COVID-19 Team Update: Reminder on Policies, Guidelines, and Resources

Banner showing COVID-19 virus

Dear Colleagues,

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) vaccination clinic at the Natural Museum of Natural History (NMNH) was a success – more than a thousand people received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A special thank you to the many staff and office units who made it a success, including our volunteers, Occupational Health Services, the Office of Protection Services, the Office of Facilities Management & Reliability, and especially NMNH for opening their doors for such a large-scale clinic.

Becoming vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself against COVID-19, but just because more of us may be vaccinated, the Smithsonian’s safety posture has not changed. All our safety measures remain in place. These include wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing of at least six feet, limiting on-site attendance, limiting group activities, employing enhanced cleaning strategies, and most-importantly, staying home if you feel ill. By following these protocols and best practices, you are protecting not only yourself, but also our community.

With several museums and the National Zoo slated to open in May, it is imperative we continue following these policies. Please review the list of resources included below to familiarize yourself with the latest guidelines, safety information, resources, and policies. Thank you again for all you have done to support our vaccination efforts and thank you for all you continue to do to protect our community.

Stay safe and be well,
COVID-19 Response Team

Vaccination Basics

  • Everyone 16 years of age and older is eligible for vaccination: Many state and local health department websites have tools to assist you with locating vaccination clinics and making appointments. We encourage you to visit their sites to learn more. Please note, the Secretary has authorized employees to take up to three hours of administrative leave to receive each dose of the vaccine. Follow your unit’s leave request guidelines.
  • Reactions to Vaccination: Reactions are a natural side effect, and whether you feel good or bad after vaccination, the body is building protection against the virus. To learn more, review the CDC’s tips for preparing for vaccination. Vaccination side effects that impact your ability to work are covered under the new Administrative Leave program (see below).
  • Reporting your Vaccination: Smithsonian employees and volunteers are encouraged to send a copy of their vaccination card to Occupational Health Services’ (OHS) at OHS-MedicalReview@si.edu after their final dose. This information will help OHS understand the needs of our community. As always, your medical information will be kept private.

Safety Precautions

  • If You’re Sick Stay Home! Whether you are vaccinated or not, continue to ask yourself the health screening questions before reporting to the workplace. If you feel ill or have any unusual-for-you symptoms, even mild ones, do not report to work. Contact your physician, get tested, and follow their advice. Be especially vigilant as pollen starts to trigger allergies.
  • Face Coverings and Social Distancing: Although the CDC has loosened some precautions for fully vaccinated individuals, on site at the Smithsonian, face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status. Multi-layer face coverings shall be worn in all common or shared work areas, inside or outside, including conference rooms, areas with open floorplans, and cubicles. Continue to practice social distancing, maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and others. Be especially aware of situations when you are not able to maintain this distance or must remove your mask.
  • How to Report a Positive Test Result: If you are ill or experience symptoms associated with COVID-19, stay home while you recover. If you test positive or are diagnosed by a healthcare provider with COVID-19, this link provides guidance on next steps including contacting the COVID-19 Response Team. If a case is reported at one of our facilities, the Team will quickly begin contact tracing and will notify any primary contacts that they may have been exposed to the virus.
  • Required COVID-19 Training: All staff are required to complete the “Training on Coronaviruses/COVID-19.” While this training is designed for those returning to work, it also provides important safety information that applies to daily life. If you have additional questions, please refer to the training FAQs on the COVID-19 Prism page.

Workplace Flexibilities and Leave Options

  • Workplace Flexibilities: The Smithsonian is committed to ensuring workplace flexibilities are available as widely as possible. Examples of these flexibilities include telework, alternate work schedules (AWS), alternate work assignments, and voluntary reduction in hours. The latest information on AWS is in this information packet. Work with your supervisor to explore options, seek guidance, and request the best solution.
  • Administrative Leave, Temporary Benefit: The Secretary has authorized a temporary benefit, effective April 26, 2021, of up to eight hours or one workday of administrative leave per pay period to help employees manage dependent care and/or who are unable to work due to complications from COVID-19. This temporary benefit is intended to aid employees in managing dependent care responsibilities and illness due to COVID-19 or any side effects due to COVID-19 vaccinations. It will expire on September 30, 2021.

Well-Being Resources

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): The EAP offers employees short-term counseling by phone. EAP staff are available between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday at the numbers listed below:
  • Tim Holloman 202-633-1054
  • Debbie Burney 202-633-1099
  • Karen Howard 202-633-1104
  • Inova Employee Assistance (IEA): IEA provides employees and members of their households with services including short term counseling, available 24/7, access to work life services online, life coaching, and online mindfulness sessions and stress reduction programs. The program can be found at www.inova.org/eap or by calling 1-800-346-0110. Your Username is Smithsonian, and your password is EAP. More information can be found here.
  • COVID-19 Wellness Website: Smithsonian EAP has compiled a list of internal and external mental health resources that can be found under the “Learn More” section of Smithsonian’s COVID-19 Wellness website. This compilation can direct you to everything from groups that specialize in tackling anxiety, self-help organizations, and mental health services.

Policy and Guidance

  • Smithsonian Travel Policy: Currently, most work travel (domestic or international) is not permitted. In some cases, mission critical work may be allowed. The travel policy for work-related trips requires several levels of review and approval. To conduct the required health consultations and obtain Response Team approval, please ensure your requests are submitted at least 14 days prior to your travel date. Additionally, approval processes for local travel have been developed.
  • Planning for Travel: Please note that for all types of work-related travel, a risk assessment and contingency plan are needed (an example and template are provided via links within the policy).
  • SI Badge Holder Access to Facilities: Please be aware you cannot use your badge to gain access to open facilities (museums and Zoo) as a visitor. If you or your guests would like to visit the open facilities, you must obtain timed entry passes. Additionally, a badge will not grant you access to any Smithsonian facility for work purposes without approvals and/or supporting documentation.
  • Official Visits: Smithsonian has published guidelines for official visits. These visitors are people, including contractors, who do not have Smithsonian credentials and require escorted access to public or staff-only spaces of Smithsonian facilities.

Posted: 29 April 2021
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni is primarily responsible for "other duties as assigned" in the Office of Communications and External Affairs. She has been with the Smithsonian since 2006 and plans to be interred in the Smithson crypt.