COVID-19 FAQ

Last Updated: 7/23/2020

Employee Matters

  1. When our employees return to work onsite, we will be requiring completion of health self-certifications. Since we contract with the county department of building & safety for services, we will also see a return of county employees who maintain offices within our facility. Can we require county employees to complete health self-certifications before the start of their work shifts and maintain copies on file?

    Requiring a contractor/consultant’s employees to complete health self-certifications is not recommended, as they are not your agency’s employees. Doing so would create added exposure and potential liability for your agency by possessing confidential medical information for non-employees. In these situations, your agency should ask the contractor/consultant’s representative whether they have their own employee health self-certification process. If they do, the contractor/consultant’s representative should notify your agency every workday if their employees assigned to provide service to your agency are clear to enter your facilities.

    If the contractor/consultant does not have an employee health self-certification process, a dialogue with the organization is recommended to determine whether they would be willing to implement a temporary process for screening or certifying symptoms or potential COVID-19 exposure, and identify what steps they would take if their employee was exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19. At a minimum, your agency can require the contractor/consultant’s employees to wear face coverings as mandated by the state. Your agency can also take steps to minimize or eliminate contact with the contractor/consultant’s employees to help protect your staff.

  2. As a result of continued community and senior center closures, our recreation department is providing the public web links to contract instructors, YouTube, and other third-party virtual class content. We are not requiring participants to execute participant waivers. Do you have recommended language that should be included on our website to minimize potential liability?

    Without a signed participant waiver, it may be difficult to enforce acknowledgement language posted on a website. Instead, it is recommended that you create a website landing page that would require a participant that wants to view the virtual content webpage to electronically sign a waiver by checking an “I acknowledge” box. This would establish a record of acknowledgement. The following is suggested website language:

    Please note that the [Insert name of agency] (hereinafter “Agency”) does not endorse, collect payment on behalf of, or receive funds to advertise any of the third-party sites or services listed or referenced on this page. The Agency is not responsible for any material downloaded, viewed, or otherwise obtained through the virtual class/program. The Agency makes no representation or guarantee, express or implied, that the sites and/or services are fit for any particular purpose and you, the participant, access the sites and/or engage in the activity at your own risk. Prior to participation, the Agency recommends you do your own investigation and due diligence to determine if the resources provided are what you are looking for, and where physical activity is part of the class/program, that you are physically capable of participating in the class/program and your personal and real property are appropriate for the activity.

    Consult with your agency’s IT department and legal counsel for further guidance on this suggestion.

  3. Should we require employees to wear respirators?

    The Authority has prepared a document outlining N95 respirator requirements.
  4. Should we require employees to wear cloth face coverings?

    Members are advised to refer to their county’s Department of Public Health/Health Officer Order and any local city ordinances in order to determine employer requirements. The Authority has prepared guidance on face coverings.
  5. I suspect an employee may have been exposed to COVID-19. Can I ask them about it?

    Yes, you can have open dialogue with the employee about it. If they have traveled, you can also ask if there was any known exposure. If it was on a cruise ship, ask for the name of the ship so you can research the vessel.
  6. How should I handle pay for an employee that has been mandated to be quarantined?

    The safest course of action is to put the employee on paid administrative leave during the period of forced quarantine.
  7. When can a quarantined employee return to work?

    It depends on whether the employee is quarantined for potential exposure or for showing signs of illness. For potential exposure, the CDC requires a 14-day period. If the employee is merely showing signs, you can require the employee to go 24 hours without any signs and without medication. The 24-hour period can also be added at the end of the 14-day period if the employee was quarantined for potential exposure. It is not recommended employers mandate a doctor’s note to return except in rare cases where a doctor has put an employee off work.
  8. My agency is considering keeping impacted employees at work until things return to normal by providing daycare for employees’ children due to school closures. What is our exposure if we decide to provide childcare?

    Providing childcare services for children of employees is not recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that children and teens be discouraged from gathering in other public places while school is dismissed to help protect children and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
  9. Can we take the temperature of employees who return to work after being ill or take the temperature of members of the public entering our facilities and/or public meetings?

    Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees’ body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever. Regarding a member of the public, asking them to submit to temperature checks can be considered a medical examination or inquiry in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  10. How should we handle an employee who claims that they have had the coronavirus transmitted to him or her while at work?

    Any claim for illness at work should be handled as any other workers’ compensation claim. A claim should be completed and submitted directly to the Authority’s third-party administrator. Claims can be filed through the California JPIA’s website at the following link: https://5020.yorkrsg.com/clients/login.aspx

Federal Assistance and Resources

  1. What assistance can the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide to local governments regarding COVID-19?

    For questions regarding FEMA assistance, access our information sheet on Government Assistance for Local Government Regarding COVID-19.
  2. How can I learn more about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

    In an effort to provide guidance through the intricacies of the FFCRA, we suggest visiting the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) website regarding COVID-19 and the American Workplace.
  3. What should public agencies know about CARES Act?

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides financial relief to businesses, public sector employers, and individuals who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Information relevant to public agency employers can be found in this ICMA fact sheet on the CARES Act.

Health and Safety

  1. Our agency canceled all recreation programs and special events, and closed all agency buildings to the public; limited to appointments only for essential business functions. We are looking ahead to when stay-at-home orders are lifted and business resumes to normal. What is our liability should a member of the public allege that they contracted COVID-19 at our facility? 

    Unless the agency permits someone it knows has COVID-19 to enter and conduct business, exposure should be limited. Proving that an agency allowed someone infected with COVID-19 to enter would be difficult, and individuals visit public spaces at their own risk. This is no different than going to a concert, baseball game, or restaurant. Should your agency receive a claim, forward it to Carl Warren & Company for handling.

    Given the ongoing pandemic, a recommendation would be to have the agency post a notice at entrances reminding the public about COVID-19 and that entering the building is at their own risk. Although not required, such signage can help during these circumstances. Once programs and events resume, the agency could also send such a notice to known attendees. The agency can photograph the posted signs for documentation purposes. For a sample notice, click here. Consult with your agency’s legal counsel if you are considering posting signs.

  2. What guidance can you provide agencies when developing a written social distancing protocol, which is now required in certain California counties?

    The Authority has prepared a document to help members develop and implement written social distancing protocols and answer questions regarding this requirement.
  3. During these challenging times, we are concerned about the stress levels and mental health of our employees. Does the Authority offer any services in this area?

    The Authority encourages members to remind their employees of existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources. In addition to EAP, check with your local County Department of Mental Health, Office of Emergency Services, and the county offices where your employees reside for available resources. The CDC also has Daily Life and Coping and Stress and Coping resources available.
  4. We operate various recreational and senior services. What steps should we take to care for the health and safety of participants?

    Because of the close proximity of participants to others, members are considering altering or cancelling recreation events and excursions. Seniors present a unique risk to the coronavirus exposure, and are particularly vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Insurance and Coverage

  1. Our agency is considering hosting a COVID-19 testing event. Is there coverage for liability claims that might arise out of the event?

    Certain liability claims arising out of COVID-19 testing events may not be covered by the California JPIA due to the following exclusion in the Memorandum of Coverage – Liability Program:
    Any Claim…. out of, or in connection with the operation of any hospital, clinic (including a mobile clinic), or established health-care facility owned or operated by the Protected Party, but protection does apply to liability arising out of the rendering of emergency medical aid by paramedics, emergency medical technicians, or other Protected Parties who are not acting in the course of their employment by a hospital, clinic, or established health-care facility. Protection also applies for liability arising out of the operation of any hospital, clinic (including a mobile clinic) or established health care facility, owned and operated by the Protected Party for animal care and control purposes.
    The California JPIA recommends requiring indemnification in favor of your agency by the entity (e.g. county, local health clinic) conducting the testing event. The entity should also be required to provide evidence of medical services professional liability insurance and name your agency as additional insured on its general liability coverage. However, if a claim is filed against your agency and the other entity refuses to provide a defense (for whatever reason) you should be aware that such claims may not be covered by the California JPIA.
  2. We will be canceling a community event because of the coronavirus outbreak. Can we rely on force majeure to release us from any financial obligations?

    This will be a case by case analysis, depending on situational factors and contractual language. Please consult with your legal counsel.
  3. Is there event cancellation insurance available to members through the Authority?

    No. Event cancellation insurance does not cover COVID-19 or other epidemics.
  4. Does the California JPIA Property Program provide coverage for tax/revenue interruption due to COVID-19?

    The Property Program may provide coverage for tax/revenue interruption experienced by members if COVID-19 is detected at a scheduled member or third-party location. Property claims can be filed through the California JPIA website at the following link: https://cjpia.org/report-a-claim/report-a-property-program-claim/

Legal Matters

  1. Our agency is resuming operations and staffing at our facilities. We are concerned about potential liability with having vendors and contractors working onsite. Should we update indemnification provisions in our agreements to specifically reference COVID-19?

    Updating indemnification provisions to specifically reference COVID-19 may not be necessary if the language in your agency’s agreements is currently broad as follows:

    VENDOR shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the AGENCY, and its officers, employees and agents, from and against any and all causes of action, claims, liabilities, obligations, judgments, or damages, including reasonable legal counsels’ fees and costs of litigation (“claims”), arising out of the VENDOR’s performance of its obligations under this AGREEMENT or out of the operations conducted by VENDOR, including the AGENCY’s active or passive negligence, except for such loss or damage arising from the sole negligence or willful misconduct of the AGENCY. In the event the AGENCY indemnitees are made a party to any action, lawsuit, or other adversarial proceeding arising from VENDOR’s performance of this AGREEMENT, the VENDOR shall provide a defense to the AGENCY indemnitees or at the AGENCY’s option, reimburse the AGENCY indemnities their costs of defense, including reasonable legal fees, incurred in defense of such claims.

    If indemnification provisions are narrowed to reference COVID-19 related claims, future, pandemic related claims (ex: a new or different strain of a virus/disease) would not be covered. For this reason, broad indemnification provisions are recommended.

    Members are advised to review the California JPIA’s sample indemnification provisions found in the Contractual Risk Transfer Manual. Also, consult with your agency’s legal counsel when revising indemnification provisions in agreements.

    To further address liability concerns, some members are providing vendors and contractors with a copy of the county’s social distancing protocol/state industry guidance and requiring a signed acknowledgement of receipt and understanding.

  2. Should we update our agency’s participant waiver to reference COVID-19?

    The California JPIA’s Waiver, Release, Hold Harmless, and Agreement not to Sue has been updated to include communicable diseases, illnesses, and viruses, as understood and assumed risks. This language is broad and is meant to address concerns related to the current COVID-19 pandemic and any future communicable diseases, illnesses, and viruses.
  3. How has compliance with the Brown Act changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

    For information on complying with the Brown Act during this period, refer to our March 2020 newsletter article, “Navigating the Brown Act During a Period of Local Emergency Due to COVID-19.”

Miscellaneous

  1. Will the Authority’s risk managers be available to answer questions related to COVID-19?

    The Authority has compiled a list of resources below that help provide guidance on an issue that is quickly evolving. We encourage you to utilize these resources for the latest in information pertaining to the health and safety of your employees and the public with which you interact. Please contact the Authority’s risk managers should you require additional assistance.
  2. Should my staff and employees be concerned with the rise in emails asking for donations or offering medical supplies that can be used to prevent contraction of the virus?

    Yes. Criminals are looking to exploit people through carefully planned phishing scams and social engineering. Please instruct your employees to be on guard against anything that remotely resembles malicious content.