COVID-19 Community Level Increased to High
Face Coverings and Additional Controls Now Required On Site
May 12, 2022
On Thursday evening, May 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-designated Community Level of COVID-19 in Suffolk County was changed from "Medium" to "High." This was done in response to the weekly case rate moving above 200 cases per 100,000 people, and weekly new hospital admissions of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people exceeding 10.0. These are two of the triggers the CDC has set for raising the Community Level, along with hospital inpatient bed usage.
This change in status quickly follows upon the change from "Low" to "Medium" announced two weeks ago.
As a result of this change – and in line with Brookhaven's workplace safety and re-entry plan (VPN may be required) – the Lab is instituting additional controls in the following areas, effective immediately:
- Face coverings are required on the Brookhaven Lab site and within Lab buildings, regardless of a person's vaccination status.
- Face coverings must be worn in all government vehicles when occupied by more than one person.
- Face coverings may be removed by individuals only when in office spaces with floor-to-ceiling walls and fully closed doors, or during intermittent eating and drinking. They may also be removed by individuals outdoors, as long as social distancing (greater than 6 feet) is maintained.
- Everyone on site must also maintain six feet of distance from co-workers, except when alone in an area separated by floor-to-ceiling walls with the door closed. Our recent trends have shown a notable increase in close contacts related to cases of COVID-19 reported by Lab employees.
- When the nature of the physical work requires individuals to be within six feet in order to conduct the work safely, appropriate work planning and face coverings are required.
- Building ventilation systems will be adjusted consistent with the BNL Workplace Safety and Reentry Plan.
- The Deputy Director for Operations must approve any Lab-hosted in-person workshops or conferences with more than 50 attendees. All attendees – visitors as well as Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA) employees – for any in-person, Brookhaven Lab-hosted workshop or conference must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the three days prior to site entry. In addition to lab or pharmacy testing, home tests will be considered acceptable for proof of a negative test (evidence can include a photograph of the negative test result). Workshop/conference hosts will be responsible for checking the testing status of attendees. The Occupational Medicine Clinic (OMC) will also continue to offer voluntary testing for Lab employees on site.
- Large internal (i.e., BSA employees) meetings of more than 50 persons are discontinued until the community level returns to "Low."
- Unvaccinated employees must participate in mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing at OMC. The OMC will contact these individuals with details on testing times.
- Please stay home if you have a fever or are experiencing any COVID 19-related symptoms, and take common-sense precautions to keep yourselves and your colleagues safe as COVID numbers rise.
If you are coming to the Lab site, please remember to bring a face covering. If you forget, your Environment, Safety & Health representative will have a limited supply on hand.
When entering the Lab site, please remember to lower your car window at the guard booth so the officer can see your face. The officer may ask you to lower your face covering for a moment if you are already wearing one.
Employees are encouraged to stay up to date on available COVID-19 boosters. In accordance with CDC and U.S. Department of Energy guidance, employees who are not up-to-date (fully vaccinated plus at least one booster shot) are subject to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
Our primary concern continues to be the health and safety of everyone on site. We will keep employees informed about any additional changes to COVID-19 controls. We remain hopeful that this recent rise in cases will be short-lived. Your continued support of these controls is greatly appreciated.
If you have any questions, please contact me at Ext. 7474.
- Jack Anderson
Deputy Director for Operations
Face Covering Requirements
Over the past two years, there have been many debates about the efficacy of the different types of face coverings that can be used to protect us from COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, universities and organizations like the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists have conducted numerous studies showing clear evidence that some face coverings provide better protection than others.
Cloth face coverings, including gaiters, are no longer acceptable as face coverings for use on the Lab site unless used in conjunction with a surgical mask (i.e. "double-masking," with a surgical mask worn underneath the cloth face covering).
The Laboratory has a supply of KN95 and KF94 face coverings available for employees to wear. These masks provide a superior level of protection for both the wearer and others around them. Contact your Directorate Chief Operating Officer or ESH Manager to obtain these face coverings.
The following is an updated list of acceptable face coverings according to our updated policy, in order from most effective to least effective:
- KN95 and KF94 masks, which are based on an international standard and can seal tightly to your face when properly fitted.
- Disposable surgical-type masks, when adjusted to eliminate gaps around the sides of your face and nose.
- Cloth masks (including gaiters) over a disposable surgical-type mask to enhance their fit and provide multi-layer protection.
- Employees may also voluntarily use a Facepiece Filtering Respirator (N95) by following the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and Respirators Subject Area in SBMS, which includes the following guidance:
- Voluntary use of Facepiece Filtering Respirator (N95): Must be supplied by the Lab.
- The Voluntary Use of Respirators When Not Required By Regulations (TQ-RESP-VOLUNTARY) form must be completed. Refer to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respirators Subject Area for more information.
This new guidance supersedes all previous guidance. This face covering guidance will be reviewed and adjusted as appropriate based on emerging COVID-19 data. The following applies to all face coverings.
- A proper fit over nose and mouth to prevent leaks
- Have a nose wire that fits snugly to nose to prevent leaks
- Fit snugly under chin
- Not have any gaps on the side to allow air in or out
Note: Facial hair, such has bushy beards, may reduce the performance of the mask
Face Covering Maintenance
All face coverings Should be:
- Kept clean and dry
- Changed out if they are soiled or the straps get stretched out
- Changed out if you are struggling to draw a breath
While on Site, Face Coverings
- Must be worn in all indoor public spaces
- Must be worn in government vehicles with more than one occupant
- Must be worn in all cubicle areas
- Can be removed when alone in a private office with walls attached to the ceiling and the door closed
- Can be removed when eating and social distancing is practiced
- Can be removed if other respiratory protection is needed for the task, or a hazard assessment of the work was performed, and other controls are used to perform the work
- If work requires close contact for greater than 10 minutes, you must work with your ESH Representative to perform a risk assessment to determine what protection measures are needed to perform the work safely
NOTE: The sourcing of these masks is very important to ensure quality and reliability. Masks purchased though the Lab's requisition process have been procured through a reputable supplier.
If you have any questions about the use or availability of face coverings, please contact Mike Clancy (Ext. 7651) or Ray Costa (Ext. 8227).