Friday, May 15, 2020

Plan to Re-Open NorCo's Human Services Building Shared Statewide

Although some workers in Northampton County's Human Services department would prefer working from home, they're coming back to the centralized building located on Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Tp. Executive Lamont McClure ordered them back because too many of them were treating it as a paid vacation. McClure believes they need to be available for endangered children and seniors and was unhappy that so many of these workers were failing to log into their computers. He also noticed cell phone usage dropped significantly.

Many of these workers have complained about returning to work while most of the state is still on lockdown. Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski came up with a detailed plan on re-opening, and the State Ass'n of Human Services Director must like it. It has been circulated to other human services departments statewide.

Below is her plan.

Reopening of Northampton County DHS Building

Temperature Checks: Every employee must have their temperature checked by the sheriff deputies, and there will two deputies beginning their day at 7:00 a.m. Anyone with a temperature of 100.0 or higher will not be permitted to work. The thermometers do not touch your forehead, but scan from a distance of 1-3 inches from your forehead. The deputies are now wearing masks when they take temperatures. Everyone must have their temperature retaken every time they leave and return to the building. This process takes about five seconds. If you got outside for any length of time, you might have to wait five minutes for the thermometer to register your temperature. You can remain in the lobby for the five minutes.

Entry to the Building: All employees, with the exception of those who use the handicapped parking in the back of the building, must enter through the front or side entrances, where a deputy will take your temperature. The goal is to avoid a bottleneck by the elevators, so anyone who can use the stairs is asked to do so.

Start times: Each administrator will work with the supervisors to determine a slight staggering of times staff are beginning their work day in order to minimize overcrowding and longer lines as staff arrive at work. Your administrator will provide additional details, likely after supervisory staff return on May 4th and have a few days to modify or improve procedures.

Elevators: Please continue to limit one person per elevator car for the time being. Feel free to use your arm or elbow to push the buttons, or, you may wash your hands and/or hand sanitize upon exiting the elevator. Please limit one person per elevator car for the present time. Although some people are comfortable with two people at opposite sides of the same elevator car, this makes others uncomfortable. We will reassess this as needed. If you reside in the same household, you may ride the elevator together. Again, if capable, using the stairs will eliminate long wait times for the elevator.

Stay in Place: With the exception of the staff using the first floor conference rooms, the goal is for staff to remain on their respective floors as much as possible. To that end, we placed microwaves on each floor so staff from the first and second floors do not need to use the third floor cafeteria. Conversations should be held primarily via telephone, even with coworkers, to avoid unnecessary meandering and standing by others’ cubicles.

Stairwells: Other than arrival and departure from the office, there should be minimal use of the stairwells since we are making every effort to remain on our own floors. Please be mindful of others using the stairwells and wait on the landing to allow someone else to pass in the opposite direction. Although we discussed making each stairwell one way, the challenges outweighed any potential benefit and the same effect can be achieved by being courteous and allowing someone to pass while waiting on the landing.

Conference rooms, 1st Floor: Throughout the DHS building where staff cubicles are less than six feet apart, we will be strategically moving some folks to work stations in the first floor conference rooms. Each administrator will inform their divisions about which staff will be relocated to these work stations to allow us to maintain appropriate social distancing. Anyone notified by their supervisor or administrator about a temporary work station on the first floor may come to the DHS building the week of May 11th to arrange your workspace.

Visit Rooms: Most rooms can be utilized by staff as needed, but we will ensure that at least one is open at all times in case it is needed by a family for a skype/facetime call with their children. Visit rooms might be used for staff who have work calls to make that are particularly sensitive in nature, or which you know will be lengthy.

Interview Rooms: One interview room will be allocated to Early Intervention for tele evals. Two other rooms will be reserved by CYF for interviews or court proceedings.

Cubicle coverings: Staff are welcome to hang a lightweight covering or some sort of “rope” as a reminder for other staff to maintain social distancing. This must be done as a “door”, not a “roof”, and in a way to avoid damage to the cubicles. No tension rods are permitted. If you choose to use a cloth covering for your cubicle, it must be open at the end of your work day if you would like your trash emptied, and it is recommended you wash this at home regularly. These are not required or recommended, and are only meant to be a reminder for physical distancing. Although the cleaning company will clean flat surfaces, everyone is responsible for disinfecting their own workspace.

Inbox: Each unit or division can create an inbox for other staff to deliver documents to one another, in order to avoid folks hand delivering items directly to staff at their cubicles. Each unit or division can determine the most appropriate place for the inbox. If any division feels this is not necessary, no need to create an inbox.

Hand sanitizer: We have donated hand sanitizer from the Social Still, and received an order of larger bottles of foam hand sanitizer that was placed throughout the building for staff to use. There is ample supply for staff returning to the building. Please remember, proper hand washing is still the preferred method when available!

Masks: Everyone has been or will be provided at least one homemade mask. In addition, we have successfully ordered and received surgical masks from several vendors. We currently have a supply for all staff who wish to have a surgical mask when they return to the building. The goal is to wear a homemade mask over the surgical mask to preserve the life of the surgical mask. This way, the homemade mask can be washed or boiled in water each day, and the surgical mask will be able to be worn more than once. We will provide all staff with one surgical mask per week. The surgical masks should be stored in a paper bag overnight. Masks will be required to be worn when entering, walking around, and leaving the building. Everyone is encouraged to wear their mask as long as they can comfortably do so, even while at your desk. Homemade masks should be washed/boiled daily.

Copy machines: Everyone can use a stylus or pencil eraser so you never have to touch the copier! However, there are spray bottles and paper towels located at every copy machine to be wiped before as needed. We also placed plastic covering (Press N Seal) over the control panel to avoid damage to the copier by constant wiping down. This will need to be changed at least once a day and each Administrator can decide who will be responsible for this. Cleaning instructions will be attached to each copier. We have additional Press N Seal in the DHS admin office.

Restrooms: Restrooms on the second and third floor should be limited to a maximum of three women at once and 1-2 men at a time. In order to know how many individuals are already in the restroom, everyone entering should place a magnet on the restroom’s metal door frame. Simply remove the magnet when you leave the restroom. I purchased 120 small magnets for anyone who does not have their own in their office already. The shared restrooms on the first floor should be limited to two people at one time. For anyone who prefers a private bathroom, there are two outside the elevator on the first floor, two in the lobby, one in the staff/DCED hallway, and two on the third floor by the Aging division. The garbage can lids were removed in each restroom so no one has to touch it to throw away paper towels. Small cans also remain outside the shared bathrooms for anyone wishing to open the door with their paper towel prior to disposing.

Cafeteria: The cafeteria will have two microwaves for the staff on the third floor to utilize. If someone chooses to take a break or lunch in the cafeteria, please be mindful of social distancing. I would also suggest we limit the capacity to 10 people max, but if we run into problems with this, I will modify if necessary. The “food prep” area in the third floor cafeteria should be limited to 2 individuals, while the seating area should be limited to 8 individuals. There will be reminder signs on the doors. For folks who normally use the cafeteria sinks to wash dishes, I would encourage you to use disposable items or take them home to wash, in order to limit additional foot traffic on the third floor. We have created a “lunchroom” with a microwave in conference room 4 on the first floor for first floor staff which is marked on the conference room door; the maximum occupancy in CR4 is 8 individuals. The second floor conference room will be used for CYF staff to take lunch and breaks if desired; the maximum occupancy is 6 individuals for this room. Please limit your use of these rooms to ensure adequate social distancing. The second floor now has two microwaves, one in each kitchenette. The move of the microwaves to each floor is temporary.

Hand Washing: I think by now we are all quite familiar with the extreme importance of proper hand washing. This is a 60-second video about hand washing that reminds us how to do so properly. Some of you will have to watch from a non-county device. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SfHdSHK-g0

Social Distancing: Some of our DHS employees work second jobs in hospital settings, as EMTs, and at Gracedale. There are no plans to segregate those individuals from everyone else. If you remain six feet from others, even if that person tested positive for Covid-19 at some point, you would not be considered a close contact of that individual, and if you are wearing a mask and washing your hands properly, you are even better protected.

Dress Code: Until further notice, the dress code remains casual. Once dry cleaners reopen, staff will be notified of the return to professional work attire.

Cleaning supplies: Anyone who would like additional info about the cleaning supplies can review the label on each spray bottle or jug of cleaner, or the MSDS sheet at the reception desk. I can tell you it is approved to clean and kills germs from Covid-19. The cleaning company is using this and other approved cleaners throughout the building, paying extra attention to high touch surfaces, and each floor will have at least ten spray bottles throughout their floor to use by staff as needed each day. All staff should take ownership to clean high-touch surfaces throughout the day. Each administrator can also assign this task to people within their division.

Meetings: All meetings will still be conducted remotely via phone, skype, zoom, etc., until further notice. There will be no public meetings in the DHS building at this time. Home visits should continue as required by the state. The copier technician, vending machine staff, HVAC repairmen, etc., will be permitted access to the building after having their temperature taken and if wearing a mask. These visits are expected to be very infrequent. CYF needs to inform the sheriff deputies if a family needs to utilize a visit room for a Skype or Facetime call with their child(ren).


Individual Hardships: Anyone who feels they cannot return to work on May 11th or 18th should speak to their supervisor, doctor, or HR. I cannot stress this enough. In addition and as a reminder, you may use personal or vacation time with supervisory approval.     

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

This move is imperative for the safety of women and children. Areas where meetings can occur with those needing services should be offered, even if drive up with staff with mask AND face shield. Abuse is down as no workers are going to residents and the abusers are controlling the situation with the lockdown rules. McClure has an obligation to allow reporting outside the home to caseworkers to occur.

Anonymous said...

This is irresponsible. Everyone's going to die!

Anonymous said...

First off, the employees that abused the situation should be the ones punished, not everyone. How childish to punish everyone under these circumstances. Employees were told if they have a hardship or medical reason to continue working from home, to submit a doctor's note, however, they are being rejected. Why do other departments in the County not have to return until June?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Please provide an example of someone who came in with a doctor's note and who was rejected.

Anonymous said...

I provided a medical excuse due to my severe asthma and was denied within an hour of my doctor sending to HR. Instead of bashing Human Services workers every chance you get, maybe try speaking to some of us and understanding our POV. Or is that too much to ask for from someone with extremely mediocre blogging capabilities?

Anonymous said...

@8:34 Why do other departments in the County not have to return until June?? Because they are not considered essential. Investigating Child Abuse/Neglect and elder abuse is most certainly an essential function. Just like the jail and Gracedale, just like our police and firefighters. IMO the Human Services office should have never been closed to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I'm also an asthmatic and was denied, as well as a coworker with a heart condition. I'm starting to think the person denying us was enjoying it. There is absolutely no reason to have us go back, except for their own ego trip.

Anonymous said...

The executive used the login times tracked by forticlient which is the county server. When at the county office, the computers are automatically synced to the county sever. When the using the computers remotely, you must manually logon to the counties forticlient server. NEVER, was this addressed to the staff. Even after the administration found it to to be an issue, no one was told to login to forticlient daily so their activity time could be tracked.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the famous asthma defence! The person probably smokes weed and runs marathons but will use their mild asthma to stay home.

Anonymous said...

This is not mild asthma. I am careful every flu and allergy season because many times it triggers bronchitis. There is no weed, cigarettes or marathons run. I've worked fine from my home, and would continue to.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I provided a medical excuse due to my severe asthma and was denied within an hour of my doctor sending to HR. Instead of bashing Human Services workers every chance you get, maybe try speaking to some of us and understanding our POV. Or is that too much to ask for from someone with extremely mediocre blogging capabilities?"

I listened to you at the Council meeting and have reached out to a few of the people I know. But since I am extremely mediocre, what difference would it make if I did understand? You have an unusual way of attracting someone to your cause. It is unsurprising. My experience is that those in Human Services are the most entitled workers within the county. Nothing any administration does for you is ever enough. You think your shit doesn't stick, but it is your department that had Grace Packer in its ranks. Let that sink in before you start pretending to be superior.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I'm also an asthmatic and was denied, as well as a coworker with a heart condition."

You did not answer my question. Did a doctor provide you and did you present his opinion that you should not be forced to return to the well ventilated Human Services Building?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I did provide a Doctor note, who specifically said for one month I should continue to work from home due to my medical condition. After one month, if the environment improves, it would be ok to return.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, then I would grieve the decision.

Anonymous said...

I have also been denied my request to telework. I provided a medical note from my doctor. I have an auto immune disorder, seasonal asthma and I’m four months pregnant. I always take precautions during cold and flu season, regardless. My doctor suggested to stay in when possible. I’ve only left my house to take outdoor walks, I haven’t had visitors, and I have a relative bringing groceries. My concerns are legitimate. Staying home is full proof and the best option. I’d be more than willing to check in with my supervisor as much needed to prove I am doing my work. This was the email sent to me after providing a doctors note and detailing my health issues.
“The directive at this time is to not approve accommodation to telework due to underlying health conditions, which is why your request was denied.” There has been no follow up or request for more medical information.

Anonymous said...

My note is going to be grieved. It's in the process.

Northampton Voter said...

Why, when the county was asked to provide proof of this supposed decline in productivity to the employees' representatives, did they fail to do so? Because they don't have proof, that's why. Why go to a blogger instead of showing the proof to WFMZ or the Morning Call? Because they couldn't. They're using Northampton employees' well-being to grandstand for the local realtors and media and relying on people who hate essential employees like Children & Youth workers to spread this poison. Opening the building poses a risk not only to the employees, but to their at-risk clients, their families and the rest of us here in Northampton County.

Meanwhile, Lamont tells us to stay home, work from home when possible, cover our faces, etc. I guess he wants a repeat of Gracedale over on Emerick Blvd.

Anonymous said...

All County Employees are coming back Monday. Not just people in the Human Service Building.

Bernie O'Hare said...

". Why go to a blogger instead of showing the proof to WFMZ or the Morning Call?"

You have already betrayed your opinion of yourself as entitled, and now you look down your nose at a blogger.

This is one of your mistakes. I actually cover the county very thoroughly and have developed a lot of sources. I write more about NorCo than all other media outlets combined. Every year, including this year, I have snagged awards for journalism. Over the years, I have broken a large number of stories that are picked up a few days later by the mainstream. The news organizations you mention are unfortunately spread out pretty thin.

If you can get over yourself, there is unfortunately ample proof that some of you were not working, both with log ins and the diminished use of county cell phones. In fact, some of the biggest complainers are also some of the biggest shirkers.

Here's another bulletin from this mediocre blogger - the state is facing a $6 billion shortfall. It will inflict this pain on human services, including your salaries. If you could get past thinking that you are superior, you'd realize that what McClure is doing is trying to save your jobs, not for your sake, but for the sake of the most vulnerable elements of our society. Try thinking about them a little more. That is, after all, your job.

Anonymous said...

He's baaaack... Does this guy have a real life?

Anonymous said...

The workers are working hard to meet the needs of the community. They are doing the same job from home, and some of them go in to homes and the community. Its a shamed that an employer would treat their workers this way. If there are workers taking advantage, its the responsibility of the administration to address them individually. Instead of doing their jobs, the administration is demonizing all of their dedicated employees. Most importantly, they by increasing their workers' exposure, they are unnecessarily putting the community at higher risk.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The 2 million workers who are out of a job in this state would not see it the way you do.

Anonymous said...

While this has all been overblown to frighten people under 70 years old and people with an average age of 79 who do not reside in nursing homes, rules are rules. The same bunch thought pushing kids on sliding boards deadly, but is now saying it's cool. The same bunch thought golf to be deadly on April 30, and deemed it safe the next day. The same bunch who said masks were unnecessary and stupid will now arrest you for not wearing one. Whether you report to work or not, remember to thank our elected officials for keeping us safe. In fact, let's all ring some bells in their honor.

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to your profession or blog, but i find it inappropriate for the executive to share information with you, and not the employees, regarding their productivity. This issue of productivity has never been addressed. To this day no one has been told to login to forticlient so our activity could be accounted for.

Anonymous said...

i wonder how many of the recent comments on this blog about staying home and the blue collared workers were being selfish for wanting the state to open up so they could put food on their table where from these county workers who were enjoying their tax funded vacations.

I am sure that if the services were being provided by the human service department in a reasonable manner, Mclure would continue telecommuting. However, it probably wasnt just a few bad apples but the entire bunch that was not doing their jobs that forced this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"No disrespect to your profession or blog, but i find it inappropriate for the executive to share information with you, and not the employees, regarding their productivity. This issue of productivity has never been addressed. To this day no one has been told to login to forticlient so our activity could be accounted for."

The Exec has not shared with me, although he told me he is trying very hard to save your jobs. I have numerous county sources who will tell me things.

"I am sure that if the services were being provided by the human service department in a reasonable manner, Mclure would continue telecommuting. However, it probably wasnt just a few bad apples but the entire bunch that was not doing their jobs that forced this."

I am unaware precisely how widespread but it was a problem. I know many human services workers are dedicated professionals.

Anonymous said...

Bernie- do you feel as though this productivity issue should’ve been addressed with staff, especially now since it’s been a month since the administration alleges productivity standards have not been met?

Bernie O'Hare said...

In a perfect world, yes. But we are in the middle of a pandemic and there should be no need to tell adults they are expected to act like adults.

Truth said...

Eventually

Truth said...

Tell that to the person in front of you in the unemployment line. Get to work!

Anonymous said...

Precisely, we are in a pandemic. The decision to end remote working effects employees lives. Some employees have health conditions and there are many facing unexpected childcare expenses and hardships. If workers were not meeting productivity standards, and it called for the end of telecommuting, it should have, at the very least, been addressed. Lengthy emails were sent out to the staff daily. Ms. Wandalowski managed to send out an email every day, with a meme included, but did address the fact that staff was not working? That’s pathetic and I don’t buy it.

Here’s how this could have been easily addressed in an email: “DHS staff- if you are not already doing so, please makes sure you are logging into Foritclient daily. This is how administration is tracking productivity. Those who are not logged into forticlient during scheduled work hours will be subject to a write up and further disciplinary actions.”

4/15 “I wanted to say how much I appreciate everyone continuing to work to meet the many human service needs of our county residents”
-Sue Wandalowski

4/17 “Gentle reminder: Tomorrow is Saturday. Don’t continue working from home.”
-Sue Wadalowski

Bernie O'Hare said...

What you buy or don't buy is irrelevant unless you are the Exec.

Anonymous said...

"What you buy or don't buy is irrelevant unless you are the Exec."
McClure the almighty?? You are something. County Council may have something to say about that. of course you will curse them if they dare question your leader


It is sad how you condemn Gov. Wolf for the same things you praise McClure for. McClure told people to work from home and bragged how great he was running things. Now he claims it doesn't work and says the opposite. You fully support his so called "evidence" no one but his "team" has seen. The County government should demand to see his evidence. They are also ignoring doctors orders for employees. This is about his famous temper tantrums and Deritnger's arrogance.

The guy acts like he is a king. You of course will push anything he says. Hopefully the council people are not as gullible and subservient as you.

Anonymous said...

Spot on!

Anonymous said...

not doing the work while your supposed to be telecommuting

calling off so much the national guard needs to come into gracedale.

Union article in the Call about how unsafe the human services building is, yet it is being used as a model across the state for implementing best practices.

The Norco workers are certainly not breaking any stereotypes about government workers.

Anonymous said...

Lamont isn't a bad guy. I use to work at the restaurant Edge, where he was an everyday regular bar guest. I know this is a hard time for people with all different struggles. This may just be a lapse of judgment due to his own personal stress about the reopening of the state... I hope he is doing okay now that the bars and restaurants have closed. Please be kind.

Anonymous said...

McClure has been pro union since he has been office?

How bad was it productivity wise that he had to go against the union and send these individuals back to work.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they at least come back at half capacity, so to speak? Work an every other day or every other week scattered schedule for a few weeks, just in case. 2-3 days a week in a staggered schedule and the remainder at home

Anonymous said...

"When pressed by The Morning Call Friday to name a function of county government that has lagged because of the remote workforce, McClure said the county has struggled to keep up with marriage license requests. When asked if there have been any productivity issues in Human Services, McClure said the possibility exists."

"The possibility exists" What a convincing argument.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...
In a perfect world, yes. But we are in the middle of a pandemic and there should be no need to tell adults they are expected to act like adults.
May 15, 2020 at 5:42 PM

Tell that to those who won't wear masks when in public buildings.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"McClure said the possibility exists."

It's more than a possibility. I'd like to see the context in which that question was asked and answer given.

Anonymous said...

If you're given a politicians' summary or synopsis of data but not allowed to review the actual data, be wary. Interpretation is everything. I also have some follow-up questions...

How did productivity compare from the first to last weeks analyzed? - There's got to be a learning curve.

Did the executive consider the very real effects that being in the throws of a global pandemic understandably have on a worker's productivity? - Schools are out and child and senior care centers are closed. Working from home isn't always easy when you either don't have a private, separate place to work or you're also responsible for kids or other dependents. But again, there's a learning curve. The 1st week or so may be tough but then you fall into a pattern, you learn what time of day your internet is the fastest, the kids get over the initial high and settle down, got your tp stockpiled etc.

Did the executive consider that being in the throws of a global pandemic could have detrimental effects on the mental health of the employee? - Would it be better to come from a place of caring and seeking to understand, rather than condemn right off the bat? I can't speak for everyone, but my mind wanders when I'm stressed and if ever I was stressed...I'm just saying. Give your 'most valuable asset' time to adjust to this extraordinary situation.

IMHO, we should err on the side of caution and if it is possible to do a job from home then the employee should be permitted to work from home as often as possible. If duties aren't being met then they should be disciplined and\or coached accordingly.

Anonymous said...

"There is absolutely no reason to have us go back"

true. probably better off laying you guys off? I mean, folks evidently aren't working properly from home, so your position should be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Please consider that CYF workers use a web-based application to track their families. They can log on from anywhere and do not need to be connected to the county network through Forticlient to enter data or review cases in CAPS. Employees also do not need to be connected to the network to make phone calls on county issued devices or to access e-mail. Were statistics pulled from these workers' Outlook accounts or from CAPS to see the volume of work that was accomplished when they were not logged into Forticlient? One point of reference (Forticlient) that does not cover all work duties should not be used to make a decision affecting an entire building. If CAPs and Outlook were also checked and found lacking, then the workers would not have as many complaints.

Anonymous said...

Its the administrators who at fault, and they admit it by claiming they can't fulfill their duties of ensuring productivity levels and holding individual employees accountable. They provided no proof that productivity was down, and the executive cited a service that DHS doesn't even perform as an example. Cramming 253 in to office space with some going in and out of homes and the community unnecessarily places the employees and public at risk.

Anonymous said...

A better plan would be allowing small businesses to open while continuing to allow those who can telework to continue to do so. That is how you responsibly get the county to open up.

Anonymous said...

Word is the safety protocols the executive and administrators touted are no being completely implemented as the plan states.