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Critical Infrastructure Guidance

Resources from the Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Close Contact Quarantine for Critical Infrastructure Workers

When an individual is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), they should quarantine for 14 days to reduce the risk of spreading the virus should they become infected. Based on the available evidence, this is the safest course of action.

However, critical infrastructure workers may be able to work during their quarantine period if their organization would be unable to maintain operations safely without them. Allowing exposed individuals to continue work carries inherent risk, and should only be done as a last resort to maintain the continuity of essential services. Close Contact Quarantine is different and more critical than Entry Travel Quarantine, when it is not known whether or not someone has been exposed. Allowing a CI worker to continue working during Close Contact Quarantine should be determined on a case-by-case basis, not a blanket policy from the employer’s CWPP.

When determining whether or not an individual is allowed to work during quarantine the following should be considered:

  1. Is the close contact specifically critical to the operations? Individuals who can stay home should stay home.
  2. If a close contact does have to work, could their responsibilities be temporarily changed in a way that reduces their contact with others? Is there a way to eliminate their contact with others who are higher risk (for example, older adults)?

Close contacts who have to continue working should adhere to the following practices:

  • Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a fever or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  • Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
  • Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  • Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

Additional guidance is provided here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/critical-workers/implementing-safety-practices.html

Two other points:

  • Close contacts who must continue working are still under quarantine outside their working hours.
  • At this time, a negative test results will not shorten the duration of Close Contact Quarantine.

If you have any questions, please call the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000.

Notice to Critical Infrastructure Workers Travelers Arriving to Alaska

  1. Travel that is deemed essential or for critical infrastructure, as previously defined in Health Orders 6 and 8, will continue as it has under existing guidance.
  2. Critical infrastructure workers traveling to Alaska will no longer be able to use state-funded testing at airports.
  3. Critical infrastructure companies and organizations will be asked to provide employees with a letter on company letterhead that states they are a critical infrastructure worker. These letters must include travel plans and confirm that the traveler is following the employer’s Community Workforce Protect Plan on file with the state that includes testing and/or quarantine provisions.

Protective Plans

All Critical Infrastructure businesses with workers arriving to the State are still required under COVID-19 Outbreak Health Orders to develop and submit a Community/Workforce Protective Plan (CWPP) to the Unified Command for review. Additionally, all private sector businesses, whether Essential Services/Critical Infrastructure or non-essential/non-critical, with workers traveling between Alaskan communities off of highway and Alaska Marine Highway systems are still required under COVID-19 Outbreak Health Orders to develop and submit a CWPP to the Unified Command for review. Protective Plans can be submitted to akcovidplans@ak-prepared.com. Visit the State website at  https://covid19.alaska.gov/unified-command/protective-plans for guidance on developing Protective Plans.

Educators and School Staff

DHSS is working closely with DEED, superintendents, school districts, and teachers to protect students and staff from COVID-19, while assuring that kids continue to receive an excellent education. As is true for other essential critical infrastructure domains, the school setting is unique in many ways that necessitate a tailored strategy for dealing with COVID-19 cases and outbreaks. Detailed DHSS school-specific COVID-19 guidance is available here. Additional school-specific DHSS guidance regarding isolation, quarantine, and work-related travel is provided below:

  • Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 must isolate for at least 10 days until released by public health, regardless of essential worker status
  • Anyone named as a close contact to a person with COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days
  • Any teacher moving into Alaska is considered a ‘resident’ to allow for residency testing
  • If a district needs an educator to travel for work they need to follow Health Order 6 and 8. If this health order cannot be safely followed, the district should submit a plan per State guidance for critical infrastructure to AKsmartstart2020@alaska.gov. Prior to travel, it is recommended that educators contact their destination community to see if there are any additional requirements for them to follow that have been enacted by local emergency ordinances.

Seafood Processing Workers

Workers arriving to the State to work in shore-based seafood processing plants, processor vessels and larger catcher-processor vessels must continue to follow the requirements of Appendix 01 to Health Order 5. Seafood processing workers are not permitted to shorten or modify quarantine using a test-based strategy.

Seafood processing companies will direct their shore-based plant workers to follow one of the following three options:

  1. Option 1: Pre-Travel Quarantine – Workers will observe a 14-day monitored quarantine period outside of Alaska and receive a PCR test within 48 hours prior to beginning travel to Alaska.
  2. Option 2: Mid-Travel Quarantine – Workers will travel to Alaska and observe a 14-day monitored quarantine period in temporary lodging in a large community and receive a PCR test within 48 hours prior to beginning onward travel to their final destination community.
  3. Option 3: Post-Travel Quarantine: Workers will travel to their final destination community in Alaska, be screened and receive a PCR test upon arrival at their destination community and observe a 14-day monitored quarantine period on site at their facility.

Seafood processing companies are encouraged to read and incorporate the new CDC guidance on Protecting Seafood Processing Workers from COVID-19, available here.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, has developed screening and testing guidance (Interim Guidelines for Ongoing COVID-19 Symptom Screening and Testing in Seafood Processors in Alaska), available here.

Commercial Fishing Vessel Crewmembers

Vessel crews arriving to the State must continue to follow the requirements of Appendix 01 to Health Order 5. Vessel crewmembers may begin work during their quarantine period under the protective measures enacted by the Health Order but, are not permitted to shorten or modify quarantine using a test-based strategy. Testing is not required for vessel crewmembers, but it is highly recommended that all crewmembers be tested prior to joining a vessel, in order to avoid potential spread among the rest of the crew.

Independent Commercial Fishing Harvesters

Independent harvesters, such as setnetters, arriving to the State must continue to follow the requirements of Appendix 03 to Health Order 5. Harvesters may begin work during their quarantine period under the protective measures enacted by the Health Order, but are not permitted to shorten or modify quarantine using a test-based strategy. Site Managers will direct their harvesters to follow one of the following options:

  1. Mid-Travel Quarantine. Harvesters will travel to Alaska and observe a 14-day self-quarantine period in temporary lodging in a large community prior to beginning onward travel to their final destination community. This method will allow harvesters to immediately begin provisioning and operating upon arrival to their destination community.
  2. Post-Travel Quarantine. Harvesters will travel to their final destination community in Alaska and observe a 14-day self-quarantine period prior to any interaction with harvesters from other Harvesting Operations or members of the local community. This method will require harvesters to follow stricter protective measures after arrival to their destination community while in their 14-day self-quarantine period.

Fishing Charter Operations and Lodges

Charter fishing operations which have staff arriving to the State or moving between Alaskan communities are required to submit Community/Workforce Protective Plans to the Unified Command for review. The employees of a charter fishing operation or lodge are considered Critical Infrastructure workers and must follow the Appendix 03 to COVID-19 Outbreak Health Order 05. The clients arriving to the lodge or charter operation from out-of-State are not considered Critical Infrastructure workers and must follow the guidance for non-essential travelers in Go to Appendix 03 to COVID-19 Outbreak Health Order 08.

All other Critical Infrastructure Businesses

Critical Infrastructure businesses must continue to follow the CWPP which they have submitted to the Unified Command for review. If companies intend to shorten or modify employees’ quarantine using a test-based strategy, they must revise their CWPP to reflect that they are choosing to accept the risk of doing so. Company leaders should bear in mind that the most effective protective measure currently available is a full 14-day quarantine. No currently available test or screening procedure is guaranteed, so shortening or modifying quarantine or allowing employees to work during quarantine carries inherent risks. Due to this, it is highly recommended that companies do not use a test-based strategy to shorten or modify quarantine for arriving workers who will be living or working in close proximity to others or sharing facilities such as dining and bathrooms.

Government Agencies

The requirement for companies to submit their Community/Workforce Protective Plan to the Alaska Unified Command is only for private sector businesses. The expectation is that all Federal, State, local and tribal government entities are establishing internal policies for travel and quarantine, but they are not required to submit those policies to the Unified Command. Some government agencies have developed protective plans which they are directing their contractors to follow. For example, all summer road construction crews are directed by the Alaska Department of Transportation to follow the AKDOT protective plan. If contracted companies have not been directed to follow a plan developed by the government agency that they are contracted with, they must develop and submit their own plan if they have workers arriving to the State or moving between Alaskan communities.

Critical Infrastructure Testing

In addition to Travel and Quarantine procedures, there have been many questions regarding the process for CI Workers to receive PCR tests upon arrival to the State. Critical Infrastructure businesses that need to have their arriving workers tested, either in accordance with their own CWPP or to comply with Health Orders 5, 6 and 8, must establish their own testing process through a local clinic or contracted medical service.

Employee Letters

CI companies and organizations will be asked to provide their employees with a letter, on company letterhead, that states they are CI, and includes detailed instructions on how the employee should travel, and they isolation or quarantine plans in accordance with the company CWPP. An example letter can be found below.

Questions regarding Critical Infrastructure travel may be sent to the Unified Command at: covidquestions@alaska.gov, with “ATTN: Critical Infrastructure” in the email subject line.