Important COVID-19 Information for ACERTUS Essential Personnel

August 5, 2020

In light of the continuing spread of COVID-19, we wanted to outline the steps we are taking to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our essential personnel as well as our business continuity plan.  

The ACERTUS COVID-19 Response Team has been monitoring the situation around the clock and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our primary focus has been—and will continue to be—our people, our customers, our suppliers, and our communities; we are making decisions daily based on these values as we adapt to this unprecedented and evolving situation.

Our team is adhering to the suggestions of the U.S. and CA local, state and national health guidelines.  We are carefully reviewing information put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and government orders for business operations as the situation continues to develop.

Many states are taking increasingly drastic measures to curb the severity of the pandemic and issuing “Shelter in Place” orders, one of the more stringent measures available to authorities to compel residents to stay in their homes and limit movement. Shelter in place orders generally close all “nonessential businesses” and prohibit their employees from leaving their homes to work.  Those whose work is considered “essential” are permitted to leave the house to continue their work. ACERTUS is considered to be an “essential business.”

To continue operations, all drivers MUST:

1099 Drivers/ICs, please work directly with the Care team if you are sick and cannot take a run, get ill mid-run or need assistance getting home because of an illness.

Drive Away Sanitary Procedures

Our number one priority is to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our employees, customers and suppliers. Please take these extra precautions to keep yourself and others safe during this time.

Tips for Staying Well

We want to make sure all drivers are taking proper precautions to protect yourself and stay healthy. Please:

  • Keep disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves in vehicles.
  • Avoid entering any buildings of the locations you pick up and deliver from.
  • Attempt to maintain a 6 foot distance between yourself and others.
  • Wear disposable gloves when in contact with facility personnel or when handling paperwork.
  • Wipe down vehicle touch points frequently throughout the course of the day.
  • Monitor health risks prior to entering any facilities.

While this can be a scary and uncertain time, please take common sense measures to stay healthy.

  • If you feel unwell or have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 3 days, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
  • Work directly with your Supervisor. Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. Employees should contact their Supervisor should they need to stay home to care for a sick family member.
  • Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene: Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Please make sure you are following all policies and procedures. If you have any additional questions and concerns, please contact us at 800-728-9235

  • For dispatch, please press 2
  • For care team, please press 5

Stay well and be safe!

Your Questions Answered

With media outlets and social media constantly providing guidance and theories, it can be difficult to know what to do during a time of crisis. Here are some reliable sources for information regarding COVID-19:

Additional Resources:

In February, we assembled a cross-functional and cross-office task force and response team which includes representatives from:

  • All service lines (car haul, drive away and T&R)
  • All offices (STL, ATL, KC)
  • Members from all departments including sales, operations, marketing and people services

The COVID-19 Response Team is working diligently to plan for multiple scenarios and keep our entire ACERTUS family informed. We recognize the crucial importance of preparedness during this time of uncertainty. As this COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, we have increased communications to provide comprehensive resources on the topic. We are leveraging email, Ring Central, Zoom, weekly huddles, Paylocity and face-to-face communications etc. to disseminate information in real time.

In addition, we have set up webpages to keep both employees and customers informed:

Employees: https://acertusdelivers.com/covid-19-employees/

Customers: https://acertusdelivers.com/covid-19-update/

The information on these webpages and other forms of communication will be updated regularly. We are sharing information in real-time, considering changes in approach that will best protect our employees and our clients, and setting plans in motion for a wide variety of contingencies.

ACERTUS is taking extra precautions to keep all team members healthy including:

  • Sanitizing supplies have been increased for employee use.
  • Evening cleaning crews have been asked to conduct deep cleans and clean more often.
  • Constant reminders to the staff of basic virus prevention techniques.
  • Temporarily modifying our company policy on outside food vendors.
  • Removed all community snacks.
  • Discontinued campus-provided lunches.
  • Asked that team members do not bring in food to share with others (bagels, donuts, etc) and refrain from purchasing lunch to be shared with your department or other departments at this time.
  • Encouraged everyone to take common sense measures to keep everyone in the ACERTUS family healthy.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Employees are required to wear masks in the office.

For those individuals who are feeling unwell, in the CDC Higher Risk Group, have a family member or someone that you reside with that feels unwell, or if you reside in a school district that has temporarily shut down or reverted to online schooling and you have children that have been impacted, you may work from home, if your job allows it and you have the necessary resources to do so (such as internet access). You MUST coordinate with your direct Supervisor to discuss this before doing so.

If you do not have an illnesses we ask that you not take advantage of this offering and continue to come into the office and work as we have a significant number of employees that do not have the capability to work from home. 

Most ACERTUS employees have laptop devices and our operational and technology systems are cloud based including email, phone systems, file sharing, meetings, etc. so in the event of any travel or workplace restrictions, most business functions and employees will resume work remotely.

For our title and registration service line, in the event of a corporate office shut down, we will have a leadership response team assembled to field calls. In the event DMVs shut down, our team will be unable to process, and you may experience delays. As of March 12, 2020, we are closely monitoring potential DMV closures.

  • We created and published a statement for the sales team to share with any customers inquiring on March 5 
  • We sent an email to car haul and drive away customers on 3/9 
  • We made updates to the previous published statement on 3/12 to include new information from DMVs 
  • Sent an email to Title and Registration customers on 3/12
  • We have created a webpage to keep ACERTUS customers up-to-date during this time: https://acertusdelivers.com/covid-19-update/

Below is a list of recommended commercial and consumer products for disinfecting vehicle interior/exterior surfaces that may be contaminated with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

All of the products are either on the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC) list of products that have been pre-approved/registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against emerging enveloped viral pathogens and can be used during the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OR EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19 (List N).

Wipes and sprays that contain a citrus fragrance (terpene hydrocarbon/ d-limonene), and/or chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) cleaning agents are not recommended at this time. Any disinfectant product dispersed by a pressurized aerosol container is not recommended.

NOTE: It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s disinfecting product label for the recommended disinfecting procedure, as it varies by product.  These products should be applied to all customer vehicle touchpoints.

Wipes:

Sprays:

  • Our insurance provider, United Healthcare is providing additional support and resources during this time. They will be waiving all member cost sharing, including copays, coinsurance and deductibles, for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines for all commercial insured, Medicaid and Medicare members.
  • Health plan members are also encouraged to use UnitedHealthcare’s Virtual Visit* capability, available through the UnitedHealthcare app, to help answer any general questions or concerns they might have. Virtual visits give you the option to seek medical treatment from the comfort of your own home.
  • Visit www.uhc.com/virtualvisits
  • As coronavirus (COVID-19) news spreads, it has created worry for many of us. For others, it has added to existing unease. You can find information about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as the CDC, NIH, and World Health Organization (WHO).
  • If you feel you need additional assistance, as part of ACERTUS’ benefit program, employees who are covered by the company’s health insurance have access to Optum’s Emotional-Support Help Line. This is available to support anyone who may be experiencing anxiety or stress following the recent developments around COVID-19. The free service can be reached at (866) 342-6892, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is open to all.  In addition, emotional-support resources and information are available online at www.liveandworkwell.com.

Yes. In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has cited its 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu guidance, which states that advising workers with symptoms to go home either (a) is not a disability-related action if the illness is akin to seasonal influenza or (b) is permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the illness is serious enough to pose a direct threat to the employee or coworkers.  Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance advises that employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness and a fever (greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius, using an oral thermometer) should stay home. Of course, employers should apply this type of policy uniformly and in a manner that does not discriminate based on any protected characteristic (e.g., national origin, gender, race, etc.).

Yes, if the asymptomatic employee fits within certain categories established by the CDC’s guidance (last updated on March 7, 2020), which categorizes employees based on (a) symptoms (i.e., symptomatic or asymptomatic) and (b) risk (i.e., High, Medium, Low, or No Identifiable, which takes into account both (1) travel destinations and (2) level and type of contact with symptomatic individuals).

Under the CDC guidance, employees who are asymptomatic may be excluded from the workplace, if they:

  • have close contact with,
  • sat on an aircraft within 6 feet (two airline seats) of,, or
  • live in the same household as, are an intimate partner of, or are caring for at home, while consistently using recommended precautions [see here and here for home care and home isolation precautions], for

a symptomatic individual with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19.

CDC defines “symptomatic” as subjective or measured fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. CDC defines “close contact” as:

a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case

– or –

b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on).

There are different standards and CDC guidance for healthcare employees.

The CDC reminds employers that in order to prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, employers should use its guidance to determine the risk of COVID-19. Employers also should consider reviewing pertinent guidance from state and local public health authorities on appropriate responses to exposure risks, especially as situations change. Employers considering actions beyond the CDC’s guidance (e.g., additional go home/work from home requirements) may want to consider the basis for those and consult with legal counsel.

Yes, if the employee falls into certain CDC risk categories (as explained in the answer above). Among the considerations for these risk categories is travel to certain areas with “widespread sustained” transmission (i.e., covered by a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice). Employers can closely monitor updates from the CDC and state and local public health authorities. The CDC has advised that determinations should not be made based on race or country of origin.

Generally yes, as long as the employee’s duties allow telework. Permitting employees to telecommute may be particularly useful if there are documented cases of COVID-19 in the geographic area. Employers may want to continue consulting public health authorities in the applicable jurisdiction for additional recommendations and assessments as the virus spreads and situations change. The DOL recently reiterated that requiring or encouraging employees to telework based on current information from public health authorities can be a useful infection-control or prevention strategy and may also be an appropriate ADA accommodation.

The CDC has indicated that in general business settings (i.e., non-healthcare settings where individuals in the workplace are not at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19), employees may return to work after:

  • 3 days with no fever and
  • Respiratory symptoms have improved and
  • 10 days since symptoms first appeared.

(a) a fever (defined by the CDC as a temperature greater than 100.4º F or 37.8º C), (b) signs of a fever [what the CDC means is unclear], and (c) any other symptoms, without the aid of fever-reducing medicines (e.g., anything containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen) or other symptom-masking medicines (e.g., cough suppressants).

The return-to-work standards and time periods may be different for an individual with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers should consult the CDC’s and other public health authorities’ guidance.

Employers considering implementation of policies beyond the CDC’s guidance (e.g., a longer “return to work” time period) should consider the basis for those and consult with legal counsel.

An employer may want to meet with any returning employees to remind them to practice good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene, avoid close contact with individuals who appear to be sick, and stay home if they begin to feel sick, for the health and safety of those employees and their coworkers, as well as the continued operations of the employer.

Yes. First, employers should follow current guidance from the CDC and public health authorities as it is updated. If an employee is given specific restrictions or instructions by a public health authority or a medical provider, it may prove helpful for the health of the workplace for employers to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate those instructions, including by providing additional leave as necessary.

 

Second, employers should continue to exercise sound discretion in taking proactive steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus at work, such as the consideration of accommodations within reason of employee requests for additional time off from work. Third, employers should remain mindful of potential existing leave obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for serious health conditions or accommodations (including additional leave) under the ADA in which an employee’s illness might constitute an ADA disability. As a practical matter, during this outbreak, many employers may wish to encourage employees to stay home until they feel better, up to a reasonable point. Employers should make these decisions uniformly and be on the lookout for potential abuse.

A doctor’s note should not be a prerequisite for returning to work, according to the CDC. This is in part because this requirement would place a high burden on the healthcare system and healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may not be able to provide documentation in a timely fashion. If an employee’s situation meets the ADA’s “direct threat” standards, however, an employer may require a return-to-work doctor’s note (see question 8). Though the CDC’s guidance urges against requiring a return-to-work note, if the employee’s illness is a “serious health condition” under the FMLA (see questions 23 and 24), the employer would be able to require a return-to-work note if the employer complies with the FMLA’s guidelines for requiring such documentation, including, among others, notifying the employee in the initial determination that fitness-for-duty notes will be required and consistently applying the requirement to all FMLA leaves.

Yes, if the employee would create an unsafe or unhealthful work environment or is a direct threat to him- or herself or others. Often, having a one-on-one conversation with the employee will reveal the reason for his or her desire to return to work (e.g., he or she has exhausted all paid leave, has an important project to finish, etc.) and perhaps result in a shared conclusion that he or she is or is not ready to return to work.

Yes, subject to (a) the provisions of the employer’s current vacation time, paid time off (PTO), and other applicable policies, and (b) any state laws (e.g., implied contract of employment) restricting an employer’s ability to interpret or amend those policies.

Yes, subject to (a) the provisions of an employer’s current vacation time, PTO, and other applicable policies, and (b) any state laws (e.g., implied contract of employment) restricting an employer’s ability to interpret or amend those policies. Employers should carefully consider the employee relations implications of such a policy.

Not necessarily. If COVID-19 does not satisfy the regulatory definition of a “serious health condition,” employers should not count the absence against the employee’s 12 weeks of FMLA leave. An example of a situation in which the leave may not be FMLA-qualifying is when an employee is required by the employer to stay home but is asymptomatic.  Employers should evaluate any applicable state mini-FMLAs to ensure they do not contain different or additional requirements or provisions.

The regulatory definition sections that most likely apply in the COVID-19 context (assuming a mild case) are the following:

  • More than three calendar (not work) days of incapacity plus two treatments by a healthcare provider (the first of which must occur within seven days of the first day of incapacity and the second within 30 days of the first day of incapacity)
  • More than three calendar (not work) days of incapacity plus one treatment by a healthcare provider (which must occur within seven days of the first incapacity) plus continuing treatment (including prescription medication) under the supervision of a healthcare provider

Because some individuals will not seek health care treatment unless they need urgent medical attention or they are at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19, some cases of COVID-19 will not qualify as a serious health condition simply because the employees will not have visited a doctor/healthcare provider for any treatment.

Not usually, unless the employer acquired the information in its role as the administrator of the health insurance plan. Because most employers will learn of a COVID-19 diagnosis from the employee or his or her family, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) usually will not be implicated.

Yes, according to the CDC, employers should inform fellow employees of their potential workplace exposure, but only to the extent necessary to adequately inform them of their potential workplace exposure, while maintaining confidentiality under the ADA (i.e., without revealing the infected individual’s name unless otherwise directed by the CDC or applicable public health authority). Employers may communicate to non-exposed employees generally that there has been a potential COVID-19 exposure, without sharing additional identifying information.  Employers also may be able to communicate to appropriate non-employees (e.g., customers, vendors, and others with whom the employee may have come in contact while working) that there was a potential COVID-19 exposure, again without sharing identifying information. In all cases, time and circumstances permitting, employers may find it helpful to coordinate with state or local health authorities for guidance and direction regarding the scope and content of disclosures.

Employers also should evaluate any applicable state privacy law or state “mini-ADA” laws to ensure they do not contain different or additional requirements or provisions.