More than 60 percent of the 5,200 staff members at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working remotely.
No staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, a contagious respiratory disease that has spread around the world and can be deadly. But ORNL does have employees that have been put in self-quarantine by the lab’s medical director. That includes staff members who believe they, or a member of their household, may have come in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or a person who has recently traveled to an area where widespread community spread of COVID-19 has been confirmed.
The remote work at ORNL is being done by staff members in a wide variety of jobs that include support functions like accounting, auditing, legal, technical editing, project management, and other activities, as well as researchers who can monitor data remotely or who are using the time to write or edit research publications and similar work, ORNL said in a response to questions on Wednesday.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 staff members continue to work on site, largely in facility operations positions that require hands-on tasks or monitoring, the lab said. These include technicians, front-line supervisors, electricians, firefighters, security personnel, and other types of workers.
“Some tasks have been shuffled to accommodate the need to work from home, but we are continuing to fulfill our mission commitments to the U.S. Department of Energy and the nation,” ORNL said.
In response to questions, ORNL said it has a social distancing policy.
“First, the ability to promote social distancing is the basis for the decision we made to promote staff who can telecommute to do so,” the lab said. “For staff that cannot do their work from home, we have advised staff members to maintain three to six feet of distance and to avoid groups. We moved our cafeterias to carry-out only, removed tables from common areas, and expanded our work-from-home capabilities with more options and greater capacity.”
The lab said it is not monitoring employees through measures such as temperature checks. Temperature checks produce many false positives, since someone might have an elevated body temperature for other reasons, ORNL said. Also, COVID-19 can be spread before an individual experiences any symptoms at all, the lab said.