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Union shares urgent COVID-19 concerns with state legislators

By SHERRY HALBROOK

With the new surge of COVID-19 infections plunging state health care and other workers into another very dangerous situation, PEF is moving to alert state lawmakers to the urgent needs and concerns for keeping workers and their patients and clients safe.

PEF Vice President and Political Action Chair Randi DiAntonio and the union’s Legislative Office have been working with the Field Services and Health and Safety Departments to arrange meetings with legislators to highlight the abject failure of state agency management to implement and enforce common sense protocols to keep PEF members, their clients and their communities safe from the spread of COVID-19.

“The most egregious of these failures is occurring at the residential facilities – operated by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Office of Children and Family Services, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health – where the state has seen the highest infection rates and deaths from COVID,” DiAntonio said.

PEF continues to fight to make sure that each agency is developing protocols to require:

• Use of masks and appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) by clients and staff;

• Rapid testing of staff and clients who show symptoms or are otherwise exposed to the virus;

• Guidelines to expand agency use of telecommuting to limit staff who are required to physically return to worksites; and

• Stronger communication with staff and clients regarding potential exposures and contact tracing.

“The new, more highly contagious strand of COVID-19 requires state agency management to up its game,” DiAntonio said. “We should not need to be haggling over PPE, requiring masking or instituting social distancing a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were found in New York.”