State extends remote work order

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Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration has extended its remote-work order for executive branch employees until the first of next year, taking an extra precaution to rein in the spread of COVID-19.

A memo from Secretary of Administration DeAngela Burns-Wallace says that it’s expected employees will return to their regular work environment by Jan. 1 assuming COVID cases continue declining.

“Over the last month the state’s positivity rates have been on a steady decline, but data tells us that with winter months brings potential upticks in the numbers due to increased indoor activities, upcoming holidays and social gatherings,” the memo states.

“Additionally, there is strong indication that the vaccine for children ages 5-11 will be available in early November which we encourage families to take advantage.

“Overall, we need to be diligent and continue to utilize all measures to stop the spread in the coming months.”

Kelly ordered executive branch employees to work remotely on Aug. 25 when there was 9.8% positivity rate for COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, it was at about 8%

Kelly reinstated a remote-work order as COVID-19 cases began to spike again and positivity rates were hovering at about 10%.

At that time, executive branch employees were to work remotely through Oct. 4, when the health climate was to be reassessed.

When the pandemic started a year ago, Kelly shifted state agencies to remote work where that was possible starting in late March 2020.

In June, after a significant decline in daily COVID-19 cases, state employees began returning to state office buildings.

The Kelly administration hoped that moving to remote work again would help keep the spread of the virus in check as infections start rising again last summer.

Onsite staffing was limited to only those necessary to safely conduct agency operations, the governor’s office said.

Mask requirements, social distancing and other mitigation measures remained in place for employees whose jobs must be performed on-site.

Public offices serving customers were  encouraged to reinstitute mitigation measures that were previously used during the pandemic, such as scheduling by appointment or making allowances for virtual as opposed to in-person interactions.

Officials from the secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer offices continued to work in person even as the governor’s issued her order.

The secretary of state’s office – as of mid-September – was maintaining in-person operations with an emphasis on social distancing and self-monitoring. A policy implemented on July 29 remains in place.

It calls for employees to wear masks when working with a customer who also is wearing a mask or when 6 feet of separation can’t be maintained.

Social distancing is still required for all office employees.

The treasurer’s office was still open during business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it has reduced its level of staffing as of mid-September..

The treasurer’s office reduced the number of people working in the office at any given time to 30% or less of all staff.

The treasurer’s office required masks for those employees working in the office and is maximizing distances between work spaces.

Employees are also encouraged to be tested for COVID-19 and wash their hands.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office continued to work in person.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Insurance Department reported that it has been fully staffed, in-person since April.

“Throughout the pandemic, Commissioner (Vicki) Schmidt has worked to keep employees as safe as possible with appropriate mitigation efforts while ensuring the department continues to effectively serve Kansans,” the office said in a statement.