APPA News

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted June 29, 2020

The Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) has updated a resource guide it has developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to add new sections that address planning considerations for contact tracing during mutual assistance and the use of contact tracing for workplace reentry.

The guide was updated with the input of the American Public Power Association and public power utilities. This is version 9 of the guide, which was released on June 26.

The guide is a living document developed under the direction of the ESCC. It has been updated and distributed regularly by the ESCC Secretariat, based on input from several "Tiger Teams" of industry leaders who are tracking key issues related to this global health emergency.

Planning considerations for contact tracing during mutual assistance

In the new section of the guide that discusses planning considerations for contact tracing during mutual assistance, the ESCC says that investor-owned electric and/or natural gas companies, electric cooperatives, and public power utilities should implement and utilize contact tracing programs to identify and assist employees who may have been exposed to the virus.

“Organizations should consider how those tracing programs would be utilized during a mutual assistance deployment that includes non-native employees/contractors from other organizations,” the guide goes on to say.

Prior to the mobilization of crews, a requesting organization should provide responding organizations, including contractors, with an overview of how it will conduct contact tracing for any mutual assistance crew member who tests positive, or has been exposed to the virus, while deployed.

These contact tracing plans for mutual assistance deployments should consider addressing the following:

Reporting: What process should a mutual assistance crew member use to report a positive test result, symptoms, or possible exposure to the virus? Will the requesting/responding organization provide access to testing and access to medical care for mutual assistance crew members with symptoms?

Mitigate: How will the requesting/responding organization support the isolation of the impacted crew member? Will that crew member(s) be released and required to return home immediately? Will the entire crew be required to isolate, or will they be released from the mission?

Investigate: Will the impacted mutual assistance crew member be included as part of the requesting organization’s internal contact tracing efforts? Will mutual assistance crews be required to complete additional documentation, such as detailed logs and summaries of locations visited, to facilitate contact tracing investigations? If so, how will this be facilitated, and what is the retention policy for that documentation?

Inform: Will the requesting organization be required to inform local health authorities when a mutual assistance crew member reports positive test result to the virus?

In addition, the guide suggests addressing the question of how other native and non-native crews, base camp support teams, other housing support staging site staff, food service staff, and customers will be informed of the potential exposure.

Reentering the workplace and contact tracing

The latest version of the guide also said that as organizations begin to consider when and how to transition employees from working remotely to reentering the workplace, they also should consider contact tracing programs as a tool to identify and to assist employees who potentially are exposed to COVID-19.

These programs are designed to protect workers, their families, and their communities by slowing or stopping the transmission of the virus.

Along with listing typical steps for contact tracing (report, mitigate, investigate, inform and track and follow up), the guide also offers a detailed set of approaches for contact tracing.

The latest version of the guide is available here.