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 posts or in domestic facilities, the direct hire workforce, contractors, and locally employed staff. We take a safe, cautious, iterative, data-driven approach to protect our employees who come into the workplace.
Our COVID-19 response efforts align with Executive Order (E.O.) 13991, as well as EOs 14042 and 14043 and any applicable court orders; the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (SFWTF or Task Force) guidance , including the Model Agency COVID-19 Safety Principles , which sets forth COVID-19 protocols for ensuring a safe workplace and are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health and infectious disease experts, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the General Services Administration (GSA), and other Federal agencies; and OMB Memoranda M-21-15 and M-21-25 . Further information can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the SFWTF website.
The health and safety of the Department’s workforce, including employees and contractor employees, as well as that of all individuals who interact with our workforce in our facilities, including visitors, is our highest priority. The goal of the State Department’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan (WSP) is to minimize COVID-19 risk in Department workspaces in order to facilitate the continuous critical work of the Department. This applies to the Department’s workforce in the broadest sense (Department employees, contractors, and any other individuals, including visitors), both domestically and overseas and in all Department facilities (owned or leased in office and congregate residential compounds).
The WSP is the Department’s overarching COVID-19-related guidance for ensuring a safe workplace. The principles in this plan align with the latest guidance from the Task Force, CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and other Federal agencies as applicable. The Department updates this plan as determined by the Department’s COVID-19 Coordination Team in consultation with the Task Force, and issues and updates other policies, protocols, and processes related to COVID-19 as needed, consistent with Task Force and CDC guidance.
The protocols in this WSP apply in all Department facilities (owned or leased), both domestically and overseas, unless the Chief of Mission establishes more stringent protocols for overseas facilities that supersede the requirements outlined in this WSP. Complementing the WSP is the Department’s COVID-19 Mitigation Process (CMP), a framework that incorporates key COVID-19 risk indicators with the safety principles outlined in the WSP to assist Department leadership in determining appropriate onsite workforce posture and mitigating actions for every facility.
COVID-19 Coordination Team (CCT)
Per OMB Memorandum M-21-15, the Department established the COVID-19 Coordination Team (CCT) composed of cross-bureau representatives (including human resources office, executive leadership, and legal counsel) and medical experts to develop, implement, and update as needed its COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan. The CCT sets, implements, and monitors COVID-19 safety protocols for physical space and the Department’s workforce. Additionally, the team meets regularly to review compliance with protocols, potential revisions to protocols, and consults with State Department Senior Agency Officials, as needed.
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.
Chiefs of Mission are responsible for mission requirements regarding COVID-19 safety protocols including mask-wearing requirements based upon Department guidance and an assessment of local conditions and requirements in consultation with Bureau of Medical Services (MED). Requirements and exceptions must be consistent with CDC guidance and, to the extent feasible, Task Force guidance. Data and local conditions are to be reviewed on a regular basis by post Emergency Action committees (EACs).
Health and Safety
COVID-19 Community Levels
For domestic Department facilities, the Department of State reviews the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels (an indicator that measures the impact of COVID-19 illness on health and healthcare systems in counties in the United States) every week to determine the appropriate mitigating actions each facility must implement the following week. Determinations for a given facility are based on the COVID-19 Community Level in the county in which the facility is located.
For Department facilities overseas, posts should consult with their Health Units (HU) to determine the CL-equivalent for their location and convene EACs on at least a monthly basis to ensure implementation of the appropriate level of mitigation measures. EACs will use the HU-determined CL-equivalent as the key factor in determining the safety and mitigation actions required at post as described in the Department’s COVID-19 Mitigation Process. Other risk indicators, such as employee vaccination percentages, medevac capabilities, and local conditions, should also be factored into EAC workforce posture decision-making and mitigating actions.
COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying. As with other vaccine-preventable diseases, you are protected best from COVID-19 when you stay up to date with the recommended vaccinations, including recommended boosters. For more information on staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, see: Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Including Boosters | CDC
To ensure compliance with an applicable nationwide preliminary injunction (which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation) the Department of State will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to E.O. 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees . Any aspects of this COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan related to the vaccination requirement pursuant to E.O. 14043 are not in effect and will not be implemented or enforced by agencies while the injunction is in place.
One or more court orders currently prohibit the enforcement of requirements of E.O. 14042 on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors against certain parties and within certain locations. At this time, consistent with guidance from OMB and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, Department of State will take no action to enforce compliance with any contract clause implementing E.O. 14042 regardless of party or location. See the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force website for more information, including the latest guidance regarding the implementation and enforcement of E.O. 14042: For Federal Contractors | Safer Federal Workforce
Consistent with CDC guidance, the Department’s COVID-19 workplace safety protocols currently do not vary based on vaccination status or otherwise depend on vaccination information. The Department has paused any efforts to require, request, or collect vaccination status information from any individual—including employees, contractor employees, visitors to agency facilities, or in-person attendees at agency-hosted meetings, events, and conferences—for the purposes of implementing agency COVID-19 workplace safety protocols. The Department will continue to preserve vaccination information collection systems and the information collected to date from employees in accordance with the Federal Records Act and other records requirements. Furthermore, it is important to preserve this information as COVID-19 workplace safety protocols may change in the future, or collection of this information from Federal employees may otherwise need to resume.
Leave to Obtain Vaccination
Leave-eligible employees who choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose, including a booster, will be given up to four hours of administrative leave per dose to travel to the vaccination site, complete the vaccine dose, and return to the workplace. If an employee needs to spend less time getting the vaccine dose, only the needed amount of administrative leave will be granted. Employees should obtain advance approval from their supervisor before using administrative leave for purposes of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine dose. Regular duty time is not available for this purpose. Employees may not be credited with administrative leave or overtime work for time spent getting a vaccine dose outside their tour of duty.
Leave to Accompany a Family Member to Obtain Vaccination
Employees will be provided with up to four hours of administrative leave per dose to accompany a family member to receive any dose of COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters. For this purpose, a “family member” is an individual who meets the definition of that term in Office of Personnel Management (OPM) leave regulations (see 5 CFR 630.201).
Leave for Post-Vaccination Recovery
Employees will be provided up to 2 workdays of administrative leave to address any side effects related to a recent vaccination, including boosters. Side effects, if any, resolve themselves within a few days of receiving a dose in the majority of cases. Longer term health problems, or adverse events, are rare and usually occur within 6 weeks following a dose.
CDC recommends wearing a mask as a layer of protection against severe illness and reducing potential for strain on the healthcare system.
In Department facilities located in counties in which the COVID-19 Community Level is HIGH, all individuals—including U.S. government employees, onsite contractor employees, couriers, and visitors (2 years old or older), regardless of vaccination status—are required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator in accordance with current CDC guidance when indoors. This requirement also applies to State employees interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities. When the COVID-19 Community Level is LOW or MEDIUM where a domestic Department facility is located, mask-wearing is optional and employees have the right to choose if they want to wear one, unless required by state, tribal, territorial or local laws, rules, or regulations, or collective bargaining agreements.
Chiefs of Mission are responsible for determining mask-wearing requirements based upon Department guidance and an assessment of local conditions and requirements in consultation with Bureau of Medical Services (MED).
When individuals are required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (e.g., when the Community Level is high), masks and respirators should be well-fitting and worn consistently and correctly (over mouth and nose), and they should be worn in any common areas or shared workspaces (including open floorplan office space, cubicle embankments, conference rooms, and congregate living settings). High-quality masks or respirators include respirators that meet U.S. or international standards (e.g., N95, KN95, KF94), masks that meet a standard (e.g., ASTM), or “procedure” or “surgical”-style masks. Note that if respirators, such as N95 filtering facepiece respirators, are voluntarily used, Appendix D from 29 CFR 1910.134 must be provided to employees. Individuals do not need to wear masks or respirators when outdoors. Novelty or non-protective masks, masks with ventilation valves, or face shields are not allowed as a substitute for high quality masks or respirators. Masked individuals may be asked to lower their masks briefly for identification purposes in compliance with safety and security requirements.
Mask-wearing requirements and exceptions must be consistent with CDC guidance and, to the extent feasible, Task Force guidance. To inform determinations regarding mask-wearing, data and local conditions are to be reviewed on a regular basis by the Domestic Posture COVID-19 Council (DPCC) domestically, and post EACs abroad. Accommodations will be made for individuals consistent with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See below section on Reasonable Accommodations for more information on this process.
Mask-Wearing on Department-Operated Transportation Conveyances
Pursuant to Executive Order 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance for the indoor transportation corridor and public transportation conveyances, individuals are urged to wear high-quality masks or respirators (such as an N95) when in Department-operated aircraft, boats and other maritime transportation conveyances, and buses with multiple occupants, regardless of COVID-19 Community Level. Local requirements may mandate this. In these conveyances, occupants can remove their masks or respirators for safety reasons or for brief periods of time while eating, drinking, or taking medication. Mask-wearing is not required for outdoor areas of conveyances, if any. Mask-wearing in these Department-operated conveyances is not required if there is a single occupant or if the occupants are all co-habitants. In Department-operated vans, cars, trucks, and other motor pool passenger vehicles, agencies must recommend that individuals wear high-quality masks or respirators (such as N95s) when there are multiple occupants.
Signage and Online Notice of Mask-Wearing Requirements
The Department reinforces CDC guidance through the posting of Department-approved signage that notes requirements for mask-wearing. Requirements and exceptions must be consistent with CDC guidelines.
Except in high-risk settings, Department employees and onsite contractor employees are not required to participate in COVID-19 serial or point-in-time screening testing, which is intended to identify people who are asymptomatic or do not have any know, suspected, or reported exposure. Screening testing is separate from diagnostic testing.
Department employees and onsite contractor employees are required to test if reporting for in-person official duties when symptoms are present or if they have contact with someone known or suspected to have COVID-19. Such testing may be self-performed and self-reported or performed at a local pharmacy or by a medical provider and conducted as part of regular duty time. Reimbursement should be coordinated with employing office. This testing is consistent with CDC guidance and pursuant to Executive Order 13991. Asymptomatic employees should test at least 5 full days after they last had a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 when such employees are working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities. Due to challenges in interpreting the result, testing is generally not recommended for asymptomatic people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 30 days. Testing should be considered for those who have recovered in the prior 31-90 days; however, an antigen test instead of PCR is recommended. This is because some people may remain PCR positive but not be infectious during this period
Department employees and onsite contractor employees should adhere to Department of State protocols for travel-related testing, consistent with CDC guidance and host nation requirements, before, during, and after travel. 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 Department employees and their family members who are on official travel orders and other agencies working under Chief of Mission. Appointments will only be confirmed for times that fall within host-nation entry requirements.
Employees are encouraged to consider post-travel testing when returning from official, USG-funded international travel. Such testing is available through MED for Direct Hire employees in the D.C. metro area. Post-travel testing MUST be scheduled a minimum of 3-5 days after arrival in the U.S. in accordance with Department of State guidelines, consistent with CDC guidance.
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 traveler. Testing is reimbursable and can be vouchered in accordance with 20 STATE 60472 , item #6.
The Department follows federal, state, tribal, territorial, county, and host nation reporting requirements and complies with federal, state, tribal, territorial, county, and host nation case notification requirements. The Department’s Bureau of Medical Services collaborates with Bureau of Administration (domestic), and Overseas Buildings Operations/Safety Health & Environmental Management (OBO/SHEM) (overseas) for recording of incidents that involve workplace contacts to satisfy workplace illness reporting requirements.
There are no Government-wide limits on official travel (i.e., travel conducted under an official travel authorization), regardless of an individual’s vaccination status. State Department employees traveling on official Department business:
- Should make sure they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines before travel
- Should consider being tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before travel
- Must adhere strictly to CDC guidance for domestic and international travel before, during, and after official travel
- Should check their destination’s COVID-19 Community Level (domestic) and host nation COVID-related travel requirements and CDC Community level equivalent (overseas) before traveling
- Must wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) while on-duty and around others indoors at their destination, if the COVID-19 Community Level in the county where their domestic destination is located is HIGH or, when overseas, in accordance with host nation or Chief of Mission requirements
- Should make sure they understand and follow all travel restrictions put in place by country, state, tribal, local, and territorial governments.
- Should prepare to be flexible during their travel, as restrictions, policies, and circumstances may change during their travel.
Travel for Individuals with Known Exposure
Asymptomatic individuals who have had a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 within the past 10 days may travel officially. If an individual remains without COVID-19 symptoms before traveling, then pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, an individual should:
- Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) the entire time they are on-duty and around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the 10 full days after their last known exposure;
- Not travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel within the 10 full days after their last known exposure: and
- Follow other aspects of post-exposure protocols , including the requirement for individuals with a known exposure to be tested for COVID-19 after 5 full days following their last known exposure (ideally, on or after day 6)—note that this testing may need to occur while the individual is traveling, and that agencies do not need to require that employees wait for the results of this post-exposure diagnostic test to undertake official travel, including return travel.
If an individual develops COVID-19 symptoms after official travel has been approved, then pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, an individual must not undertake further official travel, including under that previously approved travel authorization, and to instead follow Department protocols consistent with the Task Force guidance on travel for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (see next section).
Travel for Individuals with COVID-19 Symptoms or a Positive COVID-19 Test
Pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for an initial diagnostic viral test result, or who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be approved for official travel if they tested positive for COVID-19 for at least 5 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of the initial positive diagnostic viral test for asymptomatic individuals. If official travel has been approved and an individual’s COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, then pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with Task Force and CDC guidance on isolation, individuals are instructed to not undertake further official travel, or enter a federal facility, or interact with members of the public. These individuals should begin isolation protocols at day 0.
Individuals may return to working onsite and interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities once they have isolated a minimum of five days from symptom onset and are fever-free (at least 24 hours have passed without the use of fever-reducing medication), and their other symptoms have improved. The Department may then approve travel at this time, instructing the traveling individual to, in addition to other standard pre-travel instructions related to COVID-19, wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as N95) the entire time they are on-duty and around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Task Force guidance. The Department will also instruct the traveling individual not to travel on public transportation such as airplanes, buses, and trains if they will not be able to wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others indoors for the full duration of their travel that falls within the period they are otherwise required to wear a high-quality mask or respirator after ending isolation, consistent with Task Force guidance, as well as follow other aspects of post-isolation protocols.
The Department will cover all costs associated with travel and lodging expenses, as well as the cost of any diagnostic testing, in these circumstances, to the extent permitted by the Federal Travel Regulation.
Meetings, Events, and Conferences
There are no restrictions to the number of in-person participants at Department of State-hosted meetings, events, and conferences.
All in-person attendees at any meetings, conferences, or events hosted by Federal agencies must comply with relevant COVID-19 safety protocols, including as it relates to any mask-wearing when COVID-19 Community Levels are HIGH, pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, or as required by State, Tribal, territorial or local laws, rules, regulations, or existing collective bargaining agreements.
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.
Overseas and Domestic
Self checks for symptoms are required for all individuals prior to entry to Federal facilities. When U.S. government employees, onsite contractors, or visitors do not feel well—including if they have fever, chills, or other new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as, but not limited to, new or unexplained onset of cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, new or unexplained loss of taste or smell, or new or unexplained muscle aches—they should stay home and not enter any Department facility. All onsite personnel and visitors are required to complete a self-screening for symptoms daily prior entering a facility. All employees are expected to complete symptom screening prior to interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities.
Any individual, regardless of vaccination status, who develops fever, chills, or other new or unexplained symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as, but not limited to, new or unexplained onset of cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, new or unexplained loss of taste or smell, or new or unexplained muscle aches), or who tests positive for COVID-19 during the workday must immediately isolate, wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) (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 MED and A Bureau. Additionally, the employee or supervisor, if notified, should then notify their Executive Office. Overseas, U.S. government employees, contractor employees, locally employed staff, and employee family members (EFMs) at post should report the situation to their health unit.
Overseas and Domestic
If an individual (direct hire employee, onsite contractor, or visitor) has a known exposure to someone with COVID-19 and is asymptomatic, they may enter a State Department facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities and must exercise the following safety protocols:
- Wear a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) while indoors at their federal workplace or interacting indoors with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities as soon as possible after notification of exposure and continue to do so for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed; and
- Take extra precautions, such as avoiding crowding and physically distancing from others, when they know they are around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 while onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities, for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed: and
- Watch for COVID-19 symptoms for 10 full days from the date they were last known to have been exposed.
For purposes of calculating the 10 full days, day 0 is the day of their last known exposure to someone with COVID-19, and day 1 is the first full day after their last known exposure.
Required Post-Exposure Testing
Any individual with a known exposure to COVID-19 who is working onsite must test for current infection with a viral test at least 5 full days after their last known exposure (ideally, on or after day 6). The test can be both self-administered and self-read by the employee. See “Diagnostic Testing” paragraph in the “Testing” section. Individuals who test negative for COVID-19 following a known exposure to COVID-19 must continue to exercise the safety precautions listed above for 10 full days from the last known date of exposure.
All individuals entering a State Department facility must be made aware of the need to implement these protective measures.
Isolation and Post-Isolation Precautions
Individuals with probable or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, must not enter a federal facility or interact with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities, consistent with Task Force guidance and CDC guidance on isolation and the workplace safety protocols set forth by their agency, and monitor their symptoms. This includes people who have an initial positive diagnostic viral test for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, and people with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results or have not been tested.
Returning to Working Onsite at an Agency Workplace After Isolation
Consistent with Task Force guidance, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and symptoms to return to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after 5 full days following their positive COVID-19 test (day 0 being the day the individual was tested).
Consistent with Task Force guidance, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms can return to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after 5 full days from the onset of symptoms (day 0 being the day of symptom onset), once they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms are improving. Note that loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation.
If an individual had moderate illness (if they experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing) or severe illness (they were hospitalized) due to COVID-19, or they have a weakened immune system, then consistent with Task Force guidance, individuals should delay returning to working onsite at an agency workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities for a full 10 days. If an individual had severe illness or has a weakened immune system, they should consult their healthcare provider before ending isolation. If an individual is unsure if their symptoms are moderate or severe or if they have a weakened immune system, agencies should advise the individual to talk to a healthcare provider for further guidance.
Once an individual has returned to working onsite at a Department workplace or interacting with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities after having tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated consistent with CDC guidance on isolation, then pursuant to E.O. 13991 and consistent with CDC guidance, individuals must continue to take precautions consistent with CDC guidance for at least 10 full days after their first day of symptoms, or after the date of a positive viral test for asymptomatic individuals, including wearing a high-quality mask or respirator (such as an N95) when around others, avoiding eating and drinking around others, avoiding environments such as dining facilities, gyms, or other places where they may need to be unmasked around others, and avoiding being around people who they know are at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19.
As it relates to mask-wearing after returning from isolation, individuals can opt to take two viral antigen tests authorized by the FDA to detect current COVID-19 infection, starting on day 6. With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, individuals may remove their mask sooner than day 10. If either of their antigen test results are positive, individuals should continue taking antigen tests at least 48 hours apart until they have two sequential negative results. This may mean that the individual would continue wearing a mask and testing beyond day 10.
If at any point their COVID-19 symptoms recur or worsen, individuals must not enter a federal facility or interact with members of the public as part of their official responsibilities, restarting at day 0, consistent with E.O. 13991 and Task Force guidance.
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 the Rehabilitation Act), and in accordance with National Archives and Records Administration records schedules. 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.
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 (GTM) 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 LE staff, post should ensure that its response to any requests for reasonable accommodations is consistent with local law, and especially when an LE staff member is a U.S. citizen, ensure that the LE Staff member is aware of the option to seek a reasonable accommodation, and as needed, post should consult with local counsel.
To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies should pause asking onsite contractor employees to provide information about their COVID-19 vaccination status, regardless of COVID-19 Community Levels, where COVID-19 safety protocols do not vary based on vaccination status. This is true regardless of COVID-19 Community Levels.
Ventilation and Air Filtration
Buildings constructed by the Department after 2001 were designed to exceed ventilation 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 cannot be modified to conform to current ventilation standards, may benefit from supplemental air filtration in discussion with OBO, such as making use of portable air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in indoor common areas and meeting rooms, particularly where ventilation or air filtration is otherwise challenging to improve, where crowding cannot be avoided, or in high-risk settings.
The Department regularly reviews the applicability of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Condition Engineers (ASHRAE) proposed measures. Generally, the existing domestic ventilation systems are sufficient when operated and maintained per industry-recommended schedules. Buildings constructed by the Department after 2001 with mechanical ventilation were designed to standards set by ASHRAE. The Department regularly evaluates the ventilation systems to ensure optimal performance. Filters are inspected to ensure they are tight-fitting and in good condition, and the filters are changed according to preventative maintenance schedules.
In consultation with occupational safety and facilities experts as appropriate, the Department will consider making use of portable air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in indoor common areas and meeting rooms, particularly where ventilation or air filtration is otherwise challenging to improve, where crowding cannot be avoided, or in high-risk settings. The Department will reference the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge for potential steps to improve indoor air quality, as necessary, as well as CDC guidance on ventilation in buildings.
Building Cleaning and Disinfection
Generally, the risk of infection from building surfaces is low and regular hand washing (or sanitizing) is preventative. Regular, normal building cleaning and disinfecting further reduce this already low risk. If someone with COVID-19 has been in a space within the last 24 hours and the space must be occupied, CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting the space. Cleaning services should comply with these CDC recommendations.
Facilitating Physical Distancing and Avoiding Crowding
To be consistent with Task Force guidance, when COVID-19 Community Levels are MEDIUM or HIGH, the Department will post signage encouraging individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to consider avoiding crowding and physically distancing themselves from others in indoor common areas, meeting rooms, and high-risk settings in Federal facilities.
To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, Department facilities will not establish facility-level occupancy limits solely for the purpose of facilitating physical distancing as a COVID-19 prevention action, absent an exception approved by the agency head following consultation with the agency COVID-19 Coordination Team and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Overseas, the Chief of Mission would decide on occupancy limits, if any, and must comply with local requirements.
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. 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. The Department of State continues to meet its collective bargaining obligations with all three Unions as it pertains to Workplace Safety Plans and any related implementation of those plans.