The Department of Energy (DoE) kicked off Phase 1 of its agency reopening plan on June 1 as part of a  slow but steady approach to reopening its offices.

DoE is taking a three-phase approach to bringing employees back to agency facilities. The agency told MeriTalk that it entered Phase 1 of its reopening on June 1  by bringing all political appointees in the National Capital Region – including D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia – back to the office.

Under phase 1, all personnel identified to return to their physical worksites will be approved by the Head of the Departmental Element. Employees in “mission-critical positions whose jobs can be better performed onsite than through telework” also will be brought back.

DoE is using the following criteria under which employees are exempt from returning to the office under the initial phase:

  • Self-identified vulnerable Federal employees, as well as those who live with or provide care for individuals in the vulnerable population; and
  • Federal employees who are responsible for caregiving in instances where services are closed due to COVID-19, as defined in the Excused Absence for Caregiving.

As a general policy, all others will remain on telework or on leave. The agency did say that employees may not voluntarily return to the workplace without approval by the Head of Departmental Element.

As part of Phase 1, the agency will restart a number of services:

  • “Reestablish full-time executive transportation services, with vehicles modified to create barriers between drivers and passengers.
  • Reestablish regular operations for courier services with continued use of distancing protocols including drivers traveling in separate vehicles.
  • Reopen media production services and recording studio. Add barriers and protocol adjustments to maximize physical distancing.
  • Provide guidance to employees regarding use of conference rooms, including those located within program office suites, and social distancing expectations.
  • Increase operating hours for badging services, based on demand.
  • Establish building entrance process that ensures social distancing can be maintained.
  • Bring limited [Energy IT Services] staff onsite including Service Desk Tier 2 and Platinum, Asset Management, and Network Operations.
  • Initiate increased level of custodial services, to include reopening of restrooms, as re-occupancy increases. Continue to clean lobby areas daily. High touch areas are disinfected daily.
  • Expand number of available elevators as re-occupancy increases.
  • Begin responding to backlog of building operations routine service calls. Begin completing deferred routine building maintenance activities.
  • Restart document imaging services, addressing backlog of requests.
  • Determine process for deliveries, including the loading dock.”

Under its phased approach, DoE said it “will consider the gating criteria assessments for employers in the NCR, including the District of Columbia, and parts of Maryland and Virginia as defined by [the Office of Personnel Management’s] locality definitions. Per [Office of Management and Budget] memo M-20-23, the national gating criteria currently include”:

  • “Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period AND Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.
  • Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period OR Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
  • Treat all patients without crisis care AND Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

The agency also said it has established a COVID-19 hotline for reporting potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases across the entire DOE complex.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.