Governor Lamont once referred to DAS as the nerve center of Connecticut state government.
During this pandemic, this statement has become more and more obvious.
So what has DAS been doing to support the state during the COVID-19 issue? A lot. Below are some of the amazing things DAS has accomplished and continues to work on to help the state through this time.
The biggest immediate hurdle to overcome was getting the resources and networks functioning at full capacity as the majority of state workers moved to work from home. Employees needed laptops and VPNs to work from home effectively to keep state services running. BEST quickly mobilized staff to measure resources, train employees on how to log in from home and troubleshoot every issue that came their way.
Moving almost hand-in-hand with BEST, DAS human resources moved to assist all executive state agencies with guidance regarding absences, requests for telework and/or changes in work schedules due to COVID-19. While some employees were familiar with telework, a number of HR issues became apparent and state agencies looked to DAS for leadership on how to acclimate employees and their HR office on how to handle the majority of state workers now working off-site. Other issues concerning FMLA arose, and DAS human resources quickly responded to the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to get information, forms and guidance out to agencies and state employees in a timely manner. Amidst this time of abrupt change, DAS human resources also provided guidance on other issues such as compensatory time, employee travel, and recruitment and selection.
The greatest initial challenge was to acquire all the equipment the state needs to fight COVID-19. DAS Procurement continued to scour the globe for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, not only for state agencies but also for Connecticut hospitals, EMS, nursing homes, local health districts and more, to ensure they have the PPE they need to treat those inflicted with the virus. DAS Procurement has received over 1500 leads for PPE. Each and every lead went through a screening process to ensure the supplier can deliver the right product promptly. The procurement team worked closely with DOC, DEMHS, DPH to coordinate the purchasing and logistics of these needs, and has also assisted with similar sourcing services for furniture, equipment and supplies for the stand-up hospitals coordinated by DAS/Construction Services. DAS is pleased to report that their hard work payed off and numerous shipments of PPE arrived in Connecticut to help front line employees and medical personnel.
DAS’ Legal department moved quickly to extend deadlines and change legal requirements through executive orders to keep both the public, our agency and the state from being bogged down in litigation and legal confusion during a pandemic crisis. DAS lawyers were frequently asked for guidance from other agencies and our legal team worked with various state agencies, including the Attorney General’s office, to make adjustments to ease specific requirements to keep the state moving without unnecessary legal repercussions.
DAS’ Facility Services and Property Transfer and Leasing were tasked with inventorying state buildings and universities for the possible overflow of patients. Coordinating available space and working with a multitude of state agencies showed tremendous cross-agency cooperation. Additionally, DAS Facilities and Security have also been making sure buildings are sanitized and safe.
DAS Construction services issues guidance regarding state construction projects. Governor Lamont deemed construction work as essential and DAS issued common-sense guidance on social distancing and proper precautions to take on construction sites. Additionally, Project Management staff have been on-call 24/7 to provide assessment teams to inspect closed health care sites as recovery facilities; to manage five temporary hospital facilities as well as siting and constructing the CVS testing facility in New Haven; to coordinate the fulfillment of on-going needs and requirements of active hospital sites; and to identify needed contract resources for temporary facilities for hospitals. DAS Technical Services coordinated the hiring of the consulting architectural team and planning for bed surge in terms of laying out potential sites in various cities throughout the state. It is maintaining an updated library of all architectural plans associated with these planning efforts. The Office of Legal Affairs, Policy and Procurement continues to process solicitations and contracts for design and construction to ensure a continuity of such work now and going forward. Legal staff assisted Project Management staff on project issues arising from the current situation, and provided support to the Real Estate unit in preparing relevant Executive Order language as well as Memoranda of Understanding and License Agreements for sites used for health care facilities. Construction Services works with a number of agencies to identify housing for first responders who don’t want to return home to their families to avoid cross-contamination.
Business Services Division worked tirelessly to assist all DAS divisions, collaborate across Executive Branch Agencies and work closely with OPM to remove any financial/policy obstacles and assist with obtaining adequate funding in order to complete important missions such as coordinating initial payments to hoteling for the homeless, coordinating the purchase and delivery of needed emergency goods such as trailers and being involved with emergency alterations/expansions to state buildings and to area hospitals.
Neither rain nor snow nor worldwide pandemic have stopped the processing and delivery of mail at DAS Print, Mail and Courier. In addition to their regular workload they assisted DRS with mail deliveries at 450 Columbus and helping DOL with mail processing so they can focus energy on the multitude of unemployment claims filed.
All DAS Fleet administrative functions have continued uninterrupted since the beginning of telework, and staff have successfully functioned and coordinated through Microsoft Teams and email. DAS’ Fleet daily rental of vehicles is always ready to go.
There is more to being a state employee than coming to work every day. In this situation, we are helping our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens stay safe and stay healthy.
DAS is continuing to support the state's COVID response and are beginning to provide assistance to agencies as they develop their plans to resume more on-site operations.