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More Erie County workers return to county offices as NYS slowly reopens

Union officers from the CSEA Local 815 were on hand Monday to observe and make sure there weren't any issues related to COVID-19.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As more Erie County workers returned to the Rath Building and other county sites on Monday, union officers from the CSEA Local 815 were on hand to observe and make sure there weren't any issues related to COVID-19.

That's because some staffers, especially in the Social Services Department, had raised concerns about cleanliness and safety in the buildings. Some contend they could still work just as effectively at home without exposing themselves to any cases of the coronavirus.

On Monday 2 On Your Side spoke with the union president who told us things seem to go smoothly, and they had been able to coordinate better with county officials and managers about some of the issues raised by union members. CSEA Local 815 President Denise Szymura says there were, "Discussions over the weekend and we're moving forward. We've gone over our questions - many - most have been answered and if more come up we'll go back to them and work on it."

We asked specifically if Erie County is using temperature scans for returning staffers. Szymura replied, "No, no temperature checks. I believe they're asking the employees to do self checks. Right now it's self assessment and if an employee does not feel good - to remain home. The temperature checks issue has been brought up - we've had discussions but so far nothing has been done."

Szymura says workers wearing masks are being brought back in phases. She adds there is some thought to having all of them back in place by August but that is not yet guaranteed. Szymura adds that most Social Services workers are still working from home. 

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Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw stated in a press release that he questions the COVID-19 related policies in county buildings.

“The county is not doing enough to keep workers and visitors safe," he said. "Self-check? That’s a health disaster waiting to happen. Since the county can spend $160 million on COVID-19 related expenses, why not bring in nurses or health professionals to take temperatures?  Airports regularly placed temperature taking health professionals at arriving gates to ensure travelers entering the United States were healthy. Did airports ask people to ‘self-check’ themselves upon arrival? Of course not. Makes zero sense. Trust, but verify.”

“The current policy does not go far enough to ensure the safety of workers and visitors once back in the building,” said Comptroller Mychajliw. “Erie County’s death rate from COVID is nearly twice the national average. We should be doing all we can to keep our employees safe. Many private sector businesses, as well as the City of Buffalo are extending work from home as an option. We should, too.”

 A county spokesman says the buildings have been thoroughly cleaned with reconfigured workspaces and spacing policies like four people to an elevator at a time.

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