NESPELEM - Through two broadcast email, June 29, Colville Tribal Human Resources Department issued an update on travel restrictions for tribal employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first memorandum notes the tribe has amended tribal employee policies in response to COVID-19.
The memo reads, “Please be advised that the Colville Tribes strongly recommends restricting travel anywhere outside of the Reservation boundaries during this pandemic. There has been a national resurgence of COVID-19 cases due to recent lifted restrictions. Particularly important is in areas identified as ‘hotspots’ such as Yakima County which is currently fourth in the nation for positive COVID-19 cases. Although we understand required travel may be out of our control at times, we have put in place amended policies that will apply to these situations.”
On March 16, Colville Tribal Executive Director Francis Somday announced a ban on travel for tribal employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That travel ban prohibited employees from non-essential conferences, trainings and similar travel, though it made an exemption for employees in the medical field.
The June 29 memorandum from tribal HR notes, “If an employee travels outside of the area there will be strict quarantine measures implemented upon return. If the travel is by choice of the employee they will be required to utilize their own personal leave for the duration of the quarantine, which in some cases may be upwards of two weeks to allow for a medically-verified negative test result for the contagious/infectious illness prior to returning to work. There will be times that employees will be required to travel outside of the area for employment purposes and in these situations Admin leave will be granted to the employee. So far the Tribes have done an admirable job at limiting possible exposure of the COVID-19 virus thus limiting our cases here on the Reservation but now is not the time to ease our concerns and cautions. Please continue to wear your masks, practice social distancing and limit your travel as much as possible in order to keep all of our loved ones safe.”
The memorandum also references an amended section of the Colville Tribal Employee Policy Manual, which reads, “5.17.2 Contagious/Infectious Illness Reporting: Employees must immediately report a contagious/infectious illness or exposure to a contagious/infectious illness to their immediate supervisor. This duty includes potential exposure as a result of large social gatherings, travel, or other voluntary away-from-work actions on the part of the employee. Supervisors have the responsibility to use their best judgment to develop an appropriate course of action to protect other employees including but not limited to requiring an employee to use their accrued leave to be absent from work and to present a medically-verified negative test result for the contagious/infectious illness prior to returning to work. If the employee has no leave balance, leave may be advanced. Supervisors are encouraged to contact Human Resources. As the official custodian of employee records, Human Resources shall receive and maintain all medical documentation received from the employee.”
The second memorandum reads, “In order to ensure the safety of CCT reservation residents, it is imperative to follow the guidelines regarding “Stay Home Stay Safe” and adhere to the closure of the reservation borders to nonessential traffic. Travel restrictions are in place to ensure the Colville Confederated Tribal members and employees remain minimally affected by COVID-19 virus.”
That memorandum issues clarification concerning tribal orders. It provides the following list:
Essential Travel: (Use of appropriate protective equipment and social distancing required)
• Grocery shopping (Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, etc.)
• Health care appointments (Doctor, Dentist, Physical Therapist, etc. )
◦ Traveling to-from work
◦ Authorized transports (Client health care appointments)
◦ Program pick up/delivery (supplies/goods/services)
Restricted Travel: (Requires self-quarantine)
· All travel to COVID-19 hotspots: Check for weekly updates (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/washington-coronavirus-cases.html
· Recreation, leisure or entertainment purposes. (Concerts, casinos, movie theaters, etc.)
· Visits and/or functions with family, friends or acquaintances. (Reunions, funerals, birthdays, Pow Wows, Sporting events, etc.)
· Social gatherings (Parties, BBQ’s, Cookouts, ceremonies, etc.).