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Coronavirus and Current JPL Guidance

The Lab's official information page on the virus and our response, updated as circumstances change.

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We have organized the information below by category: Access to Lab and Telework, IT Support, Human Resources, Travel, Health on and off Lab, Additional Resources and, to the side, Key JPL Policies. New updates will appear at the top of this page. Anyone not on the JPL network can find the same information (minus access to linked internal sites) at www.jpl.nasa.gov/stateofthelab/.

We recognize many JPLers are facing unique circumstances. If your situation is not addressed below, please discuss with your supervisor and HR business partner. You can also raise any issue through the coronavirus question portal hosted by AskHR. We also encourage you to join the community forum in the #coronavirus Slack channel, which is accessible from personal computers and phones.

Access to Lab and Telework

What personnel are allowed on Lab?

Following discussions with NASA, and in a continued response to the governor’s order on March 19 for all Californians to stay home, JPL implemented restricted access for nearly all personnel as of March 20. The order exempted mission-essential personnel for Mars 2020 and limited staff required to protect current mission operations and the safety and security of critical hardware and Lab facilities.

As of Monday, March 23, Protective Services officers are authorized to deny entry to individuals not pre-approved as mission-essential/critical. Any exceptions, including for short-term access, must be worked through line or project management, approved by the cognizant Director For, and authorized by the Protective Services Division Manager.

To avoid a wasted trip and reduce mutual exposure between officers and personnel, no one should come to Lab without pre-authorized access. Any access privileges granted before March 20 need to be re-confirmed. All personnel must enter through the main (west) gate.

COVID-19 symptoms or other illness: See guidance on appropriate notification.

Safety on Lab: See JPL’s “Safe at Work” protocol for required measures and enforcement procedures in the interest of collective health and safety.

If you've been sick: See guidelines for returning to work.

Cases of COVID-19 at JPL: See the COVID-19 information page

Time charging and leave: See provisional guidance.

For JPLers not designated as mission-essential but included in the "on-call" list, how will the guards know to let them in if they are called to Lab on short notice?

Confirm with your supervisor that you can gain access before coming to Lab for any reason.

How long is mandatory telework expected to last?

Notwithstanding news reports about efforts to restart the economy and modify stay-at-home orders, access to the Lab will remain restricted for the foreseeable future. JPL is planning for an eventual phased return of personnel, and for the carefully-considered approach that would be required.

Since the start of mandatory telework in March, JPL has focused on creating the safest possible conditions for mission-essential personnel working on Mars 2020. In April the Lab expanded access to a limited number of personnel on other critical projects, including SWOT, NISAR, Sentinel-6, RIME, and the WFIRST coronagraph.

“There’s no question in my mind there will be significantly increased telework when this is over,” Director Michael Watkins said at a virtual townhall on May 12. He added that JPL is learning valuable lessons about telework, and is researching a range of remote technologies to support productivity. He also emphasized the value of serendipitous exhanges that can only occur in person.

At the same town hall, Deputy Director Larry James said the Lab plans to develop a new long-term teleworking policy.

What is the updated guidance for badging?

Appointments scheduled after March 27 may not be possible under the current Lab status, and those individuals will be notified. Individuals with urgent badging needs may call the Badging Office at 818-354-5050 for guidance. Priority will be given to the following circumstances:

  • new or replacement badge or credential is on-hand at the Badging Office and ready to be issued
  • current badge is expired
  • the badge is damaged or defective 
How can employees retrieve equipment from Lab?

Employees with a critical need for equipment left on Lab should work through their management.

If I need general office supplies, how do I obtain them?

JPLers who are teleworking and find themselves needing general office supplies should contact their Staff Assistant to place an order. These requests can be placed on a P-card and should be shipped directly to the requestor’s home address. Cardholders and requesters should work closely with their Supervisor and Business Administration Staff to determine the suitability of items before placing P-Card orders. All P-Card orders that will be shipped to an employee’s address must be routed in the P-card Management System (PCMS) for prior approval using the Control Point “Cost Allowability – Drop Shipments” and evidence of supervisor/manager approval must be attached to the order log in advance of the transaction.

If an employee is in immediate need of general office supplies, an alternate option is to purchase items with their personal funds and submit a receipt through the process outlined in Requesting Non-Purchase Order Payment in JPL Rules! All expenses and reimbursements through this option will be costed to the appropriate project. This option should only be used in cases of immediate need when the employee cannot wait for purchase and delivery through the P-card process. It should be noted that ordering general office supplies is intended to allow for an employee to be effective and productive when nothing is available for use at their home during the teleworking period, and should be limited to office supplies which are reasonable and necessary to complete your work.

What if I need to send a package or I'm expecting a package?

If you are expecting items to support mission-critical activities, shipping/receiving is open to individuals pre-approved as mission essential/critical during the following hours:

Receiving: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 to 3:30 pm (open RDOs)

Shipping: 7 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 to 4:15 pm (closed RDOs)

If you are not able to come on Lab and need to retrieve or send a package, obtain approval from your manager, then call Mario Barrientos at 818-393-5544.

Any other questions related to packages should be sent to Central.receiving@jpl.nasa.gov.

What is the guidance for Loan Pool equipment?

Bringing home Loan Pool equipment during the mandatory telework period will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on the sensitivity of the equipment. A procedure has been established to track the logistics of these requests. Approval must first be granted by Loan Pool Management or Loan Pool Lead before submitting the formal request. Details on the procedure can be found at the following JPL wiki page.

How will expanded telework affect parking policies?

To make it easier to retrieve equipment and in consideration of increased parking space during expanded telework, starting Monday, March 16 and until further notice, all employees and affiliates may park on Lab. Ample parking in the structure should be available.

IT Support

Can people needing IT support still get it in person?

The best way to get support is to start by submitting a request through the portal or calling the service desk (818-354-4357). If the issue cannot be resolved remotely, OCIO will work with you on providing in-person support or shipping items out as needed. Critical personnel on Lab still have options for desk-side support.

What is the current IT equipment and delivery process?

All replacement computer systems or mobile devices will be shipped via FedEx Ground. In-person assistance at the ManTech facility off-Lab is only available by appointment and with submission of a Service Request. No pickups or dropoffs are allowed without an appointment and proper face covering. In addition, ManTech is temporarily suspending replenishment notifications for computer equipment and mobile devices, with exceptions only if the device is not working or is out of date to the point of posing a cyber risk to the network. If you have an urgent need, please contact the JPL Service Desk at 4-4357.

Is there a way to disable smartcard login during this time? Many employees are experiencing issues and the help desk is overwhelmed.

OCIO has suspended the transition of new systems to smartcard mandatory authentication, but for security reasons and to honor JPL’s commitments to NASA, users already transitioned will remain on smartcards. If you are experiencing issues, request assistance by submitting a ticket through the IT portal or by calling the help desk (818-354-4357). Depending on the issue, OCIO will either resolve any login issue remotely, or assist with providing a temporary smartcard exemption.

What can I do if my Webex meeting connection is breaking up?

The  OCIO recommends that users use Internet/Computer Audio or have Webex call you at a number of your choice instead of dialing in directly. You must use the Webex app on your computer and/or mobile device to use these options. After you join the meeting via your computer or mobile device, select one of the following:

  • Call Me - Enter a phone number, select Call Me
  • Call Using Computer - Choose this option to connect to audio using VoIP.

If neither option works, try reducing bandwidth:

  • Turn off VPN (you don’t need it for Webex)
  • Turn off video
  • Change VPN to split tunnel
What is the guidance for using JPL cell phones?

As remote working has increased, so has cell phone usage. Although individual JPL phones have unlimited minutes calling plans, the Lab as a whole is close to reaching its usage limit. JPLers are asked to make greater use of WiFi calling and other off-network options: please follow these cell phone tips from the OCIO.

Which communication and collaboration tools are approved for usage?

Several JPL-approved tools are available for use that meet cybersecurity and ITAR requirements, and that receive dedicated support through JPL IT. Some platforms, such as Zoom, are not encouraged due to security and licensing concerns, while Webex offers similar capabilities within JPL-supported parameters. Find a list of recommended tools on JPL Space, or visit https://jplit.jpl.nasa.gov or https://workingremotely.jpl.nasa.gov/residence for a more comprehensive overview.

Are software installs approved by JPL?

JPL wants to remind the community not to download unauthorized software to JPL devices. Before you download or use software that is free, open-source, cloud-based or offered for a trial, the terms and conditions must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Acquisition and Cybersecurity. Installing software on company computing devices opens the organization up to unnecessary exposure. Your diligence and use of OCIO-supported products keep JPL’s data safe. If you feel a new software product would be beneficial to JPL, send your request to AskIT@jpl.nasa.gov

I am able to telework but do not have home internet access. What can I do?

If you are able to telework but lack home internet/WiFi access, you may purchase either of the devices below with manager approval. Both can be ordered from the JPL IT Catalog without signing into the JPL network, and can serve as an interim primary internet connection option. Note: you must have a strong cellular network connection at your home location.

Another option is the “Hotspot” feature on your mobile phone. If your mobile phone has “Hotspot” capability, go to your “Settings” app to enable it for use as needed. To add this capability to your JPL cell phone, you may request enabling a “Hotspot Feature” via the JPL IT Catalog. Hotspot internet access also requires a strong cellular network connection at your home location.

Does ITSD have a page that shows the current status of our tools?

Visit the service status dashboard at https://servicenow.jpl.nasa.gov/sp?id=services_status.

Human Resources

What are my time charging and leave options during mandatory telework?

Human Resources has posted a chart with provisional leave and charging guidance during the COVID-19 outbreak. This guidance may evolve, so stay in close contact with your supervisor and HR business partner.

Given the current burn rate of the Administrative Leave account, we expect to be able to provide paid administrative leave for those in need for the foreseeable future. We are in ongoing discussions with NASA and campus on what types of reductions in work hours are covered under the Administrative Leave code.

How can the Lab accommodate JPLers with children if we return to Lab while schools are still closed?

JPL will remain as flexible as possible in these unprecedented circumstances. We are looking into different options, such as flexible work hours and continued telework arrangements.

Will JPL allow employees to accrue vacation time above the usual limit?

The Lab will not allow the accrual of vacation hours to exceed the maximum allowable under our policy. We encourage employees to continue taking vacation in order to preserve a healthy work-life balance.

What is the expected impact of the pandemic on budgets and workforce?

NASA has indicated that budget impacts attributable to the pandemic will be reimbursed. However, JPL is at historically high staffing levels that are expected to decrease gradually for reasons unrelated to the pandemic.

JPL is awaiting guidance from campus on merit increases for this year’s annual salary review cycle, and will need to be sensitive to Caltech’s decision to forego merit increases this year for campus staff and faculty.

Is there a plan for the summer internship program?

During the COVID19 pandemic, JPL is working to provide as many educational and professional benefits as possible for our student interns. The vast majority of our current interns have converted to telework-compatible projects, including coding, computer aided design, data analyses, report and manuscript writing activities. The remainder either postponed or terminated their internships.

If mandatory telework continues into the summer, JPL plans to honor commitments to all willing and able student interns with telework-compatible work and projects. To date, approximately 400 students have accepted JPL offers for internships this summer. However, travel restrictions may affect prospective interns’ ability to undergo the required in-person screening for JPL credentials. We are staying in contact with our future interns, their hosting organizations, and partner/stakeholder offices to arrive at the best possible balance of educational development and student safety.

Will there be additional opportunities to pick up my office chair for use at home?

If you have a medical need and require your office chair, please reach out to Paul Simoneau (paul.a.simoneau@jpl.nasa.gov) in Human Resources.

Will the timing of the ACC process change?

The ACC process will proceed normally. Coaching conversations and meetings can be held virtually. The deadline for completing ACCs remains June 30, 2020.

Travel

What is the latest travel guidance?

Effective immediately, any domestic or international travel is limited to mission-essential purposes and requires approval from your Director for. JPL is defining “mission-essential” as travel that requires in-person support to delivery, integration and test of flight hardware that may present an unacceptable cost and schedule impact to the mission/project if not performed as scheduled. This definition will not cover all possible scenarios and managers will evaluate the travel request in consultation with the HR business partner. Travelers will be required to document a travel plan with their supervisor and their HR BP, including protective measures to be taken during the trip and upon return. Decision authority for allowance of travel is Programmatic Director for in consultation with the line organization.

All personnel returning from any international travel, whether business or personal, will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of their return. See below for more travel information.

Can I attend conferences or large gatherings?

Travel to conferences or scientific meetings, whether domestic or international, is not considered mission-essential. All conference travel requires authorization at the Director for level.

I want to cancel my travel plans. What should I do?

If your trip was booked by JPL, call Travel Reservations (4-3140) to cancel air/hotel/car reservations. Credit for non-refundable airfare cancellations can be used for future trips for up to a year. If the cancelled trip was for international travel, notify the Foreign Travel Office (FTO) (marie.chinn@jpl.nasa.gov) of canceled trip and withdraw the ANF from the UFO system.

If you purchased your own airfare with an Exception Memo, contact the airline to cancel. Submit an expense report for any non-refundable airfare, with a comment certifying that you will not use this airfare for personal travel. JPL will reimburse you up to the amount on your exception memo.

I want to book new travel. What should I do?

Submit a Travel Request in Concur and/or a forecast in UFO as per normal business practices. If the Travel Request is for international travel, Managers will evaluate the travel request in consultation with the HR business partner. If your international travel is approved, submit ANF at least 15 days prior to departure.

Are JPL employees who are foreign nationals allowed to return to their home country and telework from there during mandatory telework?

This is discouraged, and will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Managers should contact their HR business partners to discuss.

Health on and off Lab

What are symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Learn about the virus and when to seek care.

What should I do if I start to experience symptoms?

As always, employees who are sick are encouraged to stay home to take care of themselves and to avoid spreading illness to co-workers. JPL provides time off for employees to care for themselves and others when they are sick, whether from a cold, the flu or other illness. Eligible employees may use accrued sick leave to be paid for time off due to illness.

Notify your supervisor as usual when taking sick time. If you have interacted with any members of the JPL community in the previous 14 days, inform your supervisor if you believe your symptoms are suggestive of COVID-19. HR has posted detailed guidance on responding to possible cases of infection.

How can I reduce my risk or the risk to others?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone be informed of the precautionary measures they can take to stay healthy:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand cleaners with at least 60% alcohol are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people as COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing by infected people.
  • Wear a cloth face covering in public.

Newly updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the new coronavirus does not spread easily through contact with contaminated surfaces. While it may be possible to become infected from contaminated surfaces or objects, the most likely route of transmission is through close contact with infected individuals, including ones who are not showing symptoms.

For more information, see the CDC’s guidelines on how to protect yourself and visit the CDC website COVID-19 FAQs or the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health publication “Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

What safety measures has JPL taken to protect everyone who may come on Lab?

See JPL’s “Safe at Work” protocol for required measures and enforcement procedures in the interest of collective health and safety. We all want to keep our colleagues and ourselves safe. Anyone who observes an individual not following the protocol while on Lab, should help them adjust their conduct appropriately. If the individual continues not to follow the protocol, or the observer does not feel comfortable approaching them, they should contact the observer’s area lead or supervisor. Area leads and supervisors will follow up with the individual and ensure that the protocol is followed immediately, while keeping all conversations confidential.

Where can I find information on confirmed COVID-19 cases at JPL?

Human Resources is tracking confirmed COVID-19 cases on a site updated regularly with the latest information. Please note this site tracks only incidents in which the employee has chosen to communicate a positive test result to their supervisor or HR.

In any instance where a person with symptoms has been on Lab over the preceding 14 days, JPL will follow established protocols. Any person who may have been exposed will be promptly notified individually and privately. Due to employee health privacy concerns, JPL cannot provide specific information about a person’s identity, medical condition or work location. If you are concerned that you may have come into contact with a colleague who tested positive, and you were not contacted by HR, please contact your HR business partner or supervisor.

Will JPL test personnel coming on Lab?

JPL is consulting medical experts to understand how to employ some testing while protecting the privacy of health information. Self-reported temperature testing is one option under discussion across the agency.

What is the latest public health guidance on face masks?

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans wear non-medical cloth masks, and Los Angeles County published guidance for the suggested use of cloth "face coverings," a term used to distinguish fabric barriers from medical masks that should be reserved for clinical use. California's Department of Public Health also provides guidance on face coverings. Recently cited journals with research on face masks include:

What is the update on availability of COVID-19 testing?

As of April 29, any resident of Los Angeles city and county is eligible for free COVID-19 testing. Tests are by appointment only, and are available at locations throughout the county. Front line workers and individuals with symptoms receive priority. Appointments for individuals not reporting symptoms may fill up during periods of high demand.

What is the reliability of antibody tests?

Commercially available antibody tests for the new coronavirus vary in their reliability, and the presence of coronavirus antibodies does not guarantee immunity to COVID-19. For more information, see the CDC’s guidance on antibody testing and testing for past infection

Do we have resources for employees?

For additional information and resources related to wellness, assessment, self-care and more, employees can talk to a specialist at JPL’s free Employee Assistance Provider, Life Matters. Password "JPL” or (800) 634-6433. Additionally:

  • Live Health Online: Doctors on LiveHealth Online are prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak and can speak with you about your symptoms. Simply tap into care to see a doctor anytime, anywhere. The web-based service that provides access to a physician through an online website, https://livehealthonline.com, is free of charge through June 14, 2020. Anthem HMO participants can also access Live Health Online medical services at no cost. Click here to sign up for free today.
  • Kaiser Telehealth: Kaiser offers a Telehealth service to their members at no charge. Employees enrolled in Kaiser who are interested in Kaiser Telehealth should contact Kaiser’s appointment desk at (833) 574-2273. Kaiser will work with the member to determine if the medical need is best met through an in-person appointment, a call-back by the doctor or Telehealth. Find out more about all the ways you can get care.
  • Another resource available to JPL employees for obtaining information about the Coronavirus is International SOS services for travelers. You can access the JPL member site here. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your manager or HRBP.

Learn more about these resources, and additional telehealth and supportive services available to you, here.

What is the status of tours, large meetings and events at JPL?

Out of an abundance of caution, all public tours and large room reservations at JPL have been cancelled until further notice. Personal tours or qualified visits for families and friends are also cancelled until further notice. Participants will be notified as needed.

Launch events for Mars 2020 at the Cape or at JPL seem unlikely to occur, but the Lab has not made a decision with respect to either location. Explore JPL will be canceled this year due both to the pandemic and to ongoing construction work on the Mall and in Building 230.

What is the status of cafeteria services on Lab?

Starting Monday, June 1, Café 167 will open for takeout service on all workdays including RDO Fridays, offering hot and cold pre-packaged freshly made entrées, breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, snacks and beverages. Personnel on Lab will be able to order online. No orders will be taken inside the cafeteria.

Self-serve salad bars, soda fountains, water dispensers and self-serve coffee will not be available, but Eurest employees will serve coffee and tea. Social distancing measures will be in place in serving areas, and the dining room will remain closed until further notice. Additional precautions include increased café sanitation and contactless food handling.

Payment will be taken in person initially, though JPL’s dining services contractor Eurest is working to add online payments. Touchless payment options will be available, and plexiglass barriers will separate cashiers and customers.

Hours of operation are 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through non RDO Fridays, and 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on RDO Fridays. Cafes 303 and 191 remain closed. Vending machines will remain available around Lab and at the Avanti Market in B114.

Are we making changes in how we clean our facilities?

Facilities teams are disinfecting high-traffic locations throughout the day, such as restrooms and common areas, as well as buses and loan vehicles. Utensils at the cafeteria self-serve bars are being replaced every hour, and self-serve refrigerator handles are sanitized every hour during peak times. The Lab is accelerating an existing initiative to convert hand soap dispensers and sanitizers to touchless use.

JPL currently provides disinfectant for all personnel working on Lab and will continue to do so as part of its Safe at Work protocol.

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