Coronavirus, teleworking: A different kind of shutdown!

Is this maybe not the best time for government agencies to be cutting back on their telework programs? Can you say coronavirus?

It’s hard to find a news report that doesn’t include some mention of the expanding, sometimes deadly virus. TV news reports show empty streets in big, normally bustling cities from China to Italy. Different countries are trying different methods to contain the spread of the virus, including telling people not to go to school or work. In some schools overseas, classes are being televised with students being told to stay home.

The numbers of those infected, and the fatalities from the virus continue to climb. And some question the accuracy of the numbers of sick and dead coming out of China. Some believe that we may only be seeing the tip of the information iceberg. A regular major fashion show in Milan was held as per usual this year but without its typical on-site audience from around the world. The models paraded the latest fashions but the studio audience wasn’t there. The event was broadcast live instead.

Something is definitely going on. We just don’t know exactly what yet!

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In the meantime, federal agencies continue to reduce the number of employees who telework and to cutback on the number of days they can work from home each month. The teleworking programs were started to help cut down on traffic and pollution and give agencies the ability to continue vital operations in the event of local or regional shutdowns because of weather, or other major events. Continuation of government was the theme. But things have changed, which prompted reader Abraham Grungold to write this about a very different kind of government shutdown:

Federal shutdown due to a coronavirus

We experienced a 35-day federal shutdown and survived. We received our back pay. We owed money to the bank and our landlord; and they gave us an opportunity to pay them later. Many restaurants gave furloughed federal employees free lunches and other offerings.

But how would we weather a federal shutdown due to a coronavirus? Let’s say that if it happened in the U.S. on the same scale as China and no one died, how different would it be from a regular federal shutdown?

First, it is not a political shutdown so we would not be entitled to back pay. And if you did not have the ability to telework, you would have to use annual leave, sick leave or leave without pay.

How would we be coping day to day? You could not go to the beach or to the mall. The government would tell you not to leave your house. And even if you ventured out to your supermarket, would there be food in the supermarket to eat? One hurricane or one snowstorm clears out the shelves of the necessities such as milk, bread, water etc. After a hurricane, I have seen the ugliness of how long lines and the heat of summer brings out the worst in people.

In China, they were barricading people from leaving their apartments. Would we see that here in the U.S.? In China, we saw that if someone was sick, they forcibly removed them from their home and placed them in a concrete box. No one protested either of those scenarios. What would happen here in the U.S.?

In China the roads were empty. Everything in Wuhan, a major city, is shutdown. If you were an essential government employee, how would you get to work if the public transportation was not running? And how many times a day would your temperature be taken? If your temperature rises too high, you get an automatic 14 days in quarantine. Does that qualify you for worker’s compensation?

For now, we should count our blessings. Any questions or comments please contact me on LinkedIn or my Facebook page.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

With Tuesday being Shrove Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday), the town of Liberal, Kansas, will hold its annual Pancake Day and International Pancake Race. During the 70-year tradition, women run 415 yards down the streets of town flipping pancakes and wearing aprons. The event was inspired by the tradition in Olney, Enlgand, which dates back to 1445 and comes from a local legend that one Shrove Tuesday a woman was making pancakes — to use up her eggs, milk, and sugar before fasting for Lent — when the church bells began ringing. She raced to services, skillet in hand, so as not to be late.

Source: International Pancake Day of Liberal Kansas

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