FAQs for staff

Our amazing staff is at the forefront of protecting our residents and each other from the spread of COVID-19. Your tireless efforts to support our residents and our community operations are helping contain the virus to a relatively few number of people across four of our eight communities. We are deeply grateful for your commitment to our mission during a time that is challenging for everyone personally and professionally.

We care about your well-being and strongly urge all of you to take necessary precautions both at work and in your personal lives to stay healthy and protect those around you. This page is intended to share consolidated information that has been shared in prior memos. We will do our best to update this website with the latest information.

Here you can find FAQs about:

 

FAQs about general employee safety

What is Era Living doing to protect our workplace from COVID-19?

As you know, the elderly residents we serve are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and we have taken swift, responsive action to protect our communities from the spread of this virus. We began implementing protective actions at the onset of the virus’s identification in this area. We have worked closely with local and federal health officials and adjusted our response as the situation has evolved. You can read more about our response here.

What communities have positive cases and how widespread is the outbreak?

To date, we have not experienced significant virus outbreaks at any of our communities. There are currently a limited number of cases across some of our eight retirement communities. You can view the latest information here.

How should I protect myself?

We urge you to practice vigilance both at work and in your personal life, to protect yourself, your families, your co-workers, and our residents. We ask that you:

  • Remain compliant with the Governor’s “stay home, stay healthy” order. When you are at work or other essential outings, stay at least six feet away from others when feasible. In public or work settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, the CDC is now recommending that everyone wear non-medical cloth masks.
  • As of May 18, non-medical masks are required for all staff on shift in our communities. We strongly encourage all staff to also follow the City of Seattle Health Officer Directive on mask use when you are in public settings outside of work.
  • Practice recommended personal hygiene habits in and outside of work, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and coughing into a tissue or your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands.
  • While at work, do not engage in unnecessary contact with residents, such as hugging, hand holding, etc.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there, wear a cloth mask, and keep 6 feet away from patients.
  • Stay away from people who are ill.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first. As a reminder, if you are enrolled in the Era Living healthcare plan, you can talk to a doctor 24/7 without leaving your home via Teledoc. Visit Teledoc.com/Aetna or call 1-800-835-2362 to enroll.
  • Practice self-care. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong. Take a break from social media and the news when you can, and do something that makes you feel good instead.

I’m concerned about my safety or the safety of others in our community. Who should I talk to about this?

It’s our goal that everyone feels safe and supported at this time. We encourage you to first talk to your supervisor or your Executive Director about your concerns. If you are still concerned, then we want to hear from you at the home office. You can email safety@eraliving.com with your concerns or report them anonymously by phone at 206-470-8012.

Why do I have to be screened every time I show up to work?

Screening employees is an important precaution to ensure the safety of our residents, other employees, and their families. It’s also a requirement mandated by the Governor.

Should I wear a cloth mask to work? Is it required?

As of May 18, a cloth face mask is required at work in our communities. Here is more detailed information on this:

  • Staff, guests, and residents are encouraged to obtain or make their own masks, but the community will also attempt to source donation masks and place them at the front desk for those who may need them.
  • Staff and residents are encouraged to obtain or make at least two non-medical masks each.
  • The masks may be re-used for a longer period of time with daily washing with soap and water and drying at temperatures of at least 140 degrees F.
  • Ensure they fit you well and tightly cover your mouth, nose and chin so that no air sips around the mask.
  • Homemade fabric masks or commercially made cloth masks may offer limited protection depending on quality. They should not be used in place of full personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for COVID-19 ill residents unless there are absolutely no other options. At this time, we have the PPE we need to care for residents.
  • Each community is encouraged to accept donations of non-medical masks and also allow residents capable of making these masks to do so by facilitating the work as a life enrichment activity from their apartments.
  • All new non-medical masks available for general use at the front desk will first be washed by housekeeping staff before offering them for use.

 

FAQs about what to do if you have symptoms of illness or suspected COVID-19 exposure

What should I do if I feel sick or suspect I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?

It is required that you report any signs of illness or any suspected exposure to COVID-19 to your supervisor by phone. It is important that you not report to work until you have been authorized to return by your Executive Director or supervisor (who must receive authorization from Albert Munanga, Regional Director of Health and Wellness and Karen Nordby, Regional Director of Operations). Please visit this page for more details on what to do if you are sick.

As a first responder in health care, you are eligible to use the University of Washington’s drive-through testing clinic. Please reference prior communications or contact your supervisor for instructions. Additionally, depending on test kit availability, you may be able to be tested by Era Living. Please discuss with your Executive Director.

King County Public Health is also offering options for employees of assisted living communities if you have symptoms and are unable to obtain a test through your health care provider. Please fill out their online survey here to determine eligibility.

I had symptoms of illness and/or tested positive for COVID-19. When can I return to work?

Employees who are sick and have been diagnosed to have COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 due to known or unknown exposure should stay home until the following conditions have been fulfilled:

  1. Follow-up testing has been  completed and is negative, and all symptoms have completely resolved for at least 72 hours. OR, it has been at least 14 days from date of the last symptom without fever-reducing medications provided.
  2. The Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and Regional Director of Health and Wellness, Albert Munanga, have provided approval to your supervisor or Executive Director for you to return to work. A doctor’s note for an employee to return to work is not sufficient at this time.

Employees with other symptoms of illness who have tested negative for COVID-19 may return to work when:

  1. All symptoms have completely resolved for at least 72 hours
  2. The Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and Regional Director of Health and Wellness, Albert Munanga, have provided approval to your supervisor or Executive Director for you to return to work. A doctor’s note for an employee to return to work is not sufficient at this time.

I work at another senior living community or skilled nursing facility that has a positive COVID-19 case. What should I do?

All employees are required to report potential exposure to COVID-19 to their supervisor or Executive Director. If you work at another community, please notify your supervisor by phone as soon as you learn about a positive case there. It is important that you not report to work at an Era Living community until it’s been determined by the Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and the Regional Director of Health and Wellness Albert Munanga, that it is safe to do so.

 

FAQs about supportive resources (including COVID-19 related benefits)

What emotional support resources are available to me?

We recognize that the uncertainty of this situation is causing a lot of anxiety and angst. We encourage you to take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you would like any professional support through this. As a reminder, this is a free and confidential service available to all Era Living employees. Follow instructions given in previous memos or contact Human Resources for more information. There is a special resource section related to the coronavirus pandemic here.

If you are finding yourself with heightened anxiety, you may find the “Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook”, published by The Wellness Society, helpful.

With schools closed, I am in need of childcare. Do you have an resources to help me with that?

If you are a resident of King County and in need of childcare, you should be eligible to apply for free emergency childcare for first responders and essential workers, announced by King County Public Health here.

Will I get paid while out for an extended time related to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure?

Your Executive Director or supervisor will have more information if you need to take time off because of COVID-19 health reasons. A Time Off Request Form will need to be completed.

In response to COVID-19, we have temporarily expanded our sick policy, to help alleviate potential financial and other concerns that employees have felt while quarantined from work. If you are out for up to 14 continuous calendar days for reasons related to COVID-19 outlined below, then we’ll provide additional sick time that covers whatever shortfall your sick bank doesn’t cover during those 14 days. If you’re out longer than 14 continuous calendar days, you will also have the option to take an advance of up to five days of sick time (HR will be providing more details on this policy). You will then draw from vacation, if hours are available in your vacation bank.

This benefit is available if you need time off from work for any of the COVID-19 related reasons listed below:

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19
  • You are caring for a member of your household who is COVID-19 positive
  • Your healthcare provider has advised you to stay home because of one or more of the following: you are age 65 years or older, have an underlying health condition, or you live with a high risk person. You may be asked to provide a certification from your healthcare provider, if applicable.
  • You are asked by Era Living for the reasons listed below to quarantine for 14 days or until testing can confirm you are negative for COVID-19. We are referring to this as “ERA-Quarantine” on time off request forms.
    1. You are experiencing symptoms
    2. You were possibly exposed while at work at an Era Living community
    3. You were possibly exposed while at work at a different company
    4. You were possibly exposed by a member of your household

The amount of additional hours available to you is dependent upon three things: your sick bank, how many hours you are scheduled for the time you are on leave, and the length of your leave (a leave could be shorter than two weeks). Click here to view examples of how this works.

This benefit is designed to help employees who would otherwise run out of sick time so that they can continue to be paid while being out. Further, it is designed to help employees from depleting their vacation banks. Please read about Washington State benefits available to you should you exhaust all your banked time, outlined below.

This benefit was announced April 22, 2020, and is retroactive to March 1, 2020. We will be reviewing Time Off Requests to identify those who took time off for the reasons listed above to pay them sick time they didn’t have at the time and, if applicable, replenish vacation hours. If you were absent for one of the reasons above and did not complete a Time Off Request, please do so immediately. If you have any questions about this benefit, please reach out to Human Resources.


In the event that you are out for an extended time, and you exhaust all paid time off options available through Era Living, Washington State has also enacted a number of benefits to support people who lose income as a result of COVID-19. Healthcare workers who are sick with COVID-19 or who are quarantined may be eligible for unemployment benefits or L&I time loss and medical treatment benefits. Visit the websites for the Employment Security Department (ESD) or Labor and Industries (L&I) to learn more and apply for benefits. You may also try to contact them by phone, but hold times tend to be extremely long (ESD: 360-902-9500; L&I: 800-547-8367). It may be helpful to note that unemployment or other state benefits do not typically pay at 100% of what you would receive through the use of company-sponsored time off banks. Below are several scenarios:

  • I was directed to quarantine by Era Living. If this applies to you, you should apply for unemployment benefits after exhausting time off benefits outlined above. The ESD has indicated that employees who are quarantined as a precaution by their place of employment are likely eligible for unemployment benefits should they run out of banked time off. Employees should file with the ESD here.
  • I believe I contracted COVID-19 through exposure at work: If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and you believe you contracted the virus through exposure at work, then you should notify your supervisor and file a claim online through L&I FileFast. Employees in this scenario may be eligible for benefits that might include both time loss and payment for treatment. The claim process should begin as soon as possible starting the first date of quarantine.
  • I have contracted COVID-19, but did not contract it at work: If you have a non-work related diagnosis of COVID-19, then you may qualify for FMLA (unpaid) and/or Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (paid through state benefits). Eligibility is specific to your situation, so please communicate through your supervisor or reach out directly to Human Resources at the home office. The PFML program is also administered through the ESD, and more information can be found here.
  • My healthcare provider has advised me to stay home because I am age 65 years or older, I have an underlying health condition, or I live with a high risk person. You should speak with your supervisor to see if there are alternative work assignments for you. This may or may not be possible, given the nature of the work the we do. If it is not possible, then you will be given a leave of absence that protects your job. Leaves of absence are only paid to the extent you have sick and vacation banks from which to draw, including the additional sick time outlined above. Should you exhaust your banks, you should apply for unemployment benefits.
  • Due to a decrease in workload, I have been temporarily taken off the schedule. You will be given the choice of using vacation or sick time. The ESD considers this a furlough and you should be eligible for unemployment benefits even though you are still employed. Note again that unemployment benefits do not typically pay at 100% of what you would receive through the use of company-sponsored time off banks.

You should note that employees are not likely eligible for benefits through more than one state program– Unemployment, Washington Paid Family Leave, and L&I—at a time. Ultimately, it is up to Washington State ESD and L&I to determine eligibility. If you receive benefits from more than one program, you may be asked to repay a portion.

What happens to my medical benefits if I have to take time off of work due to COVID-19?

Your benefits will continue uninterrupted, even in the event you exhaust your sick and vacation banks, if:

  • You have been quarantined by Era Living
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You must stay home to care for minor children due to school/daycare closure
  • (Beginning April 13, 2020) You are high-risk as defined by the CDC and must self-quarantine

Any unpaid premiums will be put into arrears and withheld in future pay periods upon your return to work.

Have there been changes to other benefits that may help me financially?

401k – The CARES act allows for penalty-free withdrawals and federal tax deferrals for Coronavirus-Related Distributions (CRDs). It also allows required minimum distributions (RMDs) to be waived in 2020. Eligibility requirements apply. For more details, contact Voya at (800) 584-6001.FSA – If you are enrolled in an FSA plan, then you can use those pre-tax funds for additional items. The CARES act reinstated over-the-counter medications without prescription to FSA plans. It also added menstrual supplies.

What else has changed with COVID-19?

There have been lots of changes and things are evolving rapidly. A few that may apply to you could include the extension of due dates for professional certifications (eg, CNA) or the temporary suspension of TB testing. Our goal is to keep you up to date. Please also reach out with questions. We are here to support you!

I heard that the federal government passed a law that gives employees more sick time. Does that apply to me?

No. The FFCRA, which went into effect on April 1, 2020, does not apply to employees at Era Living or any other senior housing provider. Healthcare organizations were specifically exempted from this law. Further, only small businesses are eligible. The positive side of this decision by the federal government to classify us as healthcare providers is that our industry has been listed as a priority recipient of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep our employees safe, and the classification enables our employees to access state benefits as outlined above.