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Coronavirus Pandemic - Updated April 9, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic - Updated April 9, 2020

Created: Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 11:55
Categories:
Pandemics

For WaterISAC's Coronavirus Pandemic Member Crowdsourcing webpage (Members Only), click here.

This portal page is being updated regularly and is organized as follows:

  • Situation Update (updated regularly)
  • Resources
    • COVID-19 Cases (numbers of cases in WaterISAC member countries and worldwide)
    • COVID-19 and Potential Impacts to Water and Wastewater Utilities
    • General Workplace  and Community Safety and Security
    • Business Continuity 
  • Government Declarations   

Situation Update

April 9, 2020

Yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published interim guidance for COVID-19 safety practices for critical infrastructure workers. To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. According to the CDC, in cases where workers have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic, they and their employers should engage in pre-screening, regular monitoring, wearing a face mask, social distancing, and workplace disinfecting and cleaning. As noted in its discussion of face masks, the CDC says employers can approve employees’ supplied face coverings in the event of shortages (its “Cloth Face Covers” webpage provides recommendations on how to make your own). The CDC states that an employee who becomes sick during their work shift should be sent home immediately and that the surfaces in their workplaces be cleaned and disinfected and a list of persons who had contact with the ill employee compiled. The CDC advises that this guidance should be implemented in conjunction with its previously published Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019.

The CDC has also published Guidance for Building Water Systems to help minimize the risk of Legionnaire’s disease and other diseases associated with water given that water has likely become stagnant in many buildings, such as those that have been vacated by businesses while social distancing measures are in place. The guidance recommends an eight step process before reopening a building, which includes flushing the water system and maintaining the water system (this step asks readers to consider contacting their local water utility to learn about any recent disruptions in the water supply).

As of today, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. now stands at 432,579 (+64,046 since the Tuesday Security and Resilience Update). For WaterISAC's other member countries, Canada now has 19,290 cases (+2,623) and Australia has 6,108 5,895 (+213).

April 7, 2020

WaterISAC COVID-19 Web Briefing
Wednesday, April 8, 2020, 2:00 - 3:00 pm ET

Join WaterISAC tomorrow for a special briefing on COVID-19. WaterISAC staff will discuss current and potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on water and wastewater utilities and the measures and plans these organizations have put in place to respond to and mitigate this unprecedented situation. Some of the topics this briefing will focus on include: the supply chain for essential commodities; business continuity, looking at telework, reduced work, and shelter-in-place plans and the status of employees as essential critical infrastructure workers; and cybersecurity.

WaterISAC has acquired information in interactions and engagements with its members, such as through a working group and its crowdsourcing effort, as well as with its government partners and representatives of other critical infrastructure sectors. Some of the working group members will be available during the briefing to help answer questions, so come prepared with your inquiries.

Register at WaterISAC. (Members Only)

New Resources:

  • Coronavirus Building Flushing Guidance (posted below as resource #15) – The Environmental Science Policy & Research Institute (ESPRI) published this guidance to help address the issue of building water quality degradation. As noted in the document, when buildings are shut down or used less frequently, as is happening during the current COVID-19 situation, water quality in the buildings can become a serious issue. In addition to discussing how water quality degrades in buildings in these circumstances, the guidance provides a general roadmap for how to flush contaminants from buildings and get plumbing system water quality back to pre-stagnation conditions.
  • Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada during the COVID-19 Pandemic – Public Safety Canada has published its own guidance on critical infrastructure services and functions that are deemed essential to ensure the health, safety, and economic well-being of the population. The water sector is specifically identified in this document, as are types of workers in the sector (e.g., employees and others needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure). This guidance is very similar to the Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response recently published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • COVID-19-Related Phone Scams and Phishing Attacks – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a webpage raising awareness of phone calls that have been made and emails that have been sent purporting to come its personnel. Although they appear to originate from the CDC, they are in fact scams and phishing attempts. The CDC provides some tips for how to spot these and prevent yourself or your organization from falling victim.
  • Web Conferencing Security (posted below as resource #16) – The Australian Cyber Security Centre published this document to provide guidance on how to select a web conferencing solution and how to use it securely. As noted in the document, web conferencing is increasingly in use as employees strive to remain connected with supervisors and with each other while working from home. However, these solutions oftentimes have vulnerabilities that, if left unaddressed, can introduce security threats.

As of today, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. now stands at 368,533 (+142,378 since the Thursday Security and Resilience Update). For WaterISAC's other member countries, Canada now has 16,667 cases (+6,936) and Australia has 5,895 (+779).

April 6, 2020

On Tuesday, April 7 from 1:00 to 2:00 pm ET, EPA will host a webinar for small and medium-sized water systems on its recently released incident action checklist for pandemics (the incident action checklist is posted as resource #1 below and is also available at EPA here). The webinar will include:

  • An overview of the recently released Pandemic Incident Action Checklist (IAC)
  • A case study from Todd Brown, the Town of Marbleton, Wyoming Public Works Director, who will talk about the actions his small system has taken in response to COVID-19
  • A Q&A session

The webinar will be recorded if you are not able to make the scheduled time. (Register for the Webinar Here)

Additionally, on Friday the EPA published a template for water utilities to use to provide documentation to state and local authorities that their workers that are considered essential (uploaded below as resource #14 and also available at EPA here). This template complements the letter that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent to governors on March 27 requesting that water and wastewater workers, as well as the manufacturers and suppliers who provide vital services and materials to the water sector, are considered essential workers and businesses by state authorities when enacting restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

April 2, 2020

In response to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, several utilities have implemented “shelter-in-place” or “shelter-at-plant” plans for essential workers. These plans involve essential workers, such as plant operators, staying onsite rather than going out into their communities (including to their homes) at the conclusion of work shifts. The goal is to reduce the risk of these employees contracting COVID-19, which would likely take them out of the rotation of eligible workers and potentially also facilitate the transmission of the virus to other employees. Articles and audio files about a desalination plant in Carlsbad, California  and the Des Moines Water Works describe how utilities are accommodating essential workers as they remain on utility grounds 24/7, providing them with housing in rented recreational vehicles, showering and laundry facilities, and food services. At both utilities the employees are operating on 12-hour shifts, and during their off time they can do as they please so long as they don’t leave the utility property. The personnel at the Carlsbad desalination plant committed to staying at the plant for 21 days; staff will soon determine what to do after this initial period. Des Moines Water Works is operating its essential workers teams in two weeks shifts. Additionally, personnel from the Des Moines Water Works were recently interviewed about their approach during a segment on NPR’s Morning Edition. WaterISAC has also posted to its members-only COVID-19 Crowdsourcing webpage an example plan from another utility that is starting to implement shelter-at-plant with its employees.

Having shifts of essential workers remain on the property for extended periods of time is one of the strategies water and wastewater utilities have implemented to address the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. For additional insights into what water and wastewater utilities must consider and are doing during this unprecedented time, WaterISAC has posted below (as resource #13) Key Considerations for Water and Wastewater Utilities Responding to the Coronavirus. Published by Moonshot Missions, whose founder is former DC Water CEO George Hawkins, this guide contains a compendium of best practices being implemented by utilities. Given that utilities are continuing to employ and experiment with new approaches, Moonshot Missions intends to routinely update this document.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are continuing to convene Broad Stakeholder Calls, which are open to critical infrastructure operators and other stakeholders. They are being held every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00 to 4:00 pm ET until futher notice. The call-in information is as follows:

Dial: 1-800-593-7177
Enter passcode: 7963614

Resources - COVID-19 Cases

As of April 2, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. now stands at 226,221 (+51,754 since the Tuesday Security and Resilience Update). For WaterISAC's other member countries, Canada now has 9,731 cases (+2,283) and Australia has 5,116 (+557).

For the latest information on the numbers and locations of cases in WaterISAC member countries (the U.S., Canada, and Australia) and around the world, visit the following websites:

Resources - COVID-19 and Potential Impacts to Water and Wastewater Utilities

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (EPA) - One of the resources linked to on this webpage is "Coronavirus and Drinking Water and Wastewater," guidance that emphasizes the continued safety of tap water amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance echoes previous statements by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which are referenced in the next two materials below. It specifically states that consumers can continue to use tap water as usual, to include for drinking and hand washing, and that they do not need to boil their water to protect against COVID-19. Additionally, referencing a statement previously made by the WHO, it notes that “there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.” And it adds that “standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective” against the COVID-19 virus.
  • Water Transmission and COVID-19 (CDC) - This webpage discusses the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in drinking water and wastewater as well as whether wastewater workers should take extra precautions.
    • For drinking water: It states that “the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water” and that “conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
    • For wastewater: It states that “although transmission of COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred.” The CDC notes it is still reviewing data on COVID-19 transmission and will update its guidance as necessary as new evidence is assessed.
    • For wastewater workers: It states that they “should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as prescribed for current work tasks.” It adds that “no additional COVID-19–specific protections are recommended for employees involved in wastewater management operations, including those at wastewater treatment facilities.”
  • Incident Action Checklist - Pandemic Incidents (EPA) - This is the latest in EPA’s suite of incident action checklists and follows the same format as the others. It contains a brief discussion of the impacts water and wastewater utilities might experience in these incidents; provides links to resources with more information; has checklists of actions to take when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a pandemic; and includes a contact list that can be filled out by a utility. In addition to the link above, this document is also posted below as resource #1.
  • Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19 (WHO) - This technical brief from the World Health Organization discusses the persistence of the COVID-19 virus in drinking water and sewage and on surface. It states that “while persistence in drinking-water is possible, there is no current evidence that surrogate human coronaviruses are present in surface or ground water sources or transmitted through contaminated drinking-water.” For wastewater, it says, “While there is no evidence, to date, on the COVID-19 virus survival in water or sewage, the virus is likely to become inactivated significantly faster than non-enveloped human enteric viruses with known waterborne transmission.” In the “Keeping water supplies safe” section, the brief states that “based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.” The section also describes measures for keeping water supplies safe and for treating water, adding that “conventional, centralized water treatment methods which utilize filtration and disinfection should inactivate COVID-19 virus.” The “Safely managing wastewater and or/fecal waste” section states “there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage system, with or without wastewater treatment.” Referencing findings from the 2003 outbreak of SARs, another type of coronavirus, the brief suggests there is low likelihood of wastewater treatment workers contracting COVID-19 in work environments. The brief also contains sections about cleaning practices for keeping surfaces disinfected. The technical brief is posted below as resource #2.
  • Introductions to Coronaviruses (Stantec) - This white paper from Stantec states that utilities can continue using standard treatment measures for both water and wastewater for coronaviruses. The white paper is posted below as resource #3.
  • COVID-19 (OSHA) -  On this webpage, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates exposure risk may be elevated for wastewater management workers, among other types of workers. OSHA notes its existing standards apply to protecting workers from COVID-19, which are described on the webpage.
  • Current Priority: Coronavirus (WEF)  - The Water Environment Federation’s webpage contains The Water Professional’s Guide to COVID-19, the recording from its February 25 “Updates on Novel Coronavirus for Water Professionals” webcast, and other information and resources regarding COVID-19.
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Water and Wastewater Sector Impacts and Needs - WaterISAC conducted a survey of its members asking about impacts and needs regarding COVID-19. Below WaterISAC has captured the two options that received the most responses from the 25 organizations that participated in the survey:
    • Primary Business Concerns – Absenteeism (84 percent) and Supply Chain Impacts (76 percent)
    • Specific Actions Already Being Taken – Reviewing Advisories (84 percent) and Reviewing or Completing Business Continuity Plans (64 percent)
    • Additional Actions that Might Need to Be Taken – Quarantining Essential Employees at Utility (48 percent) and Stockpiling Materials Needed for Operations (48 percent)
    • Priority Information Needs – Potential Supply Chain Impacts (88 percent) and Effectiveness of PPE and Disinfection Measures (84 percent)
  • Pandemic Impacts to Lifeline Critical Infrastructure (DHS) - This Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Note examines the impact of a pandemic on the lifeline critical infrastructure, which includes the water and wastewater sector. The Note observes that the greatest risk to the water and wastewater sector comes from the loss of available operators and support staff due to illness and absenteeism, and it cities a previous report from AMWA and WaterISAC that found that the sector deemed roughly 41 percent of workers critical to maintaining systems.

Resources - General Workplace and Community Safety and Security

  • Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities (CDC) - This webpage consolidates multiple guidelines for preventing COVID-19 spread in communities. These are tailored for at home, work, and large community events/mass gatherings and for first responders, among others. As the CDC has previously advised, the webpage states “Americans should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community,” necessitating community members take measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Steps to Prevent Illness (CDC) - This webpage provides recommendations for individuals to avoid being exposed to the virus, discussing measures like personal hygiene, avoiding close contact with others, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Preventing COVID-19 from Spreading (CDC) - If you are or suspect you are sick, this webpage addresses steps to reduce the likelihood of the virus being transmitted to others.
  • Implementing Home Care (CDC) - This guidance is for staff at local and state health departments, infection prevention and control professionals, and healthcare personnel who are coordinating the home care and isolation of people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection.
  • Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (OSHA) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a guide to assist workplaces with implementing measures for infection prevention and industrial hygiene during COVID-19 outbreaks. It contains sections discussing steps all employers can take to reduce workers’ risk of exposure as well as for measures to implement to protect workers in low, medium, and high and very high exposure risk settings. The document is posted below as resource #4.
  • List of Disinfectants to Use against COVID-19 (EPA) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Products appearing on EPA’s list registered disinfectant products have qualified for use against COVID-19 through the agency’s Emerging Viral Pathogen program. This program allows product manufacturers to provide EPA with data, even in advance of an outbreak, that shows their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses than SARS-CoV-2. It also allows additional communications intended to inform the public about the utility of these products against the emerging pathogen in the most expeditious manner.
  • Risk Management for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) (DHS CISA) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has published an Insights document to help organization executives think through physical, supply chain, and cybersecurity issues that may arise from the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). CISA states it is sharing this readiness information to help organizations plan for potential organizational and workforce impacts from COVID-19. That includes taking steps like identifying mission essential functions, updating incident response plans, factoring in workforce changes in a distributed environment, the possibility of malicious cyber actors taking advantage of public concern by conducting phishing attacks and disinformation campaigns. The document is posted below as resource #5.
  • Defending against COVID-19 Cyber Scams (DHS CISA) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has published an advisory warning individuals to remain vigilant for scams related to COVID-19. In the advisory, CISA notes that cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. It encourages exercising caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips (Federal Communications Commission [FCC]) - This webpage provides numerous examples of the scam and hoax emails, voicemails, and text messages. The webpage offers a list of tips to protect against scams.
  • Enterprise VPN Security (DHS CISA) - DHS’s CISA has published a webpage encouraging organizations implement an enterprise virtual private network (VPN) as a means of adopting a heightened state of cybersecurity while employees participate in telework. It offers some considerations for implementing VPNs and a list of measures for mitigating cybersecurity concerns in alternate workplace situations.
  • Public Service Announcement (PSA) (FBI IC3) - The FBI warns of an increase in fraud schemes related to COVID-19. The PSA discusses fake CDC emails, phishing emails, and counterfeit treatments and equipment. It offers links to legitimate websites that provide true and accurate information, such as those posted by the CDC and the EPA, and lists measures for good cyber hygiene and security.
  • COVID-19 Phishing Resource Center (Cofense) - Visitors to this website can access a YARA rule consisting of major, actionable indicators for COVID-19 phishing emails and related malware; real examples of COVID-19 phishing emails that evaded security systems; and recommendations from Cofense’s anti-phishing professionals. Cofense is also hosting a webinar tomorrow, on March 26, at 11:00 am ET on the evolving coronavirus threats as well as useful tools and recommendations to combat the escalating volume of email attacks.
  • Coronavirus Rumor Control (FEMA) - This webpage is intended to help the public distinguish between rumors and facts regarding the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The webpage addresses rumors regarding a national lockdown and quarantine, FEMA's deployment of military assets, the stockpiling of groceriers and supplies, checks being sent to citizens by the government, and immunity to the COVID-19 virus by those below 60 years of age and who are not suffering from health problems.
  • Criminals Exploiting COVID-19 Outbreak for Financial Gain through Procurement and
    Consumer Fraud
    (FBI’s Office of the Private Sector) -  This advisory discusses how criminals have seized upon the ever-growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to manufacture and sell counterfeit materials, such as N95 masks. The advisory provides a list of measures consumers and procurement personnel can take to help prevent financial loss and the purchase of potentially unsafe equipment. This advisory is posted below as resource #6.
  • Threat Update: COVID-19 Malicious Cyber Activity and a Security Managers Guide: Working at Home (ACSC) - The Threat Update from the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) takes a look at some of the malicious cyber attacks and scams that seek to exploit the ongoing situation with COVID-19. As shown in one of the case studies, members of the public have received text messages that appeared to come from the government and that purported to offer authoritative information on COVID-19 testing. It concludes with a series of mitigation strategies for this and other COVID-19 malicious cyber activity, some of which focus on employees in remote work situations. This advisory is posted below as resource #7.
  • Security Managers Guide - Working from Home (ASIO) - This guide from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) describes security measures for remote work. It discusses the policies and procedures organizations should put in place when having employees work from home; provides lists of tips for conducting a risk assessment and maintaining physical security, among others; and includes a series of references for further reading. This advisory is posted below as resource #8.
  • Update on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response (CDC) - CDC has made available a recording of the coronavirus response call it hosted on Friday, February 7. During the call, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, shared guidance for the private sector, including what CDC knew at that point and was doing in response to the outbreak.
  • Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (CDC) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published interim guidance for businesses on how to prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including the COVID-19. Some of the recommended measures in the guidance include actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, separating sick employees, and performing routine environmental cleaning, among others. The guidance also includes planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • Initial Public Health Response and Interim Clinical Guidance for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (CDC) - On this webpage, the CDC describes 9 of the first 11 U.S. COVID-19 patients.
  • Persons Evaluated for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (CDC) - On this webpage, CDC takes an in-depth look at how it responded to clinical inquiries regarding possible COVID-19 cases.

Resources - Business Continuity

  • Business Continuity Planning in the Event of an Influenza Pandemic: A Reference Guide (WaterISAC and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies)
  • Business Continuity Planning for Water Utilities (Water Research Foundation, U.S. EPA, and the American Water Works Association)
  • Business Continuity Planning Suite (FEMA)
  • Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (DHS) - This guide is intended to serve as a reference for utility operators as they tailor emergency response plans to address the unique challenges of a pandemic event. It contains a list of primary actions to take, which are accompanied by series of supporting actions and questions to consider. The guide is posted below as resource #9.
  • Assessing and Mitigating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Guide (Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, or ESCC - a liaison body between the federal government and the electric power industry) - This document includes steps to take at different stages of COVID-19 mitigation and response and offers lists of business continuity planning considerations. The document is posted below as resource #10.
  • “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response” (DHS CISA) - This memorandum is intended to promote a widespread understanding among state and local officials of the critical role workers in these industries play in sustaining and protecting their communities, including during emergencies. Water and wastewater utilities are specifically identified as one of the critical infrastructure sectors, and the memorandum goes on to identify types of workers for the sector (e.g., operational staff at community water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring, staff and technical support for SCADA and digital systems, and chemical disinfectant suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection). As state and local communities consider COVID-19-related restrictions, this memorandum may assist in critical infrastructure workers being granted appropriate status to go about their duties, such as reporting for work or transiting between work locations. The memorandum is meant only as guidance, not as a federal directive, and it acknowledges that ultimately state and local officials are in charge of implementing and executing response activities in their jurisdictions. Additionally, the memorandum puts responsibility on critical infrastructure partners to use their judgement when balancing safety and the continued delivery of their services. In addition to the accessing the memorandum through the link provided above, it's also posted below as resource #11.
    • On March 28, the DHS released an updated version of its memorandum (also posted below as resource #12) that identifies essential critical infrastructure workers during emergencies, including the ongoing nationwide emergency with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The updated memorandum maintains many of the same descriptions of water and wastewater employees and support personnel as the first version, which was published on March 19, with some modificiations. Specifically:
      • "Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling and monitoring" now adds "including field staff."
      • "Chemical disinfectant suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection" has been revised to also include equipment suppliers, as well as suppliers for water systems. It now reads: "Chemical and equipment suppliers to water and wastewater systems and personnel protection."

Government Declarations

  • On March 26, EPA announced a new policy to help address uncertainties regarding EPA enforcement amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. Public water systems are specifically singled out as "hav[ing] a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic." Some water and wastewater associations believe that the current policy and how it relates to public water systems is unclear and have reached out to EPA's Office of Water to request further guidance and additional clarification. WaterISAC will keep its members updated as it learns more.
  • On March 16, President Trump released COVID-19 guidelines, which emphasized the need for the public to listen to and follow the directions of state and local authorities in his administration released and highlighted best practices for reducing the spread of infections. The guidelines call for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people and to work from home whenever possible. However, the guidelines notes that for those who work in critical infrastructure industry, which although not specifically stated in the document does include the water and wastewater sector, “you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”
  • On March 26, EPA announced a new policy to help address uncertainties regarding EPA enforcement amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. Public water systems are specifically singled out as "hav[ing] a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic." Some water and wastewater associations believe that the current policy and how it relates to public water systems is unclear and have reached out to EPA's Office of Water to request further guidance and additional clarification. WaterISAC will keep its members updated as it learns more.
  • On March 13, President Trump declared the situation with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to be a national emergency. This declaration relies on the National Emergency Act — the same law that former president Barack Obama used to bolster his administration’s response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009. The law grants the president and executive branch sweeping powers to act quickly and decisively to respond to an emergency. Trump said his declaration would free $50 billion in federal resources to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes. The declaration also instructs state governments to set up emergency operations centers, directs hospitals nationwide to activate emergency preparedness contingency plans, and allows Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to waive regulations that could hinder health professionals’ response capabilities.

    • Also on March 13, Trump also issued an emergency declaration using the Stafford Act, which allows for the mobilization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with the response. As a result of the declaration, FEMA is directed to assist state, local, tribal, territorial governments and other eligible entities with the health and safety actions they take on behalf of the American public.

    • For more about the declarations, read this article at Stat.

  • On March 11, President Donald Trump, in a televised address to the nation, announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the U.S., beginning on March 13 at midnight, in a bid "to keep new cases" of COVID-19 "from entering our shores." Trump also announced economic measures that he said would help the country overcome "temporary economic disruptions" caused by the disease. One of the measures includes financial relief to people who need to stay home because they are sick, quarantined, or caring for others.
  • On January 31, President Donald Trump announced via a Presidential proclamation the suspension of entry into the country of foreign nationals who had visited China in the past 14 days. Measures to detect this virus among those who are allowed entry into the U.S. (U.S. citizens, residents, and family) who have been in China within 14 days also are being implemented.
  • On January 31, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for the ongoing situation with the COVID-19. The declaration provides aid to the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.