By close of business Thursday, March 19, Berkeley Lab is transitioning to curtailed operations at all Lab sites. We are preparing to remain in a curtailed operational state for 30 days. This will be evaluated on a daily basis, and we will keep you updated.
At this time, we do not have a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19 on Lab sites. However, as the number of cases rises in our communities, the risk of exposure increases. This decision is based on public health guidance and is intended to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all of us at the Lab, which is my top priority. The actions outlined below are intended to minimize the workplace risk of exposure to the virus for each of us, and to all of us.
I want to be clear. We are still a working Laboratory. Curtailed operations means that employees who can continue to contribute to the Lab’s mission safely are expected to do so. The vast majority of us will telework; many of us already are. The goal is to reduce our physical presence on site as much as possible to keep it safe for those who have no choice but to be on site.
Some individuals, working with their line management and EH&S, will be able to continue doing work onsite, when needed, with controls in place to keep their risk of exposure low. EH&S will work with those who need to come to the Lab’s sites to ensure their exposure risk is low while on site.
For those employees whose line management determines that they are unable to work onsite or remotely in a productive work-related activity, we will authorize the use of Administrative Leave for Emergencies for the time they cannot work.
Lab employees will receive their existing level of pay and benefits during the period of curtailed operations.
As we remain as productive as possible, we will ask supervisors to think creatively about work assignments that allow people to contribute and collaborate remotely. This is a time to get caught up on administrative tasks and training, writing reports and papers, planning new projects, and making progress on collaborative efforts.
Over the next several days, as we work toward a deliberate and safe curtailment of operations, we will share specific preparedness tasks required of employees and supervisors.
Planning: I am directing division directors and supervisors to immediately begin working with their staff and Operations support personnel on a plan to curtail research and operations activities in a safe and secure manner with the goal of implementing these plans by COB next Thursday. Each ALD and/or division director is asked to provide a summary of their plan to Michael Brandt by close of business Monday, March 16. Although the goal is to implement each division’s curtailed operations plan before next Friday, division directors can implement their plan sooner, as desired, once their plan is complete.
Telework agreements: Expedited telework agreements will be valid for 30 days, after which the situation will be reassessed. Supervisors should process an agreement, and discuss expectations, with each employee. Because of the diverse roles of our employees, individual teleworking arrangements will vary. Consult with your division leadership and HR business partner for guidance.
Telework guidance: Supervisors should be flexible and creative to ensure staff have the resources and guidance they need to work remotely to the extent possible. Our IT team has developed some Frequently Asked Questions to help employees and supervisors with their IT needs.
I recognize that this change in our operational status can be challenging and stressful for us all. I acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers at this time. Over the next few days, our Critical Incident Management Group (CIMG) will work through the complex issues and questions that this transition raises. Answers to many questions will be posted in the Frequently Asked Questions on our COVID-19 website.
Please be patient as we manage this unprecedented event. Most important, please keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy. We’ll continue to keep you updated by email, at status.lbl.gov, and on Twitter @LBNLstatus.