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Infographic which reads: Beat the Heat, stay cool - stay hydrated, stay informed

Summer is a great time for beach getaways, barbecues in the backyard, and other outdoor activities that we long for during the cold, winter months.

But it’s also a time when severe heat and humidity – like we’ve seen during this summer season – make it necessary for us all to take precautions to protect ourselves and our family’s health and well-being.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have teamed up to remind all of us, including agencies and employees across government about what they can do to protect all Federal workers during potentially dangerous heat waves.

Regardless of where we work, we can all follow some basic common-sense practices as outlined on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible; wear lightweight, light-colored clothing; drink more water than usual, and check for extreme heat alerts.

It’s also important to remember that for Federal employees, OPM’s workplace flexibilities that may be used to reduce health risks during such extreme heat periods. If your supervisor approves, telework-ready employees may telework from home on a day when air quality conditions are poor. If your agency policies allow, an employee working a flexible work schedule may elect to adjust when they come to work and when they leave in order to avoid commuting during the hottest period of the day. Employees can also ask for annual leave, earned compensatory time or credit hours on a day when severe heat and humidity are threatening their health and welfare.

OPM has issued a memorandum to Chief Human Capital Officers across government outlining these flexibilities and including some Federal Government websites that offer more tips on how to handle severe heat and humidity conditions.

I know that all Federal employees are dedicated and committed to doing all they can to serve the American people. At the same time, we all must be mindful of protecting our health during severe weather events - whether cold and storm during winter or the kind of high temperatures and humidity we’ve been experiencing this summer.


Infographic with silhouettes of doctors a map and mosquito Text which reads: OPM has issued Direct-Hire Authority to help Federal agencies move quickly as they respond to Zika in the U.S. and around the world. Federal agencies with direct-hire authority include: Department of State, Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Learn more about the virus and safety tips: www.cdc.gov/zika

One of our most important responsibilities at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is to help departments and agencies hire the talented employees they need to fulfill their missions. As the world confronts the Zika virus, OPM is enabling Federal officials to more quickly and efficiently bring on the talented individuals they need to aid in the response.

Time is critical, and a fast-moving illness like Zika requires an equally fast response. So OPM is contributing to the response by authorizing emergency hiring flexibility for positions crucial to dealing with this crisis.

Several key Federal agencies – the Departments of State (State), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - need to quickly hire specialists who can aid in this coordinated effort. To help agency leaders accomplish that, OPM has offered them what we call Direct-Hire Authority. This is a streamlined and expedited hiring process that will allow these agencies to quickly bring on the people they need to immediately address the Zika crisis.

Federal health experts are working to improve mosquito control efforts and refine Zika testing methods. They are also providing support and guidance to health care providers and to the public about travel plans and precautions they can take to guard against the virus. Direct-Hire Authority will allow the agencies responding to move more quickly.

Among the dozens of Federal positions possibly needed are medical officers and nurses at State, microbiologists and epidemiologists at HHS, and emergency management and IT specialists at USAID. To view job postings in these fields, among others needed, please visit USAJOBS.gov.

The White House is taking an all-of-government approach to this crisis and to protecting the American people from Zika. The urgency of this effort was underscored by the President in his recent letter to Congress in which he asked for approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus both domestically and internationally.

“My foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans,” the President said in his letter to Congress. “This request supports the necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system, detect and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks at home, and to limit the spread in other countries.”

The emergency funds the President is seeking also would provide emergency assistance to states and the U.S. territories to combat the virus, including federal Medicaid funding in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for health services for pregnant women at risk of infection or diagnosed with Zika virus, and for children with microcephaly; support an acceleration of research and development on vaccines, therapies, and improved diagnostics, as well as on advanced approaches to mosquito control. The additional staff that OPM’s Direct-Hire Authority will allow agencies to hire will be critical in these efforts.

Like all Americans, Federal employees who plan to travel for business or personal reasons in the upcoming weeks and months may be understandably concerned. My advice is to visit the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travelers' Health websites for the most updated travel information. This CDC website also details preventive measures you can take to protect yourself against Zika if you do plan to travel to one of the affected areas. The locations with ongoing Zika virus transmission are likely to change over time, so be sure to check back to these websites before each trip you are planning to take.

When facing emerging health threats such as this, the world looks to the United States as a leader in providing the tools, resources, and individuals needed to respond. And we know that Americans are looking to our talented public health officials and scientists to be at the forefront of the efforts to combat this illness. OPM will continue to support our colleagues across the Federal Government in their efforts to hire the talented individuals needed to protect and defend Americans and our partners across the globe from the Zika virus.


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