Railroad workers included in prioritization for COVID-19 testing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance that cites critical infrastructure workers—which includes railroaders—in its new guidance as priority for those who should be tested for COVID-19.
This is great news for our employees and our company as we continue to address COVID-19. BNSF has been advocating at all levels of government to ensure railroad employees—who have a critical role in our nation’s supply chain—were appropriately prioritized for COVID-19 testing as it becomes more readily available.
We believe that testing is the most effective way to combat the virus, and we also hope that the ability to get tested provides peace of mind to all of us who continue to report for duty every day to deliver the goods and freight that communities depend on.
According to the CDC’s new testing priority guidance, there are three levels of priority for those who should be tested for COVID-19:
- Priority 1: Hospitalized patients and healthcare facility workers with symptoms.
- Priority 2: Those at highest risk of complication of infection, including those in long-term healthcare facilities, those with underlying conditions and first responders with symptoms.
- Priority 3: Critical infrastructure workers with symptoms (which include railroad workers).
Remember, if you’re not feeling well or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.), seek medical attention, but always call your doctor first unless it’s an emergency. If you are symptomatic and visit a doctor, be sure to tell your physician that you work for BNSF, part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. If you’re instructed to home isolate or quarantine, please let your supervisor know immediately.
Quarantine duration for BNSF employees changed from 14 days to seven for particular circumstances
As we learn more about the spread of COVID-19, the CDC also issued revised guidance on recommended quarantines for critical infrastructure employees who have been exposed to people confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19.
Specifically, while the standard quarantine duration is 14 days, those designated as critical infrastructure employees may return to work earlier, provided they show no symptoms. The CDC has additionally provided tools to allow us to conduct risk assessments for the appropriate length of quarantine. This ensures we are able to provide adequate care for those exposed, prevent them from exposing others and have the necessary workforce in place to deliver the essential goods our country needs during this crisis.
After conducting the risk assessment, relying on the latest available science, it is clear that the vast majority of exposures will show symptoms in under seven days after exposure. Given this, BNSF has decided to move to seven-day guidelines for quarantines for those who have had close contact with a positive or presumed positive individual. After the seventh day, if you do not show symptoms, you may return to work after a BNSF Medical clearance interview.
As we have done from the beginning, we will continue to evaluate specific employee situations on a case-by-case basis.
Protecting your health is important, and we believe the revised CDC guidance will greatly assist us in doing so while allowing us to continue our work.
Federal COVID-19 relief legislation and anticipated RRB guidance would allow quarantined employees to file for RRB sick benefits
The U.S. Senate has approved a landmark bipartisan economic relief bill – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) – that is currently anticipated to pass the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday and be signed into law by the President.
The legislation includes various additional benefits available through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), including a benefit for those who cannot report to work because they have contracted COVID-19 or are under a quarantine instruction following exposure. We believe these benefits are the right course of action and are encouraged at their inclusion in the bill.
Due to the urgency of the situation, BNSF acted in advance of the federal government, to relax the attendance policy for COVID-19-related issues and to provide up to the equivalent of four days paid leave if an employee or someone in their immediate household contracted the virus or was directed to quarantine following exposure. After four days, unused Vacation, Personal Leave Days, sick or other paid time off granted under their respective CBA could be utilized.
Assuming the Senate’s CARES Act remains unchanged and is signed into law, and following anticipated new guidance from the RRB, an employee in this situation will be able to file a claim with the RRB for sickness benefits after the equivalent of four days of paid leave offered by BNSF. This additional coverage will provide benefits for those employees quarantined under the new CDC guidance by ensuring they receive some compensation for the duration of the quarantine.
We will continue to stay abreast of CDC guidance and make adjustments as appropriate while ensuring we communicate any new developments as quickly as possible.
Your health and safety is paramount. Let’s all remain diligent in doing our part to help fight the spread of this virus as all of you continue the important work of moving our nation’s goods. Thank you for everything you are doing for team BNSF.
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Fort Worth, TX 76161-0057