors, including PSCs and EFMs employed on PSAs, must attest to their vaccination status using the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination form . If they are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination status, contractors must demonstrate proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed within three days prior to entry into a Department facility.

Visitors:

Domestic:  All visitors to domestic State Department facilities must complete a Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination form  before entering a federal building or federally controlled indoor worksite. The form must be kept on their person for the duration of time on the federal premises. Forms will not be collected or stored by the Department. If a visitor is not fully vaccinated or declines to provide their vaccination status, they will be required to carry proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the previous three days, and must follow enhanced safety protocols, including mask wearing regardless of community transmission levels, and physical distancing at least six feet from others at all times including, in offices, conference rooms, and all other communal and workspaces. The Department host is responsible for ensuring compliance with these requirements.

Overseas: Visitors, should attest to their vaccination status using the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination form and, if they are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination status, they must demonstrate proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed within three days prior to entry. These items should be hand-carried when in the mission’s facility.

Visitors entering a federal building or federal land to obtain a public service or benefit, including obtaining a U.S. passport, visa, or in-person public service, do not need to provide information on their vaccination status or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. If a visitor seeking a public service or benefit is not fully vaccinated, the individual must comply with all relevant CDC and Department guidance, including wearing a mask and physically distancing.

New Hires: All State Department direct hire Foreign Service and Civil Service, Eligible Family Members employed by the Department on a Family Member Appointment, and Re-employed Annuitants who start their government service after November 22, 2021, must be fully vaccinated prior to their start date, except in limited circumstances where an accommodation is legally required. However, the Department may have an urgent, mission-critical hiring need to onboard new staff prior to those new staff becoming fully vaccinated. In such cases, the agency head may delay the vaccination requirement. In the case of such limited delays, new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of their start date and to follow enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols for not fully vaccinated individuals until they are fully vaccinated.

Individuals with tentative and final employment offers are being notified of the vaccine requirement. For those who will not be fully vaccinated prior to their planned onboarding date, that date will be delayed until the individual is fully vaccinated. All new recruitment announcements include information about the vaccine requirement.

Vaccination on Duty Time

When a federal employee is required to be vaccinated, the time the employee spends obtaining a required COVID-19 vaccination dose (including travel time) is duty time. Employees may not be credited with administrative leave for time spent getting a required vaccination dose. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, the employee is unable to obtain the required vaccine during basic tour of duty hours, the normal overtime hours of work rules apply, which includes requesting approval for overtime in advance. Vaccination on duty time is authorized as follows:

  • Up to four hours, per dose, to travel to the vaccination site, complete a required vaccination dose, and return to work.
  • Employees taking longer than four hours must document the reasons for the additional time. Reasonable transportation costs that are incurred as a result of obtaining the vaccine from a site preapproved by the State Department are handled the same way as local travel or temporary duty cost reimbursement is handled based on Department policy and the Federal Travel Regulation.

Employees who choose to receive an additional, non-required vaccine dose (e.g., a booster dose), or an additional dose for immunocompromised individuals, can be given up to four hours of administrative leave to travel to the vaccination site, complete the additional vaccine dose, and return to the workplace. Regular duty time is not available for additional, non-required vaccine doses.

For more information on booster shots, go to the CDC webpage on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots .

For more information on additional doses, go the CDC webpage on immunocompromised patients and COVID-19 vaccine .

Level of Community Transmission

In accordance with guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the CDC, areas experiencing substantial or high community transmission rates must apply enhanced COVID-19 workplace safety protocols, as applicable. Community transmission is tracked by the CDC and found on their website: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view. 

In reviewing the Department’s framework to determine domestic facility workforce posture and mitigation actions, the Department uses its discretion in determining the counties relevant to each Department facility to track community transmission levels. For example, surrounding local counties from which employees or visitors travel to the facility, and transmission levels in counties through which employees based at a given facility regularly travel over the course of their work in the field, and between various work sites.

The Department conducts assessment of community transmission rates in the National Capital Region (NCR) and domestic Department facility locations on a bi-weekly basis as part of its COVID-19 mitigation process to determine onsite staffing (such as Mission Critical only or less restrictive postures). This framework includes assessment of masking requirements to align with community transmission rates and as a COVID-19 mitigation action based on health risk indicators such as vaccination rates, and additional local COVID-19 conditions.

When the level of transmission related to a given Department facility increases from low or moderate to substantial or high, the Department will promptly put in place more protective safety protocols consistent with CDC guidelines and guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force as soon as operationally feasible. The Department does not wait, for example, for a multi-day or multi-week trend to be established.

When the level of transmission related to a given agency facility is reduced from high or substantial to moderate or low, the level of transmission must remain at that lower level for at least two consecutive weeks before the Department will utilize protocols recommended for areas of moderate or low transmission by CDC guidelines and guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

Where a locality in which a Department facility is located imposes more protective pandemic-related safety requirements, those requirements are followed by Department employees and onsite contractor employees, in agency buildings, in agency-controlled indoor worksites, and on agency lands within that locality.

Telework and Remote Work

Domestic personnel were notified first on September 14 and again on September 29 that beginning November 1, 2021, they may be required to perform functions onsite in accordance with Department guidance. The Department has and will continue to evaluate functions that may require onsite work (such as access to classified systems, security of facilities, or infrastructure). The Department is currently utilizing telework, flexible work schedules, and remote work to align with OMB Memo M-21-25. As community transmission metrics and other factors like mission priorities change, and/or the Department receives further government-wide guidance, the Department will transition to an operating posture where management has full flexibility for onsite presence optimized with telework to achieve mission objectives. The Department prioritizes workforce safety and density to consistently implement conditions for a safe workplace while continuing to meet the Department’s needs.

COVID-19 Coordination Team (CCT)

Per the Executive Order, the Department established a COVID-19 Coordination Team (CCT) of cross-bureau representatives and expertise to implement its COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan. The CCT sets, implements, and monitors a) safety protocols for physical space and b) conditions and guidance for onsite and remote working determinations. Additionally, the team meets regularly to review compliance with protocols, potential revisions to protocols, and any other operational needs. These protocols follow the Workforce Safety Plan principles.

The CCT coordinates all decisions with Facility Security Committees, as appropriate. For privately owned facilities leased by the Federal Government, the team coordinates with the General Services Administration (GSA), where appropriate, and the lessor’s designated representative.

Given application of safety protocols to onsite contractor employees, the CCT coordinates with the Department’s Chief Acquisition Officer, Senior Procurement Executive, staff, and the Contracting Officer’s Representatives.

Face Masks and Physical Distancing

Domestic: In areas of substantial or high community transmission (CT), and when required by Department policy, all U.S. government employees, onsite contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask in accordance with current CDC guidance when inside all domestic Department facilities. In areas of low or moderate transmission, in most settings, fully vaccinated people generally do not need to wear a mask or physically distance when indoors, except where required by Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial laws, rules, or regulations. Guidance on how to select and properly wear a mask can be found on the CDC website . Novelty or non-protective masks, masks with ventilation valves, or face shields are not allowed as a substitute for masks. Consistent with CDC guidance, U.S. government employees, onsite contractors, and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth and also need to physically distance, to the extent possible, a distance of at least six feet from others at all times, including in offices, conference rooms, and all other communal workspaces. Additionally, consistent with CDC guidance, those who are not fully vaccinated are advised to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

The Department reinforces CDC guidance through the posting of Department-approved signage that notes requirements for mask-wearing and encourages physical distancing in work and common areas. Exceptions will be consistent with CDC guidelines. Additionally, accommodations will be made for individuals consistent with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  requirements under the Rehabilitation Act.

If members of the public entering a Federal building or Federal land to obtain a public service or benefit are not fully vaccinated , these visitors must comply with all relevant CDC guidance, including wearing a mask and physically distancing from other people. The Department has signage to this effect, information about this on its website, and otherwise communicates this information to its visitors seeking public services or benefits. Domestic community transmission data can be found on the CDC website.  Community transmission levels are assessed on a weekly basis to determine masking requirements.

Overseas: Chiefs of Mission should make decisions regarding mask mandates based upon Department guidance and an assessment of local conditions and requirements in consultation with MED bureau. Exceptions will be consistent with CDC guidelines. Additionally, accommodations will be made for individuals consistent with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements under the Rehabilitation Act. For LE staff, accommodations will be made consistent with applicable local law and, for U.S. citizen LE staff, the Rehabilitation Act as well. Data and local conditions are to be reviewed on a regular basis by post Emergency Action committees (EACs).

Testing

Department employees and onsite contractor employees are not currently required to participate in a regular monitoring testing protocol if fully vaccinated. Any such protocol would be established in accordance with OMB guidance and requirements. If any employee including direct hire employees, civil service employees, contractors including third party contractors has a confirmed, presumed, or suspected positive case of COVID-19, they should first notify MED via email or phone the 24/7 Health Alert Response Team hotline (contact information can be found in the Global Address List) for further discussion. MED would then recommend the appropriate testing per current CDC guidance and perform contact tracing for any potential workplace exposure.

When documenting COVID test results, the Department complies with all applicable laws and in accordance with the Department records management policies. The Department takes steps to promote privacy and IT security, while also providing the relevant information to agency officials who need to know in order to implement the safety protocols. The Department consults, as appropriate, with its Records Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Senior Agency Official for Privacy, and Department legal counsel to determine appropriate information management protocols.

Travel-Related Testing: Individuals should adhere strictly to CDC guidelines before, during, and after travel, regardless of whether the travel is personal or for official business. Air passengers coming to the United States from abroad, including U.S. government employees who are fully vaccinated, should follow federal travel requirements  for entry.

Pre-travel testing is available through MED for individuals in the District of Columbia (D.C.) metro area on official travel that require host nation documentation of a negative COVID test before arrival at their overseas assignment. This testing is available to all direct hire employees and their family members who are on travel orders for Department employees and other agencies working under Chief of Mission. Appointments will only be confirmed for times that fall within host-nation entry requirements.

Post-travel testing is available through MED for those in the D.C. metro area returning from official, USG-funded international travel, and for residents of D.C. in accordance with local guidelines. Post-travel testing MUST be scheduled a minimum of 5-7 days after arrival in the U.S.

MED is unable to recommend laboratory facilities for individuals outside the D.C. metro area who require testing for official travel. In this instance, MED recommends that individuals look for a local lab that can perform the required test in the timeframe required by the host nation of travel, AND return results directly to the employee or onsite contractor employee. If an employee or onsite contractor employee is unable to schedule without a REQUIRED order, the employee or onsite contractor employee should send an email to MED Telehealth with name, date of birth, and phone number for each traveler.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, if an employee tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the case must be recorded on the OSHA Illness and Injury Log if each of the following conditions are met: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19; (2) the case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5); and (3) the case involves one or more relevant recording criteria (set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7) (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work). The Department follows state and county reporting requirements and complies with state and county contact tracing efforts. The Department’s Bureau of Medical Services collaborates with Bureau of Administration, domestically, and Overseas Buildings Operations/Safety Health & Environmental Management (OBO/SHEM), overseas, for recording of incidents that involve workplace contacts to maintain workplace OSHA safety standards.

Contact Tracing

Overseas and Domestic: MED currently conducts contact tracing globally, the results of which inform the Department’s COVID-19 risk indicators and decision making for workforce posture. In line with the Executive Order and OMB guidance, medical personnel work closely with leadership to coordinate any infection control and workplace safety efforts once informed of a COVID-19 case (either due to symptoms or a positive test). This coordination also includes consultation with state and local public health officials, as appropriate. The workforce is informed of positive cases in the workplace, following Federal, State, and local privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.

If any domestic employee, including those who work remotely or telework, has a confirmed, presumed, or suspected positive case of COVID-19, they should notify their supervisor, and the MEDHART nCOV Team or MED’s 24/7 Health Alert Response Team hotline (contact information can be found in the Global Address List). Overseas, U.S. government employees, contractors, locally employed staff and employee family members (EFMs) at post should report to their health unit. Any individual, regardless of vaccination status, who develops any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the workday must immediately isolate, wear a mask (if not already doing so and one is available), notify their supervisor, and the MEDHART nCOV Team or MED’s 24/7 Health Alert Response Team hotline, and promptly leave the workplace.

The MEDHART nCOV Team performs contact tracing for domestic employees for any potential workplace exposure. The employee or supervisor should also notify their Executive Office, which should contact “A/OPR COVID-19 Reports” in the Global Address List for assistance. The A Bureau will work with the Executive Office and GSA (where necessary) to arrange for any needed cleaning/disinfection of domestic space, per CDC guidance. The A Bureau will also provide updates to EX Directors and other agencies with equities in the domestic building on whether the area needs to be cordoned off and the timeline for reoccupying the space. For anyone identified as a close contact follow the instructions as noted below under: Quarantine, Isolation, and Steps for Individuals Following Exposure to Someone with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, if an employee tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the case must be recorded on the OSHA Illness and Injury Log if each of the following conditions are met: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19; (2) the case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5); and (3) the case involves one or more relevant recording criteria (set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7) (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work). The Department follows state and county reporting requirements and complies with state and county contact tracing efforts.

The Department’s process to document COVID-19 test results complies with all applicable laws and in accordance with Department records management policies. The Department takes steps to promote privacy and IT security, while also providing the relevant information to Department officials who need to know in order to implement the safety protocols. The Department consults, as appropriate, with its Records Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Senior Agency Official for Privacy, and Department legal counsel to determine appropriate information management protocols.

Official Travel

Fully vaccinated personnel may conduct official domestic travel in connection with their official duties. Other than internal bureau travel policy and supervisor approval, these employees are not subject to official COVID-19-related domestic travel restrictions. Vaccinated personnel should self-monitor, wear a mask over nose and mouth on public transportation (including air travel) and while indoors in U.S. transportation hubs, and take other precautions during travel. Official domestic travel for the Department employees who are not fully vaccinated is limited to mission critical trips and must be approved in advance by the respective bureau Assistant Secretary or equivalent. Personnel who are not fully vaccinated  must follow CDC travel guidance for unvaccinated people .

See Testing section for travel-related COVID-19 testing information.

Overseas: Per current Department of State policy, international travel, regardless of vaccination status, is limited to mission critical trips only, and requires advance approval from an employee’s respective Assistant Secretary.

Meetings, Events, and Conferences

Domestic: Conference and large meeting rooms controlled by A Bureau in the National Capital Region are open for reservation consistent with physical distancing guidelines; occupancy limits are listed in Reserve!t. The exception is the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, which are only open for events for Under Secretaries and above, on a case-by-case basis.

In-person meetings, conferences, or events hosted by the Department that will be attended by more than 50 participants—regardless of whether participants include members of the public— must first seek the approval of the Under Secretary for Management (M) before contacting A/OPR for scheduling. In-person visitors attending any meetings, conferences, and events hosted by the Department, regardless of size, will be required to complete a Safer Federal Workforce Task Force-provided Certification of Vaccination form  to document information about their vaccination status. Those who are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their status must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed no later than the previous three days and comply with masking and physical distancing requirements for individuals who are not fully vaccinated (see Face Masks and Physical Distancing section). In-person attendees in areas of high or substantial transmission, or in accordance with Department policy, must wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

Overseas: Posts are encouraged to follow guidance similar to domestic requirements, consult with MED bureau and review local risk indicators when determining and planning in-person events. On a case-by-case basis, OBO advises posts on facility-related safety aspects of event hosting.

Symptom Monitoring

Overseas and Domestic: When U.S. government employees, onsite contractors, or visitors do not feel well, they should stay home and not enter any Department facility. All onsite personnel are required to complete a self-screening for symptoms daily.

Any individual, regardless of vaccination status, who develops any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the workday must immediately isolate, wear a mask (if not already doing so and one is available), notify their supervisor, and promptly leave the workplace. If any domestic employee, including those who work remotely or telework, has a confirmed, presumed, or suspected positive case of COVID-19, they should notify MEDHART nCOV Team or MED’s 24/7 Health Alert Response Team hotline (contact information can be found in the Global Address List). Additionally, the employee or supervisor, if notified, should then notify their Executive Office. Overseas, U.S. government employees, contractors, locally employed staff and employee family members (EFMs) at post should report to their health unit.

Quarantine, Isolation, and Steps for Individuals Following Exposure to Someone with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19

Overseas and Domestic: individual with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 will be advised to isolate, pursuant to CDC guidelines,  and State, local, and Tribal laws and regulations. Personnel who are not fully vaccinated and who have had a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should follow CDC and State, local, and Tribal guidance for quarantine. CDC guidance is as follows:

Isolation

Isolation is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected. CDC’s updated guidance for those who test positive for COVID-19 is as follows:

If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolate)

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

Days in isolation are counted as follows:

If you became ill the morning of 1 January and tested positive that afternoon, then your first day of isolation is 2 January.  You would be in isolation through 6 January and could return to work, with a mask, at the earliest, 7 January. 

• Stay home for 5 days, the initial day of illness or of testing positive is Day 0.

• If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.

• Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

Quarantine

Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. CDC’s updated guidance for those who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 is as follows:

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

If you:

Have been boosted

OR

Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months

OR

Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

•  Wear a mask around others for 10 days.

•  Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

If you:

Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted

OR

Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted

OR

Are unvaccinated

• Stay home for 5 days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

• If you can’t quarantine, you must wear a mask for 10 days.

• Test on day 5 if possible.

If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.

If an individual has a confirmed, presumed, or suspected positive case of COVID-19, they should notify their supervisor and local health unit or MED’s 24/7 Health Alert Response Team hotline and their supervisor. Additionally, the employee/contractor or supervisor should then notify their Executive Office.

Travel: U.S. government employees and contractors should adhere strictly to CDC guidelines before, during, and after travel, regardless of whether the travel is personal or for official business.

Confidentiality

Overseas and Domestic:  All medical information collected from personnel, including test results and any other information obtained as a result of testing and symptom monitoring, will continue to be treated confidentially in accordance with applicable laws and regulations (e.g., the Privacy Act and Rehabilitation Act). The Department’s Director of Occupational Health and Wellness establishes the basis of, and direction for, maintaining the privacy of PII, guided by Bureau of Medical Services legal counsel.

Reasonable Accommodation

An employee with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation, when necessary, to facilitate the employee performing the essential functions of the job. Removal of an essential function of the employee’s position is not a reasonable accommodation. Global Talent Management Office of Accessibility and Accommodations, Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Division (GTM/OAA/DRAD) is the Department’s designated decision-maker on all disability reasonable accommodation requests for U.S. citizen staff, including U.S. citizen LE staff. The Department’s policy and procedures regarding reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities are set forth in 3 FAM 3670. For more information about reasonable accommodations, please visit GTM’s Reasonable Accommodations site via the Knowledge Portal. For LE staff, post should ensure that its response to any requests for reasonable accommodations is consistent with local law, and as needed, should consult with local counsel.

Employees may also request accommodations from the vaccination requirement due to a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Requests for religious accommodations are reviewed centrally in the Office of the Director General (DGTM). Employees should submit a religious accommodation request using the form provided on the Department’s Reentry SharePoint site on the Knowledge Portal homepage, and can find further information about religious accommodations in Department guidance.

Wellness Resources

The Department recognizes that employees may be experiencing loss, increased anxiety, and stress because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Department provides resources to help with work/life balance, coping, grief, resiliency, and other topics. The Office of Employee Consultation Services (ECS) provides free and confidential support services to assist Foreign Service personnel, Civil Service employees and eligible family members who may be experiencing professional or personal life challenges. Many resources such as ECS, WorkLife4You, and others, can be found on the Department’s internal TalentCare SharePoint site, accessible from the Knowledge Portal homepage.

Workplace Operations

Occupancy

Overseas and Domestic: The Department follows guidance as outlined in OMB Memo M-21-25. Occupancy limits take into account community transmission metrics, (as recommended by the CDC), and the physical infrastructure to keep workers safe, consistent with federal guidelines.

Facility Cleaning

Overseas and Domestic: EPA approved products, the Department regularly cleans common use, high-touch, and high-density spaces, such as lobbies, restrooms, elevators, and stairwells. Office space that is in regular use is cleaned regularly, and in accordance with CDC guidelines . The agency makes wipes and other EPA-approved disinfectants available for individuals to wipe down their workstation and related personal property. Department guidelines follow CDC  and EPA guidance for cleaning and post-exposure disinfection or closure of facilities, along with ensuring an effective and confidential way for personnel and/or their bureaus to communicate confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace to the Department designated POC for potential disinfection.

In order to abide by and exceed the CDC’s guidelines, the Department works domestically with a specialized service contractor or GSA to arrange for a thorough, professional disinfection after a confirmed case in the domestic workplace or closes the space for an appropriate amount of time. The Department’s Bureau of Administration domestically, or Chiefs of Mission overseas, determine the appropriate scope of workplace closures, as needed, such as offices, floors, or buildings.

In the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, the Department ensures enhanced cleaning of the spaces that the individual has occupied or accessed in accordance with CDC and, where applicable, GSA guidance, as follows:

  • If fewer than 24 hours have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, clean and disinfect the space.
  • If more than 24 hours have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, cleaning is enough. Agency may choose to also disinfect depending on certain conditions or everyday practices required by its facility.
  • If more than three days have passed since the person who is sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space, no additional cleaning (beyond regular cleaning practices) is needed.

The Department’s current domestic stance exceeds CDC guidelines, providing disinfection with EPA-approved products or isolation of the space for up to three days after the person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the space.

If enhanced cleaning is required, the Department will wait as long as possible (at least several hours) before cleaning and disinfecting. Extended wait periods allow increased opportunity for viral deactivation to occur naturally, while also allowing time for aerosols to settle, prior to surface disinfection. The A Bureau domestically, and posts overseas, will determine the appropriate scope of workplace closures needed—in some cases, it may be a suite or individual offices or part of a floor, in other cases, it may include an entire building.

Hand sanitizer stations are installed at the building entrance and throughout workspaces, containing FDA-approved hand sanitizer, with at least 60% ethanol and manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ingredients should be listed on a “Drug Facts” label. The Department ensures the hand sanitizer is not on the FDA’s do not use  list.

Hygiene

Overseas and Domestic: All personnel and visitors are encouraged to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms . The Department recommends frequent handwashing in the workplace, which is reinforced through posters throughout all facilities. Hand sanitizer stations manufactured in accordance with FDA requirements are available at all facility entrances and in workspaces where hand washing is not available, manufactured in accordance with FDA requirements.

Ventilation and Air Filtration

Overseas: Building constructed by the Department after 2001 with mechanical ventilation were designed to standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Condition Engineers (ASHRAE). Where possible, ventilation in older buildings has been enhanced by increasing exhaust in accordance with CDC guidance.  Additionally, the Department has funded the upgrade of air handlers to improve positive outward airflow at posts in such buildings. Older facilities, in which ventilation has not been enhanced and there is an increased risk of COVID-19 spread, due to high community transmission rates or an inability to physically distance, may benefit from supplemental air filtration in discussion with OBO.

Domestic: The Department has increased the exchange of outside air within delegated domestic facilities by adjusting the fresh air dampers to allow an increased percentage of fresh outdoor air, and/or starting the ventilation system earlier or running it later than normal. Recently, the Department reviewed the applicability of measures the ASHRAE has proposed for consideration. Generally, the existing domestic ventilation systems are sufficient when operated and maintained normally. Buildings constructed by the Department after 2001 with mechanical ventilation were designed to standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Condition Engineers (ASHRAE). The Department regularly evaluates the ventilation systems to make sure they are working properly. Filters are inspected to ensure they are tight-fitting and in good condition, and the filters are changed according to preventative maintenance schedules.

Local Visitors

Domestic: For domestic locations, unofficial visitors are not currently permitted. For official visitors, policy requires a Safer Federal Workforce Task Force provided Certification of Vaccination Form  and proof of a negative COVID-19 test, if not fully-vaccinated. Hosting bureaus are responsible for ensuring their visitors follow current public health measures related to travel and comply with the Department’s masking and vaccine attestation and testing requirements. (See Vaccination Requirement section). The Department maintains signage at entrances specifying entry requirements for visitors to the facility.

Overseas:  U.S. missions overseas are encouraged to follow guidelines similar to those set out for domestic facilities for visitor approval, in conjunction with post Health Unit policies, and local health guidelines.

Leave

Employees should request use of COVID-related leave and obtain approval from their supervisor in advance via a DS-7100 leave request form, indicating the reason in the remarks section of the form. If unable to submit a request in advance, employees must contact their supervisor as soon as possible, and document the purpose and the hours of COVID-related leave used.

Leave to Acquire a COVID-19 Vaccination: Employees can receive a COVID-19 vaccination dose on regular duty time to acquire a primary dose series (first and second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID -19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine). Employees are granted up to four hours of administrative leave to receive any authorized COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, if an individual is eligible to receive such a booster shot. See Department Notice #88847 for MED’s booster guidance.

Leave for COVID-19 Vaccination Side Effects: The Department grants up to 2 workdays of administrative leave if an employee has an adverse reaction to any required COVID-19 vaccination dose, including a booster, that prevents the employee from working (i.e., no more than 2 workdays for reactions associated with a single dose). If an employee requests more than 2 workdays to recover, the agency may make a determination to grant emergency paid leave under the American Rescue Plan Act —if available—or the employee may take other appropriate leave (e.g., sick leave) to cover any additional absence.

Leave for COVID Testing:  When a federal employee is required to be tested by the Department or in relation to official travel, the employee does not need to use their leave for the time required to be tested. It is considered regular duty time.

When an employee is not required to be tested, but decides to obtain a COVID-19 test during duty hours at their initiative, the employee may request sick leave or other available paid time off.

Leave to Accompany a Family Member Being Vaccinated:  For vaccinations received after July 29, 2021, the Department grants leave-eligible employees up to four hours of administrative leave per dose to accompany a family member (as defined in OPM’s leave regulations, see 5 CFR 630.201) who is receiving any COVID-19 vaccination dose. Up to a total of twelve hours of leave can be granted for a family member receiving three doses—for each family member the employee accompanies. If less time is needed to accompany a family member who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, only the needed amount of administrative leave should be granted. Employees should obtain advance approval from their supervisor before being permitted to use administrative leave for COVID-19 vaccination purposes. Employees are not credited with administrative leave or overtime work for time spent outside their tour of duty helping a family member get vaccinated.

Leave Related to Quarantine:  The Department makes employees aware that official or personal travel may result in a mandatory quarantine before they are allowed to return to the workplace. If quarantine is required because of official travel or workplace exposure, the Department provides weather and safety leave, or other administrative leave.

If quarantine is required because of personal travel, and the employee is otherwise expected to be present onsite, the employee may take personal leave while quarantining. If an employee refuses to quarantine or refuses to take personal leave while under mandatory quarantine after personal travel, the Department may elect to bar the employee from the workplace for the safety of others. If the Department bars the employee from the workplace, the employee must be placed on administrative leave until the Department determines what status the employee should be placed in while on quarantine, and whether to pursue disciplinary action. The Department, however, should avoid placing an employee on extended administrative leave in this situation and should act quickly to determine the appropriate status for the employee.

Leave Related to Isolation Due to SARS-CoV-2 Infection:  If an employee is subject to isolation due to being infected with COVID-19 and is unable to telework, the employee may request sick leave, as weather and safety leave would be unavailable. Employees may also request accrued annual leave and other forms of paid or unpaid leave in this situation as appropriate. (See OPM CPM 2020-02, February 7, 2020).

Engagement with Unions

The Department of State COVID-19 Workforce Safety Plan has been shared with all three of the Department’s unions (AFSA, AFGE, and NFFE) for comment, and the unions provided comments that the Department took under consideration in finalizing this Workforce Safety Plan. The unions will continue to be given the opportunity to review updates to the safety plan and negotiate impact and implementation, if and as appropriate. The unions’ feedback will be considered when the Department develops policy and implementation plans.

U.S. Department of State

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