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An Update on COVID-19 and FMLA/PTO

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To our Stepworks staff,

First, thank you so much for all the hard work you do! We are so proud of your commitment to your patients and the pride you take in your jobs. Your work does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. These are uncertain times, but we will continue to help those who are struggling with the life-threatening disease of addiction.

Here is an update on our response to COVID-19:

We are following the CDC guidelines for “family settings.” These steps include:

  • Screening all potential admissions for symptoms or exposure to the virus; we have turned away a number of potential patients for these reasons.
  • Discontinuing physical visitation
  • Sanitizing all surfaces as often as feasible with an approved disinfectant (e.g., Lysol) or a diluted chlorine solution
  • Providing to any patient or employee with symptoms a surgical mask to wear at all times and relieving them of any food service duties; to the extent possible, they should practice social distancing.
  • Having staff members who are doing vitals or otherwise having close contact with symptomatic patients wear a mask and gloves; staff will dispose of gloves immediately after contact and wash/sanitize their hands before and after removing their mask.

Per Kentucky regulations,

  • All staff should wear masks during their shifts. If they are working alone in an office, cubicle, or space 6 feet from any other individual, they may remove their masks.
  • Staff can wear any type of mask they choose: they should be encouraged to bring their own cloth mask or bandanna from home and launder daily. If they wear one from our surgical mask stock, we have limited supplies: they should wear the same mask for a week to maintain our supply in case of patient illness.
  • If a staff member has a medical condition in which a mask would present a safety or health risk, they are not required to wear one.
  • If performing a task in close contact with patients, such as checking patients for symptoms or completing nursing assessments, staff may choose to swap to a surgical mask or wear a surgical mask over their daily mask.
  • The CDC guidelines for masks, including sew and no-sew instructions for making your own, can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
  • Employees physically at a business must self-certify that they do not have COVID symptoms or a temperature prior to work. By clocking in to your shift, you are certifying that you do not have a temperature or symptoms of COVID-19.

A few common questions: 

Why don’t we just close during this pandemic?

The risk of dying from a substance use disorder is equal to or greater than dying from COVID-19. We already take care of a potentially fatal pandemic. The risk from SUD is greater than the risk from COVID-19. 

If a staff member develops mild symptoms, will they be sent home?

The short answer is no. You become contagious prior to having symptoms, so exposure has already occurred. Staff with symptoms should wear a surgical mask. Each facility already runs on minimal staff. Losing just a couple of employees in any facility will result in the closure of that facility. This will create an immediate risk to our patients. 

What if I am running a high fever or am short of breath?

Staff with severe symptoms will be sent home until they feel capable of working. 

Should we send a patient with symptoms to the emergency room?

Only if they have severe symptoms. In Elizabethtown, the ER is not testing most patients (including those with symptoms and exposure). Patients should only be sent for fever over 103, productive cough, or Pulse Ox < 90%. In these cases, there is not treatment (yet) but we need to rule out other causes. 

What if I am in a high-risk group?

If you feel that you are at especially high risk due for COVID-19, you should reach out to your supervisor so that we can discuss this on a case-by-case basis. If you are a direct patient care provider (90+% of our employees), it will be difficult to maintain your employment while also avoiding contact with patients (see below).


Also, some of you may have heard about the new law expanding FMLA and providing PTO for employees affected by COVID-19. From the beginning, the law has excluded healthcare providers from this legislation. The reason is simple. Healthcare providers are essential to keep the public safe and healthy. Today, the US Department of Labor defined who is considered a healthcare provider. By their definition, Stepworks employees are considered to be healthcare providers. Therefore, our current policies on FMLA and PTO will remain the same. We are not eligible for the expanded benefits offered by the recently passed legislation. For more information, please see this notice or this link to the DOL’s interpretation of the law.

If you participate in direct patient care (e.g., all facility employees), you are a healthcare provider. Take pride in that title! You are on the front lines of fighting a disease more deadly than COVID-19. We understand that working with patients puts you at higher risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. This is simply unavoidable. We continue to monitor CDC recommendations for providing care under this most unusual time and will do everything in our power to protect you while also ensuring that our patients receive the care that they need. Thank you for your service and commitment to the patients we serve.

Nicole Melloan, CHC
Chief Compliance Officer