COVID-19 Employee FAQs
What protective strategies should I continue using?
Preventative measures, such as staying home when sick, practicing good personal hygiene, following CDC guidelines for pandemic safety, staying updated on the latest recommendations, and remaining calm while diligent offer some of the best ways to protect yourself and others at work and at home. View COVID-19 for County Employees for up-to-date information and resources.
Are we required to wear masks?
Face coverings/masks are not mandated in County government buildings. Employees are expected to continue following the CDC guidelines for pandemic safety. Please be respectful of other people’s mask and social distancing preferences. The new guidelines suggest testing in response to outbreaks or in connection with high-risk indoor activities like crowded sporting events, regardless of vaccination status. The County is electing to provide staff with N95 masks, based on availability, to ensure the highest level of protection. If interested, please see your supervisor for a mask supply.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Many options and locations are available. Be sure to stay up-to-date on COVID19 vaccines by checking Pinellas County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Information for vaccination site locations, how to get an appointment and FAQs.
Will County employees be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
No. The County does not require employees to get vaccines.
Are vaccines free for County employees?
Yes. Cigna waives cost sharing (copays, coinsurance, and deductible) for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and vaccines.
Do I have to use annual leave to get the COVID-19 vaccines during work hours? What if I don’t have any leave time? Is administrative leave available?
If you cannot get a vaccine appointment outside of work hours and need to take time off, follow the usual process to request time off for a regular medical appointment.
Do I need to notify my supervisor if/when I get vaccinated?
No, you do not.
What happens if I experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine? Do I have to use annual leave? What if I don’t have any?
Yes, you would use your annual leave as you would with any other illness. If you do not have any annual leave to use, discuss your options with your supervisor.
- Administrative leave with pay – See Personnel Rule 4 which permits Appointing Authorities the ability to grant administrative leave with pay if such leave is in the best interests of the organization.
- Leave without pay – See Personnel Rule 4 which permits the option of leave without pay after all forms of accumulated or gained leave have been exhausted (with noted exceptions).
Do I need to provide documentation/evidence to prove my leave time was used to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
Work with your supervisor to see what is needed.
Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
Are there self-testing options available?
If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider, you can consider using either a self-collection kit or a self-test that can be performed at home or anywhere else. Sometimes a self-test is also called a “home test” or an “at-home test.” The FDA provides information on which self-tests are authorized for use. See the CDC’s information on self-testing.
Am I eligible for free COVID-19 testing?
Yes. There are various ways to get free COVID-19 at-home rapid antigen testing kits:
- Local Pharmacies: Get up to 8 free at-home tests per month at local pharmacies. Take the test(s) to the pharmacy counter (not the regular checkout) and show your Cigna medical card. If you purchased the tests previously (since January 15, 2022), submit a claim for reimbursement from Express Scripts up to $12 per test.
- Express Scripts: Get up to 8 free at-home tests every 30 days by mail from Express Scripts. Log in to Express Scripts and complete the short order form. Takes up to 4 weeks.
Is the COVID-19 antibody test covered under our health plan?
Yes. It is covered as long as it is an FDA-authorized COVID-19 test. Please note that antibody tests should not be used to diagnose someone as being currently sick with COVID-19.
For additional information, see CDC Quarantine and Isolation.
What if I test positive for COVID-19?
Regardless of vaccination status, you should:
- Isolate (stay home) for 5 days – Day 0 is the day you were tested or the day of symptom onset, regardless of when you tested positive.
- If you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are improving after 5 days, you can leave your house and continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
- If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
What if I experience symptoms of COVID-19?
Regardless of vaccination status, you should:
- Isolate from others if you do not yet have test results.
- If you test negative – You can end your isolation.
- If you test positive – Follow the full isolation recommendations above.
What if I was exposed to someone with COVID-19?
Quarantine of exposed persons is no longer recommended, regardless of vaccination status. Regardless of vaccination status, you should:
- Start precautions immediately
- Wear a high-quality mask for 10 full days as soon as you find out you were exposed.
- Day 1 is the first full day after your last exposure to someone with COVID-19.
- If you develop symptoms
- Get tested at least 5 full days after your last exposure. Test even if you don’t develop symptoms.
- Stay home until you know the result.
- If your test results if positive, follow the isolation recommendations.
- If your test result is negative, continue taking precautions through day 10 and wear a high-quality mask when around others.
I think I might have COVID-19. What should I do?
Stay up to date with symptoms associated with COVID-19. If you develop symptoms such as fever, a cough, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms recognized by the CDC, consult with a healthcare provider who can determine if you need to be tested. Here are your options:
- Contact Cigna’s NurseLine 24/7 by calling (800) 862-3557, option 8.
- Talk with a Virtual Visit doctor by phone or video 24/7 at MDLive by calling (800) 862-3557, option 5.
- Call your doctor or the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) hotline to discuss your situation and obtain medical advice. The FDOH COVID-19 Call Center is available 24/7 at (866) 779-6121 or email.
- Get tested. Visit Pinellas County Testing Locations.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and choose to not get tested, it is important to stay home. Find out what to do if you are sick.
What happens if I have been exposed to another person who is asymptomatic but was in close contact with someone else is infected with COVID-19?
You are then considered a “contact of a contact” and do not need to quarantine. You should monitor for symptoms and continue to practice prevention strategies in accordance with CDC recommendations.
Symptoms at Work
What if I begin to feel sick at work?
- Speak immediately with your supervisor or manager in a safe, quiet area, or on the telephone about the situation. To maintain a level of calmness and allow correct course of action, employees are discouraged from making announcements of a possible infection to large groups of employees.
- Avoid others while still onsite.
- Follow your supervisor or management’s direction about leaving the worksite.
- Do not report to work when sick and follow established call-out procedures.
- Call your healthcare provider or the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) hotline to discuss your situation and obtain medical advice. The FDOH COVID-19 Call Center is available 24/7 at (866) 779-6121 or by email.
- Follow appropriate healthcare provider directions.
- Stay away from others and practice social distancing and good personal hygiene in accordance with current recommendations and your healthcare provider’s instructions.
- If you need to get tested for COVID-19, Cigna will waive cost sharing (copays, coinsurance, and deductible) for COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
What if I’ve heard that another employee may be sick with COVID-19?
If you have information about a possible infection, please share the information privately with management only so that proper steps can be taken and to avoid causing anxiety among other staff.
Absence and Leave
Will my absence due to COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms or illness be considered unscheduled?
No. As has been the practice during times of increased flu activity, leave taken for flu and flu-like illness is considered scheduled leave. If you do not feel well, you should not come to work. Absences due to suspected COVID-19 symptoms should be treated in this same way. Please discuss absences and how to code your time sheet with your supervisor.
Will my supervisor require a doctor’s note to take leave?
No. In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctor’s notes will not be required from employees to take leave for flu and flu-like illnesses (including COVID-19). The same applies if an employee stays at home to take care of a household family member who is experiencing COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms or illness. A doctor’s note for return to work after COVID-19 illness may be required. Check with your supervisor.
Will employees who have been out sick related to COVID-19 – whether or not they have been tested – be required to provide proof of medical clearance to return to work?
In an effort to safeguard the health and well-being of co-workers and customers, proof of a negative test or doctor’s note to return to work after COVID-19-related illness may be required. Check with your supervisor and submit any required documentation to your supervisor.
What are my options for paid and unpaid leave?
- Paid leave including annual leave, floating holidays and personal days.
- A Friend in Need (AFIN) – See Policy #12. This is a voluntary program through which an eligible employee may choose to assist eligible fellow employees in times of need by permitting person-to-person leave donation as defined within the policy. NOTE: A Friend in Need Program is available for an employee who is sick or needs to care for a sick family member but NOT to an employee who needs to take care of well children due to school being closed.
- Administrative leave with pay – See Personnel Rule 4 which provides appointing authorities the ability to grant administrative leave with pay if such leave is in the best interests of the organization.
- Leave without pay – See Personnel Rule 4 which provides the option of leave without pay after all forms of accumulated or gained leave have been exhausted (with noted exceptions).
Short Term Disability
Are employees eligible for Short Term Disability (STD) benefits related to COVID-19?
The County’s short term disability benefits (STD) are administered by UnitedHealthcare. Individuals whose claim is solely due to being placed in quarantine or isolation will not be eligible for STD benefits as they would not meet the policy’s Definition of Disability. If the individual has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or other evidence of disability, she/he may be eligible, depending on the specific facts of the claim. For more info, contact UnitedHealthcare at (866) 556-8298 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. M-F, or email.
Reminder: FMLA is unpaid leave meant to care for employees or their immediate family member for a covered illness, while STD paid leave covers only the employee due to illness or disability. If an employee is out caring for a sick child, spouse, or parent, they can apply for FMLA, but will need to use their accrued leave in order to be paid. UnitedHealthcare will make the determination of whether their situation should be covered.
A Friend in Need Program could potentially assist, if they meet the criteria, have no paid leave and been denied Short Term Disability.
Does a diagnosis of COVID-19 qualify an employee for STD benefits?
Such individuals will retain coverage under the Short Term Disability policy for the duration of quarantine, and UnitedHealthcare will evaluate any claim for disability benefits individually.
What well-being resources are available?
What are the rules about telecommuting/remote work?
Appointing Authorities that want to allow, or require, telecommuting will communicate options and expectations for those arrangements. View the BTS Remote Workforce Guide (in SharePoint).
Is work-related travel canceled?
Management can require or excuse work-related travel (i.e. employees scheduled to fly to a conference) at their discretion, as authorized by their appointing authority. Follow the latest CDC travel recommendations for domestic and international travel.
If I am planning to travel for vacation, are there special procedures in place that should be followed prior to and/or upon return?
Speak with your supervisor about your plans. Follow the latest CDC travel recommendations for domestic and international travel.
What is the County doing to clean common areas?
Facilities is committed to frequent and enhanced cleaning of all work and common gathering areas. The cleaning crews will regularly clean high-touch surfaces in common areas including doorknobs, light switches, shared equipment, elevator buttons, sink, faucets, etc. Please evaluate your work area and determine if there are additional cleaning and/or safety precautions needed. Discuss these concerns with your supervisor.
What are additional cleaning protocols during COVID-19?
Enhanced cleaning protocols include increased nightly cleaning of all buildings and instituting repeated daily cleaning of horizontal surfaces and high touch areas. These enhancements will continue indefinitely.
What about hand sanitization stations?
Hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) are provided for common areas to be used by employees and customers and will be continually replenished.
What cleaning is expected from employees?
Cleaning supplies, based on supply and inventory, are available. Employees are encouraged to clean and disinfect their workspaces and meeting areas as needed. Be sure to follow all manufacturer guidelines for their use.