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Staff Questions and Answers

Updated on May 28, 2020

Q: Is the DOC pursuing hazard pay for corrections employees working?

A: Agency leadership is seeking hazard pay for front-line staff providing security and offender services in facilities with COVID-19 infiltration. We submitted a draft proposal to MMB that would access funding from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund. We will continue to work with MMB on this concept and keep employees informed of our progress.

Staff Screening

Q: Where are screening forms for individuals entering the facilities and other DOC areas? Can they be modified to accommodate non-DOC staff?

A: The forms can be found at the following links:

COVID-19 Screening for Employees notice form

COVID-19 Screening for DOC Employees and Contractors

These forms can be used by contracted individuals, etc. as needed, based upon the facility or agency’s specific needs, even if they are not a direct DOC employee.

Q: Is the DOC taking the temperatures of staff?

A: Temperature checks are being performed on all staff and non-staff upon entrance into the all MN Correctional Facilities.

Q: I have concerns with the sharing of pens/clipboards during the screening process.

A: Every facility has been reminded to ensure social distancing and to utilize clean pens and no sharing of clipboards during the screening process. Staff are encouraged to bring their own pen during the screening process.

Updates to staff

Q: Do we have access to the Daily Pandemic Meeting Notes?

A: Daily Pandemic Meeting Notes are available via a secure site accessible to command staff at Central Office and within the facility leadership.

Information that is available to all staff is accessible on the COVID-19 iShare page https://ishare.doc.state.mn.us/Pages/COVID-19-Updates.aspx

If you are not at work, you can access the information here: https://mn.gov/doc/about/covid-19-updates/updates-for-staff/

DOC Operations

Q: How does the “Stay at Home” order affect positions at the DOC?

A: The “stay-at-home” at home order expired and has been replaced with a “stay safe” order. Nothing changes in regards to DOC operations and our work. We will continue operating as we have been throughout this crisis. The DOC provides Priority 1 critical services to the State of Minnesota and that has required that many of you continue to come to work.

If you are currently working from home, continue to do so until you hear otherwise from your supervisor. Telework is one of our best risk mitigation tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities and field offices. Supervisors are encouraged to continue working with their staff who can work from home to do so.

We continue daily consultations with the Department of Health and other public health experts to ensure every decision we make is based on what the experts tell us about how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person and how to minimize the risk of that happening.

Despite our essential service status, we have been working with you over these past several weeks to help manage your critical public service role with your personal obligations through the use of Paid COVID-19 Leave and flexible scheduling. The Governor’s executive order encourages child care providers and other care services, including youth summer programming, to open and serve Minnesota families. We anticipate Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) will revise the Paid COVID-19 Leave policy to reflect any increased availability of these services. We expect, as the availability of care services increases, Paid COVID-19 Leave will be further limited in its application (i.e. for what purposes it can be used) and duration (i.e. how long it can be used). We will share more specific information when MMB issues new guidance to all state agencies.

Inmate Screening

Q: What is being done to avoid inmates coming to Saint Cloud for intake from other counties who are infected due to community spread?

A: All inmates are being screened prior to any transfer and upon arrival at any MCF destination. If there are any symptoms evident that raise concerns, the inmate will be isolated.

Pre-Approved Vacation or Long Term Leave

Q: If staff have pre-approved vacation (or out on a long-term leave) are they expected to call in to the call-in line for their work location?

A: All pre-scheduled vacation or leaves do not need to use the call-in procedures. It has been advised that the call-in documentation is for a full/majority of a shift, not for a dr. appointment, child appointment, etc.

Online Healthcare Resources

Q: Many medical facilities have long waits to see someone prior to being cleared to return to work. Is there a way to have designated clinics?

A: Right now, medical facilities are very busy. There are a number of online healthcare options for staff as part of their benefits package. To learn more, click: Online Resources to Healthcare


Leave status

Q: If we are told to quarantine for 14 days, do we use sick or vacation time, or is it a paid leave status?

A: If a healthcare provider has directed an employee to self-quarantine because of likely exposure to COVID-19, they would not have to use their sick or vacation leave, they would be in Paid COVID-19 leave status.

Social distancing in the workplace

Q: I would like to limit my face-to-face conversations as much as possible when at work. Since we have the ability to communicate through email, telephone, radio, and Skype, are these options?

A: Many face-to-face meetings have been moved online or to larger rooms to create more space between individuals. Staff are encouraged to look for ways to create social distancing.

Sick child

Q: If I have to stay home with a sick child, do I need a doctor’s note to return to work?

A: Critical infrastructure workers who have had an exposure may return to work, provided they self-monitor for symptoms, wear a mask for 14 days post-exposure (or according to agency’s directive), social distance themselves, disinfect and clean work spaces, and don’t share objects.

Underlying medical conditions of staff and COVID-19

Q: I have an underlying medical condition that would put me at higher risk for COVID-19 related illness. What documentation would be required to substantiate my medical condition and should I be getting that information now in the event it will be requested at a later date?

A: Per the BeReady website, if you are an employee that is at risk, you should notify HR that you are at risk for severe disease and work with them to determine accommodation options. This may include workspace in a separate office, telework (subject to availability of IT resources), etc.

Staff VPN Access

Q: What do staff need to do when trying to use VPN access?

A: Contact MN.IT Help Desk at 651-297-1111 or submit an IT ticket to have either a soft token (app installed on your phone that will give you an access code for your VPN) or be given a hard token (a fob or device that is physical that will be sent to you that has a code that on it). MN.IT will decide based on needs.

Q: When will I get my VPN?

A: Each department head and facility executive team provided a list of people to be set up with VPN and have continued to do so for new additions on a daily basis. If you have submitted a VPN request but haven’t received a confirmation email, please contact the MN.IT Help Desk at 651-297-1111.

Masks and Equipment

Q: Are medical staff and/or correctional officers permitted to wear masks or other personal protective equipment?

A: The DOC is in daily consultation with the MN Department of Health, which has dedicated an epidemiologist specifically to advise DOC on our decisions. We are following public health guidelines for use of personal protection equipment.

The DOC has distributed barrier face covers for all DOC staff and all people incarcerated in our facilities. Instructions are being given for how to wear and maintain the masks. The expectation is for staff and incarcerated people to wear masks when out in public areas and not in their offices or cells.

These masks are meant to be source control and to act as a “catcher’s mitt” to protect other people from particles that could be released from the mouth or nose of the person wearing the mask. They are not the same as an N95 respirator, which is designed to protect the person wearing it. 

For MCF-Moose Lake, our mitigation efforts have proven to have a real impact on containing the spread of COVID-19. Moving forward, in coordination with MDH, wearing an N95 is no longer necessary for all staff daily at MCF-Moose Lake. All staff are still required to wear barrier masks. Effective Tuesday, May 12, MCF- Moose Lake stopped utilization of N95s with the exception of: 

• Escorting symptomatic offenders

• Special duties/hospital runs/transports

• Making rounds in the isolation unit

• Making rounds in the step down unit

• Health services staff having direct contact

Staff at MCF-Willow River will continue wearing N95 masks.

Barrier masks are not a substitute for social distancing and proper hand washing, which remain the most important steps to take.

DOC facilities have implemented Stay with Unit procedures that include modified program schedules to allow for social distancing, while providing for phone and video access, recreation, and alternative delivery of education and therapeutic programming. These are not decisions that are made lightly or without exhausting all possible options.

The goals of the modified program schedules are simple: 

• To control spread by increasing the ability to practice social distancing; 

• To provide a sense of stability and opportunities for engagement; and

• Containment through the discontinuation of cross living unit programs and activities.

Inmate Mail

Q: How are the prisons handling inmate mail? The issue is the length of time that COVID-19 can stay active/alive on incoming mail and the possibility that it could spread.

A: Handle all mail with medical gloves only and use standard handwashing procedures.

Finance/Payroll

Q: Do employees still need to also make comments on time sheets as to hours worked related to C19…in addition to completing the Employee Time Tracking form?

A: Employees do not need to add comments in Self-Service anymore. Please use the applicable code, as noted in the Earn Code Memo and Examples. They should continue to use the Employee Time Tracking form, however.

Q: Where should Community Services/Field Services staff send their time tracking forms?

A: Community and Field Services should send their completed Employee Time Tracking forms to Central Office.

Q: Is the Employee Time Tracking form only for people who are working extra to clean or beyond the 40 hours a week due to COVID-19?

A: It is for anyone who is spending time on anything related to COVID-19, even if it’s part of their regular work schedule.

Q: If we are doing our normal daily work duties, either at home or at work…..do we need to complete the Employee Time Tracking form?

A: No.

Q: Example: MCF-FRB staff need to pull keys at Master Control, walk to another building for screening, be screened, and then walk to their assigned post. Is the additional time it takes supposed to be noted on the Employee Time Tracking form and on the employee’s timesheet in Self-Service?

A: At this time, no. If information is needed in the future for these circumstances, we will work to develop an estimate for individual facilities. Thank you for asking!

Child care

Q: Some school districts are providing childcare coverage for children aged 12 and under who are children of state and county corrections employees. I didn’t see my specific job on the Governor’s school closings order, what should I do?

A: Every DOC employee who the agency determines is doing work related to the response to COVID-19 is covered – whether they think they see their title or position spelled out in the list or not. If a question remains after that guidance, the appropriate executive team member will make a determination. Please work with your supervisor. If an employee desires or a school district requests, we will provide a brief letter signed by the Commissioner declaring the employee is eligible.

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