Legislature(2019 - 2020)Anch LIO Lg Conf Rm

07/29/2020 10:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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10:01:31 AM Start
10:01:50 AM Presentation(s): Covid-19 Workplace Safety: Reducing Virus Transmission on the Job
11:15:04 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Teleconference <Listen Only> --
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Presentation: Covid Workplace Safety: Reducing TELECONFERENCED
Virus Transmission on the Job
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
             HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                       Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                        
                         July 29, 2020                                                                                          
                           10:01 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Zack Fields, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative    Jonathan    Kreiss-Tomkins,    Co-Chair    (via                                                               
Representative  Sara Hannan (via teleconference)                                                                                
Representative Andi Story (via teleconference)                                                                                  
Representative Steve Thompson (via teleconference)                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Grier Hopkins                                                                                                    
Representative Sarah Vance                                                                                                      
Representative Laddie Shaw                                                                                                      
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
Representative Kelly Merrick (via teleconference)                                                                               
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION(S):  COVID-19 WORKPLACE SAFETY: REDUCING VIRUS                                                                     
TRANSMISSION ON THE JOB                                                                                                         
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SHELLY MILLER, Professor of Mechanical Engineering                                                                              
University of Colorado Boulder                                                                                                  
Boulder, Colorado                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
JULIA LUONGO, PhD, Air Quality Consultant                                                                                       
Ramboll Shair                                                                                                                   
San Francisco, California                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
ANDREW ELSBERG, MD, Emergency Physician                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
JAKE METCALFE, Executive Director                                                                                               
Alaska state employees Association/ American Federation of                                                                      
state, County, and Municipal Employees                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
CHARLES BRASINGTON                                                                                                              
Department of Law                                                                                                               
City & State                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
JOSHUA WILSON, Business Agent                                                                                                   
Alaska Correctional Officers Association                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
MARVIN JONES                                                                                                                    
Unite Here Local 878                                                                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the presentation on COVID-                                                              
19 workplace safety.                                                                                                            
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:01:31 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  ZACK FIELDS  called the  House  State Affairs  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to order at  10:01 a.m.  Representatives Hannan                                                               
(via teleconference),  Story (via teleconference),  Thompson (via                                                               
teleconference), Kreiss-Tomkins (via  teleconference), and Fields                                                               
were present at the call to order.                                                                                              
^PRESENTATION(S):  COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Reducing Virus                                                                    
Transmission on the Job                                                                                                         
  PRESENTATION(S):  COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Reducing Virus                                                               
                    Transmission on the Job                                                                                 
10:01:50 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS announced  that the only order  of business would                                                               
be  a  presentation on  COVID-19  workplace  safety and  reducing                                                               
virus transmission on the job.                                                                                                  
10:03:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SHELLY  MILLER, Professor  of Mechanical  Engineering, University                                                               
of  Colorado Boulder,  provided her  background in  air pollution                                                               
engineering with  a specialty in  indoor environments.   She said                                                               
her focus  is on indoor  sources of  pollution and how  to reduce                                                               
exposure  to   toxic  contaminants,  including   indoor  airborne                                                               
infectious  disease transmission.    She  informed the  committee                                                               
that she has  been actively involved in  the coronavirus pandemic                                                               
since March as  one of the 36 world experts  who petitioned World                                                               
Health  Organization  (WHO)  to  recognize that  a  component  of                                                               
COVID-19  was being  transmitted through  inhalation exposure  to                                                               
virus-containing  particles.     Subsequently,  WHO  acknowledged                                                               
inhalation as  one of three potential  transmission routes, along                                                               
with exposed  surfaces and respiratory  droplets.   She expressed                                                               
particular   concern  about   airborne  transmission   of  virus-                                                               
containing  particles  that  can  be  inhaled  from  the  general                                                               
environment.   She explained that  the source of  those particles                                                               
is infected individuals who could  be asymptomatic.  She stressed                                                               
the   importance  of   reducing  the   source  of   exposure  and                                                               
controlling  the  emissions  from   infected  individuals.    She                                                               
pointed out  that masks are  an engineering source control.   She                                                               
said  limiting the  contaminants  from  entering the  environment                                                               
raises  the chances  of controlling  the problem.   Additionally,                                                               
she recommended  social distancing because more  distance between                                                               
people  decreases the  concentration of  airborne particles  they                                                               
generate and lowers the chance  of inhaling those particles.  She                                                               
reiterated  that  without  the  protection  of  masks  or  social                                                               
distancing, the risk  of exposure is high.  She  pointed out that                                                               
another way  to reduce infection  risk in buildings is  to ensure                                                               
that they  are providing  100 percent outside  air to  dilute the                                                               
concentration  of potentially  infectious  particles.   She  also                                                               
recommended  that  buildings   avoid  recirculating  indoor  air;                                                               
however, if  they must, she  suggested a  filter with at  least a                                                               
MERV-13 rating  or air  cleaners to  reduce the  concentration of                                                               
virus-containing particles in  the air.  In order  to contain the                                                               
pandemic  by limiting  exposure and  reducing risk,  she strongly                                                               
recommended using all the  available approaches, including masks,                                                               
social distancing, better building  ventilation, and limited time                                                               
10:07:41 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS asked if unmasked  individuals who are seven feet                                                               
apart could transmit COVID-19 via aerosol transmission.                                                                         
DR.  MILLER  answered  yes.    She  explained  that  an  infected                                                               
individual  who is  not  wearing  a mask  and  talking loudly  is                                                               
generating particles that possibly  contain the virus, which once                                                               
in the  air, can travel  for many  meters, stay aloft  for hours,                                                               
and circulate the entire room.                                                                                                  
10:08:48 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS questioned  whether experts  have considered  if                                                               
the virus can  be transmitted through a  building's ductwork from                                                               
one room to another.                                                                                                            
DR. MILLER said  experts have been actively  trying to understand                                                               
that  questions by  analyzing specific  outbreaks, including  the                                                               
Diamond  Princess outbreak  and  others  in indoor  environments.                                                               
She  explained that  it is  concerning  because other  infectious                                                               
diseases are transmitted through  the ductwork in buildings, such                                                               
as the  flu and  tuberculosis, which is  why 100  percent outside                                                               
air and recirculating with MERV-13 filters is recommended.                                                                      
10:10:09 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  questioned whether  the average  building's HVAC                                                               
system introduces 100  percent outside air in each  cycle or some                                                               
recirculation is typical.                                                                                                       
DR.  MILLER asserted  that  buildings are  not  designed for  100                                                               
percent outside  air because  it is less  energy efficient.   She                                                               
said  most  buildings  are  designed  and  operated  for  thermal                                                               
comfort, which  provides 20  percent outside  air and  80 percent                                                               
recirculated  air.   She further  noted that  areas that  require                                                               
more heating  or cooling  rely heavily  on recirculated  air that                                                               
has been  conditioned and less  on outside air.   She recommended                                                               
the addition  of supplemental air conditioning/cleaning  from air                                                               
purifiers,  which  requires  a   HEPA  filter  recirculating  air                                                               
cleaner, if 100 percent outside air cannot be introduced.                                                                       
10:11:28 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS  inquired  about   the  science  behind  UV  air                                                               
treatment in ductwork in an addition to filtration.                                                                             
DR.  MILLER said  for  recirculated  air, UV  light  is a  viable                                                               
option  to  disinfect airborne  virus  as  it moves  through  the                                                               
ductwork.  She  only recommended UV light if  the installation of                                                               
a MERV-13 filter is not possible  for a specific HVAC system with                                                               
lower filtration capabilities.   She noted that it  would have to                                                               
be  designed   and  operated  by  an   engineer  for  maintenance                                                               
10:13:36 AM                                                                                                                   
JULIA  LUONGO,  PhD,  Air   Quality  Consultant,  Ramboll  Shair,                                                               
informed  the  committee  that  she received  her  PhD  from  the                                                               
University  of  Colorado  Boulder  studying  indoor  air  quality                                                               
dynamics and  how ventilation systems impact  indoor air quality.                                                               
She  noted that  she is  a mechanical  engineer -  not a  medical                                                               
doctor -  speaking from the  standpoint of aerosol science.   She                                                               
introduced   the  difference   between  droplets   and  aerosols.                                                               
Droplets, she said,  are larger particles that  fall quickly from                                                               
the  air and  could land  on someone's  body, while  aerosols are                                                               
smaller particles released when  breathing, talking, or coughing,                                                               
which float  through the  air and  could be  inhaled.   She noted                                                               
that Aerosols  stay afloat for  hours and consequently,  could be                                                               
responsible for  both short-  and long-range  virus transmission.                                                               
She said  architectural variety  is one  of the  most challenging                                                               
aspects of  controlling indoor air  quality.  Every  building has                                                               
different ventilation systems,  layouts, building materials, age,                                                               
or occupancy  density, which  all impact  indoor air  quality and                                                               
therefore,  risk of  aerosol transmission.   She  reiterated that                                                               
there  isn't  a  one-size-fits-all   plan  for  mitigating  viral                                                               
transmission risk indoors.   She stated that the  rate of outdoor                                                               
air  ventilation  is  one  of the  most  important  factors  that                                                               
impacts  the  risk of  indoor  aerosol  transmission.   In  other                                                               
words, bringing  in more outside air  can dilute virus-containing                                                               
particles and  reduce the risk  that an individual  could breathe                                                               
in enough virus to become infected.   She noted that it's not yet                                                               
known how many particles are  required to initiate infection, but                                                               
increasing  dilution  or  ventilation  reduces the  risk  that  a                                                               
sufficient  number  of  viral particles  are  be  encountered  by                                                               
someone inside.   Per WHO, she listed "the three  Cs" that reduce                                                               
risk:  crowded spaces,  close contact  settings, and  confined or                                                               
enclosed  spaces  with  poor  ventilation.    She  stressed  that                                                               
ventilation systems do not always  work as designed; further, the                                                               
American Society of Heating,  Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning                                                               
Engineers  (ASHRAE)  convened  a  panel  of  experts  who  issued                                                               
recommendations for  infection control with  ventilation systems.                                                               
ASHRAE  recommended  knowing  the environment  and  taking  great                                                               
caution if poor ventilation, confined  spaces, high occupancy, or                                                               
high  emissions are  present.   She informed  the committee  that                                                               
wearing masks,  increasing distance,  and increasing  outdoor air                                                               
ventilation   rates  can   help  reduce   the  risk   of  aerosol                                                               
transmission indoors.   Regarding  HVAC systems,  she recommended                                                               
disabling  demand control  ventilation  and  opening outdoor  air                                                               
dampers  to  100  percent; keeping  ventilation  systems  running                                                               
longer hours;  and bypassing energy recovery  ventilation systems                                                               
that could  leak potentially contaminated  exhaust air  back into                                                               
the outdoor air  supply.  She also  recommended prioritizing time                                                               
spend outdoors,  reducing time of exposure,  and controlling risk                                                               
factors,   such   as   providing   added   filtration   and   the                                                               
aforementioned air cleaning strategies.                                                                                         
10:19:57 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMPSON  sought   to  clarify  whether  aerosols                                                               
travel long distances.                                                                                                          
DR. LUONGO  confirmed that.   She said  aerosols can  stay afloat                                                               
for many hours and are impacted by air currents.                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FIELDS noted  that the state has  not implemented safety                                                               
controls for  buildings occupied by state  employees, psychiatric                                                               
facilities,   correctional   institutions,  or   long-term   care                                                               
10:21:04 AM                                                                                                                   
ANDREW ELSBERG, MD, Emergency  Physician, said SARS-CoV-2 appears                                                               
to  be transmitted  both by  droplet and  aerosol.   He explained                                                               
that  droplets are  a  "friendlier"  environment for  coronavirus                                                               
and,  depending on  the surface,  remain stable  for 8-72  hours;                                                               
however, surface  transmission is  not considered a  large driver                                                               
of transmission and can be  mitigated by hand hygiene and regular                                                               
surface  cleaning.    He  stated  that  close  physical  contact,                                                               
talking  closely, coughing,  or sneezing  in close  proximity are                                                               
the  primary drivers;  hence, the  social distancing  guidelines,                                                               
policies against working when  symptomatic, and justification for                                                               
mask  mandates.    He  added that  aerosols  are  problematic  in                                                               
prolonged   enclosed  exposure,   such  as   offices,  cars,   or                                                               
airplanes.   He  listed several  real-world examples  of possible                                                               
aerosolized spread, including the  restaurant in China, the choir                                                               
practice in Washington,  and the call center in South  Korea.  He                                                               
pointed out  that aerosolized  virus appears to  be stable  for a                                                               
shorter time  compared to droplets;  however, if  an asymptomatic                                                               
individual  is shedding  the virus  at work,  the virus  is being                                                               
replenished into the environment  and could spread throughout the                                                               
office.   He  reported that  the Center  for Disease  Control and                                                               
Prevention (CDC)  recommends N95 masks for  healthcare workers in                                                               
direct contact  with patients who  tested positive  for COVID-19.                                                               
He emphasized  the importance of  decreasing the amount  of virus                                                               
that  could  enter   an  environment.    He   reported  that  the                                                               
positivity  rate has  more than  tripled and  continues to  trend                                                               
upwards  despite having  broad-based asymptomatic  screening that                                                               
dilutes results  relative to other  states.  In Alaska,  he said,                                                               
there  were 51  hospitalizations  in July  compared  to 15  total                                                               
hospitalizations  in   the  month  of   June.    He   shared  his                                                               
understanding  that  decreasing  the  amount  of  coronavirus  in                                                               
Alaska's  communities by  implementing  mask  mandates in  shared                                                               
indoor spaces  and limiting  gathering size  and capacity  in all                                                               
indoor spaces could mitigate the  escalating outbreak and improve                                                               
workplace  safety.    He  opined   that  continuing  the  current                                                               
statewide strategy  would not  change behavior  or the  spread of                                                               
disease.   He shared his  belief that strong sick  leave policies                                                               
are  also necessary,  which  should  actively discourage  working                                                               
while even  mildly ill.  He  said using a "doctor's  note policy"                                                               
would  help maintain  health care  capacities.   Additionally, he                                                               
advocated   for   a   universal  masking   policy   to   decrease                                                               
transmission.   He  explained that  masking  decreases spread  by                                                               
droplets and would  lower the amount of virus  in an environment,                                                               
likely decreasing  the amount of  aerosolized virus as well.   He                                                               
opined that  basic surgical  masks, if  available, should  be the                                                               
standard, as  studies indicate that  they are twice  as effective                                                               
as cloth  masks.  To  conclude, he  addressed one final  point on                                                               
workplace safety.   He said breakrooms have been  identified as a                                                               
place  of spread  in Alaska,  most likely  because that  is where                                                               
workers let their  guard down and take their masks  off to eat or                                                               
drink.   He recommended  educating workers  on the  importance of                                                               
avoiding congregate areas without a mask or while eating.                                                                       
10:29:26 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  noted that Mr.  Elsberg recommended  a universal                                                               
masking policy  before the  virus spread rapidly  in Alaska.   He                                                               
asked  whether the  risk of  catching coronavirus  is greater  at                                                               
work, home, or in a grocery store.                                                                                              
DR. ELSBERG  indicated that  infection depends  on the  amount of                                                               
virus  an  individual  is  in  contact with  and  the  length  of                                                               
exposure time.   He explained  that brief exposure,  like passing                                                               
someone  in a  grocery  store  while wearing  a  mask, would  not                                                               
likely  lead  to  infection.   He  recommended  minimizing  close                                                               
interaction  with others  and cited  British Columbia's  policies                                                               
based on the  percent of interaction.  He added  that because the                                                               
virus  spreads from  asymptomatic individuals,  prolonged contact                                                               
increases the risk of exposure to  more virus for a longer period                                                               
of time.                                                                                                                        
10:31:42 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  asserted that  coronavirus is  being transmitted                                                               
at  workplaces   and  yet,  workplace  safety   standards  and  a                                                               
universal mask mandate are still nonexistent.                                                                                   
10:32:51 AM                                                                                                                   
JAKE  METCALFE,   Executive  Director,  Alaska   state  employees                                                               
Association/ American Federation of  state, County, and Municipal                                                               
Employees,  informed  the  committee that  ASEA/AFSCME  Local  52                                                               
represents 8,200 state  employees across the state  of Alaska who                                                               
enjoy working  for the state and  want to be safe  in their place                                                               
of work.   He  explained that unions  primarily exist  because of                                                               
workers'  safety  concerns.    In the  1970s,  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature  passed  the  Public Employee  Relations  Act,  which                                                               
includes a declaration of policy that read as follows:                                                                          
      The legislature  finds that  joint decision  making is                                                                    
     the  modern  way  of  administering  government.    The                                                                    
     public employees  have been granted the  right to share                                                                    
     in  the  decision-making  process affecting  wages  and                                                                    
     working conditions.   They have become  more responsive                                                                    
     and better  able to exchange  ideas and  information on                                                                    
     operations  with  their administrators.    Accordingly,                                                                    
     government  is made  more effective.   The  legislature                                                                    
     further   finds   that   the  enactment   of   positive                                                                    
     legislation   establishing    guidelines   for   public                                                                    
     employment  relations is  the best  way to  harness and                                                                    
     direct the  energies of public employees  eager to have                                                                    
     a  voice in  determining their  conditions of  work, to                                                                    
     provide a rational method of  dealing with disputes and                                                                    
     work  stoppages, to  strike when  the merit  principles                                                                    
     where  civil  service is  in  effect,  and to  maintain                                                                    
     favorable  political  and   social  environment.    The                                                                    
     legislature  declares it  is the  public policy  of the                                                                    
     state to  promote harmonious and  cooperative relations                                                                    
     between  government and  its employees  and to  protect                                                                    
     the   public   by   ensuring  effective   and   orderly                                                                    
     operations   of  government.      These  policies   are                                                                    
     effectuated   by  recognizing   the  right   of  public                                                                    
     employees to  organize for  the purposes  of collective                                                                    
     bargaining and requiring  public employers to negotiate                                                                    
     with and  enter into  written agreements  with employee                                                                    
     organizations  on the  matters  of  wages, powers,  and                                                                    
     other terms and conditions of employment.                                                                                  
MR. METCALFE indicated  that safety is one of  the most important                                                               
conditions.   He shared  his belief that  the workplace  is safer                                                               
when the employer and employees  negotiate over those conditions.                                                               
He pointed  out that many  employees have converted  to telework,                                                               
which  is  an  effective  way  to  provide  government  services;                                                               
however, there are state offices  that are requiring employees to                                                               
return  to work.   He  expressed hope  that ASEA/AFSCME  Local 52                                                               
could  negotiate the  health and  safety issues  surrounding that                                                               
issue.   He offered his belief  that the workers who  spend hours                                                               
in state  offices are  the best  source of  information regarding                                                               
workplace health  and safety practices, which  is why ASEA/AFSCME                                                               
demanded to  bargain with  the state.   He  noted that  the state                                                               
denied the request to bargain on  those issues.  He asserted that                                                               
returning to work  during the pandemic is a safety  concern and a                                                               
matter of life and death for  state employees.  He suggested that                                                               
the administration set  up worker councils in  state buildings to                                                               
create a safe  work environment by addressing  issues like social                                                               
distancing, air quality, and a mask  policy.  He pointed out that                                                               
ASEA/AFSCME  provided workplace  safety mitigation  plans to  the                                                               
administration  and  has  yet  to see  any  action  or  response.                                                               
Additionally, with the  help of experts, ASEA/AFSCME  has come up                                                               
with  workplace safety  ideas based  on  employee interests  that                                                               
would  make the  workplace safer.   He  urged the  legislature to                                                               
make the administration follow the law.                                                                                         
10:42:09 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMPSON  asked  how many  state  employees  have                                                               
tested positive for COVID-19.                                                                                                   
MR. METCALFE  answered one employee  at McLaughlin  Youth Center,                                                               
one  employee  at  Alaska Psychiatric  Institute  (API),  one  at                                                               
Department of Health  and Social Services (DHSS), and  one at the                                                               
Pioneer  Home.   He  said  DHSS has  been  good about  contacting                                                               
ASEA/AFSCME  when a  positive test  is identified  in one  of its                                                               
facilities, but  other departments  have not  been as  willing to                                                               
share  that  information.    He  noted  that  there  was  another                                                               
positive case  in the  Atwood building last  week.   He explained                                                               
that  when   a  case  is  identified,   employees  are  primarily                                                               
concerned with  the availability of  testing.  When  that occurs,                                                               
he recommended  implementing COVID-19  testing for  all employees                                                               
to prevent further spread from asymptomatic individuals.                                                                        
10:45:30 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY asked  why the  administration declined  to                                                               
meet with ASEA/AFSCME  to bargain on workplace  health and safety                                                               
MR.  METCALFE said  the administration  sent a  letter expressing                                                               
the  belief  that  they  do  not  have  to  negotiate  on  safety                                                               
conditions involving  the return to  work.  However,  he asserted                                                               
that health  and safety are  mandatory conditions  of bargaining;                                                               
therefore, ASEA/AFSCME  would be filing an  unfair labor practice                                                               
charge.   He  reiterated that  state employees  want to  work and                                                               
would like  to be part of  the solution for creating  a safe work                                                               
environment.  He  opined that the state should  want to negotiate                                                               
with their employees.                                                                                                           
10:48:30 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY  asked  if   ventilation  systems  and  air                                                               
quality have been assessed in state buildings.                                                                                  
MR.  METCALFE  said  he's  not  aware  of  any  action  regarding                                                               
ventilation   in  state   office  buildings.     He   noted  that                                                               
ASEA/AFSCME  provided   information  pertaining  to   the  expert                                                               
testimony from  the previous committee  hearing to  Department of                                                               
Administration  (DOA) and  the governor's  office, but  there has                                                               
been  no response.   He  reiterated that  ASEA/AFSCME's continued                                                               
effort  to share  information and  multiple offers  to meet  have                                                               
been repeatedly denied.                                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS  deduced  that   the  state  has  not  performed                                                               
upgrades to  MERV-13 filters or  changed HVAC systems  to provide                                                               
100  percent outside  air in  any of  the office  buildings.   He                                                               
asked if that is correct.                                                                                                       
MR.  METCALFE   said  he   has  not   been  provided   with  that                                                               
10:50:59 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS asked  how long it typically takes  to resolve an                                                               
unfair labor practice with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency.                                                                   
MR.  METCALFE said  it's a  process that  takes time  to be  done                                                               
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  opined that  refusing to bargain  on a  life and                                                               
death issue is  an obvious violation of state law.   He expressed                                                               
concern  that ASEA/AFSCME  will  ultimately prevail,  but in  the                                                               
meantime, state employees and workplaces  are at risk of becoming                                                               
a   vector  to   further   transmit  the   virus  into   Alaska's                                                               
10:52:08 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS   asked  for  further  detail   on  the  at-risk                                                               
Department of  Law (DOL) employee  who was required to  return to                                                               
work in person.                                                                                                                 
MR.  METCALFE  said  the  employee who  works  in  the  Anchorage                                                               
District Attorney's  Office has  health conditions  that increase                                                               
her  risk of  severe  illness  from COVID-19.    The employee  is                                                               
concerned  about returning  to work  in a  building that  lacks a                                                               
consistent mask or  social distancing policy.   He explained that                                                               
based on  the return-to-work order, ASEA/AFSCME  has requested to                                                               
bargain on  those conditions to  provide workplace  standards and                                                               
mitigation  practices  for  all   employees.    He  restated  his                                                               
suggestion   for  worker   counsels   that   could  discuss   and                                                               
communicate employee needs.                                                                                                     
10:56:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  FIELDS  read  an  email  that  the  aforementioned  DOL                                                               
employee  sent   to  her   supervisors  requesting   to  continue                                                               
teleworking.  The email read as follows:                                                                                        
     I have serious concerns about  coming back to work even                                                                    
     for a few  days a week this soon.   I personally do not                                                                    
     feel   safe  or   comfortable  coming   back  to   work                                                                    
     physically at  this time.   I myself am  extremely high                                                                    
     risk  and  my daughter  is  extremely  high risk.    My                                                                    
     daughter has  an immunodeficiency that puts  her in the                                                                    
     extreme high-risk  category and  her doctors  have even                                                                    
     expressed  that if  she were  to  contract COVID-19  at                                                                    
     this time, she would most likely not survive.                                                                              
10:57:34 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  recapped that prolonged exposure  in a workplace                                                               
or household is  the most likely place to contract  COVID-19.  He                                                               
pointed out that the DOL employee  is being required to return to                                                               
work in an unsafe environment.                                                                                                  
10:58:03 AM                                                                                                                   
CHARLES BRASINGTON, Department of Law, declined to comment.                                                                     
CO-CHAIR FIELDS said it's unfortunate  that for two hearings in a                                                               
row,  state  departments  have   declined  to  testify  on  their                                                               
participation in workplace safety.                                                                                              
10:58:53 AM                                                                                                                   
JOSHUA  WILSON,  Business  Agent,  Alaska  Correctional  Officers                                                               
Association  (ACOA),   noted  that   he  has   been  representing                                                               
correctional officers in Alaska for  over seven years.  Regarding                                                               
PPE, he said officers are  only regularly being offered cloth and                                                               
surgical  masks,  even when  working  in  quarantined areas  with                                                               
suspected  or confirmed  cases  of COVID-19.    He reported  that                                                               
Department  of Corrections  (DOC) is  still fit  testing officers                                                               
for N95 masks; however, those  officers are only provided one N95                                                               
mask  to wear  for the  entire workweek.   He  noted that  in one                                                               
facility,  only size  medium  N95 masks  were  provided, so  many                                                               
officers  failed the  fit test.   He  expressed frustration  that                                                               
Anchorage police officers and Alaska  state troopers are provided                                                               
with  abundant N95  masks, while  correctional officers  are not.                                                               
Furthermore,   he   expressed   concern   about   the   lack   of                                                               
communication  regarding the  identification  of positive  cases.                                                               
He  reported  that,  per  DOC's  website,  there's  currently  15                                                               
remands   who  have   tested  positive   for  COVID-19   and  two                                                               
individuals  that are  part  of the  inmate  population who  have                                                               
tested positive.   He indicated  that DOC continues to  keep that                                                               
information  from the  officers at  the exposed  facilities.   He                                                               
recommended reporting  positive cases  to the entire  facility in                                                               
which they  were identified.   He also  reported that  testing is                                                               
not  being  widely  advertised  or  received.    Furthermore,  he                                                               
expressed  concern about  the ongoing  staffing issue.   He  said                                                               
officers are  being forced to work  on their days off  to make up                                                               
for the staff shortage.  He  noted that this is happening despite                                                               
the legislature funding  a recruitment team for DOC.   He offered                                                               
his  belief that  DOC  knew  the funding  was  approved when  the                                                               
governor signed  the budget  on April  6 and  subsequently became                                                               
available  on  July 1.    He  added that  DOC  has  yet to  start                                                               
recruiting  for  the  recruitment   team,  which  would  fix  the                                                               
staffing shortage.   He opined that with unemployment  at a high,                                                               
there's people that could make  excellent officers and DOC should                                                               
be recruiting them as quickly as possible.                                                                                      
11:02:52 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS asked  for an updated timeline on  the opening of                                                               
the Palmer Correctional Center.                                                                                                 
MR. WILSON  offered his belief  that DOC hired  a superintendent;                                                               
nonetheless, he said there's been  no hiring of officers or staff                                                               
for  that facility  and a  timeline has  not been  provided.   He                                                               
reported that  upper management  from DOC has  not met  with ACOA                                                               
since  April  15 and  DOA  stopped  its  weekly meetings  in  the                                                               
beginning of  June.  He noted  that ACOA sent another  request to                                                               
meet last week and has not received a response.                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR FIELDS informed the committee  that the Hilton Anchorage                                                               
was invited to appear at  today's hearing to discuss coronavirus-                                                               
related  safety  issues;  however,   Hilton  management  did  not                                                               
11:04:48 AM                                                                                                                   
MARVIN  JONES, Unite  Here  Local 878,  said  since the  previous                                                               
hearing, the  Hilton Anchorage reported that  its fourth employee                                                               
has  tested positive  for COVID-19.   He  stated that  Unite Here                                                               
compiled a  survey of 20  questions for various  Anchorage hotels                                                               
to understand  the conditions that  employees are  working under.                                                               
He noted  that the survey  is still  being executed, but  so far,                                                               
many workers  are terrified  to come to  work, especially  at the                                                               
Hilton Anchorage due to their  recent outbreak.  He reported that                                                               
aside from the four confirmed  cases at the Hilton Anchorage, the                                                               
Sheraton Anchorage  Hotel &  Spa had one  confirmed case  and the                                                               
Coast  Inn  also had  one  confirmed  case.   He  explained  that                                                               
several   hotels   are   being   used   to   quarantine   groups.                                                               
Furthermore, he observed that the  Hilton Anchorage has exhibited                                                               
no  change in  behavior since  the  last committee  hearing.   He                                                               
offered  his  understanding that  there  is  a lack  of  training                                                               
related  to COVID-19  procedures for  the workers  at the  Hilton                                                               
Anchorage.    He  also  expressed  concern  about  the  excessive                                                               
leaking in  the Hilton's lobby.   He  urged to committee  to help                                                               
impose  stronger safety  regulations  to protect  city and  state                                                               
workers from the coronavirus.                                                                                                   
11:09:32 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS asked for the  full list of hotels represented by                                                               
Unite Here.                                                                                                                     
MR.  JONES listed  the Sheraton  Anchorage Hotel  & Spa,  Captain                                                               
Cook Hotel, Hilton Anchorage, Coast  Inn, Clarion Suites Downtown                                                               
Hotel,  Four Points  by Sheraton,  Westmark Anchorage  hotel, Sky                                                               
Chefs, and Alsco.                                                                                                               
11:10:24 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS observed that there  have been four times as many                                                               
COVID-19  cases  among  workers  at the  Hilton  Anchorage.    He                                                               
offered  his  belief that  employee  safety  practices do  impact                                                               
whether  a worker  is likely  to catch  coronavirus based  on the                                                               
higher infection  rates at the  Hilton.  He  asked if it  makes a                                                               
difference  when  an employer  takes  steps  to ensure  workplace                                                               
safety during the pandemic.                                                                                                     
MR. JONES said the Captain Cook  Hotel assigned one of its towers                                                               
for  quarantining specific  groups,  including  workers from  the                                                               
North Slope.   He added  that the hotel implemented  a sanitation                                                               
squad specifically  for cleaning the  entire hotel.  He  said due                                                               
to  the hotel's  due diligence,  there  have been  zero cases  of                                                               
coronavirus at that location.                                                                                                   
11:12:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR FIELDS  said he grows  more concerned with  each hearing                                                               
as more  state employees  are being asked  to work  in manifestly                                                               
dangerous  situations.     He  expressed  further   concern  that                                                               
Department  of  Labor  &  Workforce  Development  (DLWD)  is  not                                                               
working on  a set of workplace  safety standards.  He  noted that                                                               
the  federal  government has  been  taken  to court  over  OSHA's                                                               
failure  to issue  workplace safety  standards.   He pointed  out                                                               
that in  Alaska, those workplace  safety standards  are delegated                                                               
to AKOSH.                                                                                                                       
11:13:16 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY echoed  Chair Fields'  concern about  DOA's                                                               
failure  to   appear  at   today's  hearing.     She   urged  the                                                               
administration to  work with  the employee  union and  take these                                                               
safety concerns into consideration.                                                                                             
11:15:04 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
State Affairs  Standing Committee meeting was  adjourned at 11:15                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
How to minimise COVID-19 spread, Morawska 7.29.20.pdf HSTA 7/29/2020 10:00:00 AM
Questions Answered by Professor Lidia Morawska, PhD 7.29.20.pdf HSTA 7/29/2020 10:00:00 AM