Thank you for joining us yesterday at the town hall. More than 1,460 people attended, and it was clear that many of you would like more information about the Lab’s long term plans for bringing people back to our worksites. We are never able to get to everyone’s questions in real time, so I want to take this opportunity to further expand on this important topic. We want you to have as much clarity as possible about our future.
First, I want to say again that our return to onsite work pilots have been going extremely well. From these, we have been gathering data about what works and making improvements for our continuing pilots.
Our transition to a full resumption of onsite work depends on the trajectory of the virus, which in turn depends on the success of the measures taken to control it. Unfortunately, it is clear that the coronavirus will remain a threat for some time, longer than most people anticipated a few months ago. To accomplish our mission while taking care of our people, we must plan for the long term, and be prepared to scale up or down as external conditions evolve.
As you heard us say yesterday, we are planning to reach a new “steady state” by November of this year. We are developing a number of tools to help us stay safe over the long term: a ventilation study to determine recommendations for standard air flow; a building capacity study to determine how many people can safely work in a given building at Lab sites; a scheduling tool to help divisions plan their work in specific rooms, floors, and buildings; expanded work hours; and for some facilities, shift work. Once we have the results of the capacity and ventilation studies, we will have a better idea of how many people can safely work on site. Our pre-COVID-19 population was about 4,500 people daily, including employees, affiliates, faculty, students, users, and subcontractors. We expect our FY21 steady state peak capacity will be significantly less than this, although more than is coming to the sites now. This means that most of us are likely to continue teleworking fully or partially until the state and the country announce the removal of pandemic restrictions.
Nobody can predict today when the country will reach this point of returning to normal. Our “steady state” plan meets the requirements of Federal Phase 1, and we must wait to be approved to move to Phase 2, and finally Phase 3, which is described as “normal operations.” This final approval probably will also depend on the state of California reaching its Stage 4, which corresponds to ending the stay-at-home order. We don’t know when this will happen, so, as we said yesterday, we need to be prepared to continue operating under current conditions at least until the end of September 2021 (end of FY2021). We hope very much that we are able to return to normal operations sooner, and we will be well prepared to make that transition quickly as soon as the civil authorities announce the removal of restrictions. But the safety of our employees remains the top priority. In addition, we operate as part of the federal system of national laboratories and as a responsible member of the regional community. We will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials from the county, state, CDC, and federal government.
I realize that this is hard to imagine that society will be in this mode for such a long time. We would all like to have things go back to the way they were. We are trying to accomplish our work and take care of those around us under very stressful conditions. As I said yesterday, even for those of us who have not suffered great loss, this is the most difficult period we have lived through. I want to remind you that there are a number of resources that are available to you, including the UCB “Be Well At Work” program, which offers a range of assistance, and the All Access ERG mental health initiative, and the Lab’s employee assistance program.
I am proud of our people for their enormous efforts, and I hope that you are too. It’s clear to me that as a community, we remain committed to the Lab’s mission and to each other’s well being. I suggest that if you are getting some help from somebody in another part of the Laboratory, send a note of appreciation today, and continue this practice every day. Let’s adopt a renewed Culture of Appreciation, beginning today. We are all doing our best, and we will get through this together.