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The mission of the Alaska Nurses Association is to advance and support the profession of nursing in Alaska. We are a voice for and represent over 7,000 nurses across the entire state of Alaska.
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Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions


The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, and nurses are on the frontlines across Alaska. We've received many, many questions from members about COVID-19 - from PPE and staffing, to personal health risk and lost income. AaNA is committed to providing you with the most accurate, up-to-date information and advocating at every level to ensure you have what you need to safely care for patients during this pandemic. We developed this COVID-19 FAQ section as a valuable resource for you, and we'll be updating it regularly with additional answers and resources. Have a question you'd like to get answered about COVID-19? Email andrea@aknurse.org
 

Health & Safety  

My hospital wants me to reuse N95 masks. Is this safe?

Yes. Although extended use and reuse of PPE is a new concept for most of us, this supply optimization strategy is safe as long as the mask maintains its fit and is unsoiled, and proper donning and doffing procedures are followed. NIOSH has developed guidance on extended use and limited reuse of N95 masks, which you can read here. You can also read the CDC’s optimization strategy guidance here.

What PPE guidelines should I follow?

We recommend following CDC guidelines. These are the guidelines that the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is also following. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, guidelines may continue to change as the science develops, and it’s important to stay in the know. The CDC’s interim infection prevention and control recommendations with PPE guidance are available here.

Who do I report a health & safety issue to?

First, you should communicate your health and safety concern directly to your supervisor or manager, as this can be the quickest and most effective way to correct workplace hazards. You should also complete an incident report at your facility for any event or issue outside the usual operations of your workplace. Make sure you keep a copy of any reports you submit. We also recommend that you fill out AaNA’s Assignment Despite Objection form (or AaNA’s Problem Occurrence Record for PAMC nurses) and contact a union representative at your facility.

You also have the option of submitting an official complaint to OSHA. Submitting a complaint directly to our local OSHA office, AKOSH, is most efficient. You have the right to do this on your own or in consultation with your union. Employers may not retaliate against you for expressing a concern or filing a complaint or a grievance over COVID-19 exposure or interfere with your protected union activity. If you see violations of this, please document them and notify an AaNA representative immediately. AaNA is committed to providing you with the most accurate, up-to-date information and advocating at every level to ensure you have what you need to safely care for patients during this pandemic.

Central Peninsula Hospital & Heritage Place Union Leaders 
Providence Alaska Medical Center Union Leaders 
PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Union Leaders

 

Assignments

Can I decline a patient assignment if I believe the assignment unsafe (due to lack of PPE, lack of social distancing, or lack of training)?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be put in the very difficult position of needing to make a decision about whether to accept an assignment that involves abnormally dangerous conditions which pose an imminent risk to your safety or health.

Where an employer is not providing a safe workplace, you should first request that your employer do so. It’s ideal to make this request in conjunction with your coworkers and/or union, if possible.

You should know that if you refuse an assignment, you risk having disciplinary action taken against you by your employer. If you are part of an AaNA bargaining unit, you have the right to have a union representative present during any disciplinary hearing or meeting which could potentially lead to discipline. You must ask for a union representative; management is not required to inform you of your rights.

You also risk discipline on your nursing license. AaNA attempted to gain clarity about how the Alaska Board of Nursing would treat instances of refusing unsafe assignments related to COVID-19. This is the response we received.

What options are available to me if I am pregnant or have a health condition that puts me at higher risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 complications?

For a nurse who is pregnant or at higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications, we recommend taking proactive steps now to avoid risk of exposure. 

You have the right to request an accommodation from your employer based on your personal health circumstances. You should ask for an accommodation now to not be assigned to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. This would be a request for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). 

You’ll want to consult with your medical provider about your COVID-19 risk and get your provider’s written support for the accommodation you are requesting. If you are part of an AaNA bargaining unit and your request is denied, please reach out to a union grievance officer right away for help.

Special note for pregnant nurses: The CDC currently does not include pregnant women in its high-risk group. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women be considered an at-risk population for COVID-19. This is because pregnant women are known to be at great risk of sever morbidity and mortality from other respiratory infections such as influenza and SARS-CoV. Please consult with your provider about your specific risk and potential accommodation requests.

 

Staffing

Does Alaska’s ‘No Mandatory Overtime for Nurses’ law still apply during this pandemic? Can my employer require mandatory overtime?

Nurses can be required to work overtime during an ‘unforeseen emergency situation’ such as a disease outbreak. Governor Dunleavy issued a public health disaster emergency declaration for COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Therefore, the statutory prohibition on mandatory overtime for nurses is suspended for the duration of the emergency.

While the mandatory overtime statute is suspended by the declared state of emergency, any overtime restrictions, rest between shifts provisions, and on-call provisions contained in your collective bargaining agreement may still remain in effect, depending on the specific language of your contract. You should reach out to an AaNA union leader about the specific situation at your workplace. 

Central Peninsula Hospital & Heritage Place Union Leaders 
Providence Alaska Medical Center Union Leaders 
PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Union Leaders

 

Lost Income

I have been laid off due to COVID-19. What unemployment benefits am I eligible to receive?

If you’ve been laid off from your job, you should generally be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment benefits are intended to assist workers who are out of work due to not fault of their own, by partially replacing the income you would earn if you were still working.

The State of Alaska has a COVID-19 unemployment information page that includes FAQs, an online help guide, and video tutorials.

The fastest way to apply for unemployment benefits is online at my.alaska.gov. You should file for unemployment benefits as soon as you become unemployed. Governor Dunleavy recently signed legislation waiving the one-week waiting period to receive these benefits.

In addition to state unemployment compensation, there is a new, additional type of federal unemployment compensation available. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which was established by the CARES Act, provides an additional $600 per week for each week you are eligible to receive state unemployment benefits. Both types of unemployment compensation (state and federal) are issued by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The federal unemployment compensation does not require a separate application.

My work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19. Am I eligible to receive unemployment benefits?

Working part-time or on-call does not automatically disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits. If your work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19, you should file an unemployment claim with the State of Alaska at my.alaska.gov. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis, and you’ll need to report any hours worked and your earnings each week that you file for benefits.  

The State of Alaska has a COVID-19 unemployment information page that includes FAQs, an online help guide, and video tutorials.

The fastest way to apply for unemployment benefits is online at my.alaska.gov. You should file for unemployment benefits as soon as your hours have been reduced.

 

COVID-19 Exposure

I am awaiting test results or I have tested positive for COVID-19. Can I file a workers’ compensation claim?

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you can file a workers’ compensation claim.

If you are awaiting test results for COVID-19, you are not yet eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Only once you have tested positive are you then able to file.

Workers’ compensation is a system which requires an employer to pay an injured worker’s work-related medical and disability benefits. If you are a healthcare worker who contracts COVID-19, it is presumed that you were infected while at work and are thus eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

This “presumption of compensability” created by the passage of SB 241 will streamline the process for healthcare workers to receive workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19. You must receive a COVID-19 diagnosis by a physician, a presumptive positive COVID-19 test result, or a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to be eligible for workers’ compensation related to the pandemic.

Please follow these directions (“What to do if you are injured”) from the Division of Workers’ Compensation if you are a healthcare worker who contracts COVID-19. You may email the division at workerscomp@alaska.gov. AaNA leaders are also happy to assist with questions you have in navigating this process.  

Alaska Nurses Association  •  3701 E Tudor Road, Suite 208,  Anchorage AK 99507  •  Phone: 907-274-0827 Fax: 907-272-0292  •  Contact Us