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COVID-19

Last updated: 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 28, 2020

COVID-19 is creating anxiety around the world and having an impact in our workplaces. Many employers and employees have been contacting us with questions related to their health insurance coverage and asking what they might do to avoid infection.

This webpage is intended to help our members by acting as a quick first reference with links to credible sources for up-to-date information. Any specific questions should be e-mailed to the appropriate AUMA department. Contact details are provided on the right side of the webpage.

Also, we have added links to business continuity and risk management resources. Appropriate resources will be added as they become available.

The content on this webpage may change, so please keep checking back for updates and watch our social media accounts for announcements.

Info: for AUMA’s member municipalities

Alberta and other provinces are providing advice based on the best current evidence and guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Find information on general public health measures that may be recommended in communities if COVID-19 spreads in Canada can be found on the Government of Canada website.

Municipal Affairs: Municipal government resources

Municipal Affairs is compiling new governance related resources for municipalities as it relates to the COVID-19 outbreak. These resources will be updated as new topics emerge.

Alberta Emergency Management Agency

Now that the Province of Alberta has declared a State of Public Health Emergency, you may have questions on how your municipality should respond. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is especially positioned to provide you with expert advice on all continuity issues for your municipality and community (i.e. municipal facility access, staffing shortages that could affect critical service delivery, critical supply disruption, etc.)

Here is how you can get their assistance:

  • Each region of the province is assigned an AEMA Field Officer.
  • Identify your AEMA Field Officer here. Click on the region most applicable to your municipality. Scroll down to verify your community is listed.
  • Call or e-mail your Field Officer with your query.

Council meetings – hosting via electronic means

The Government of Alberta has made allowances for municipalities to host council meetings via electronic means, during the COVID-19 health emergency. In support of municipalities that may not have implemented electronic means yet, we are offering the following solutions:

Conference calls:
Pragmatic Conferencing is the conference call solution provider used by AUMA and we have been satisfied with their service. If you’d like to utilize their service, here are two options for your consideration:

  1. Set-up your own account
    Municipalities can easily establish their own conference calling account by contacting Pragmatic Conferencing directly at 1.866.736.1413 or sales@thinkpragmatic.com. You will deal directly with Pragmatic and pay their invoices as you would your other service providers. Or you might wish to explore other conference calling service companies.
     
  2. Use AUMA’s account 
    Until the end of June, AUMA would be pleased to provide your municipality with the use of AUMA’s conference call account as a temporary measure. The conferencing can be set up to only allow Public Participants to only listen to the Council meeting or it can be set up in a Town Hall format, where Public Participants can be allowed to present or ask questions, once accepted by the conference call moderator.  

    If you decide to use AUMA’s account, we will pass along to you an invoice for the cost of each conference call. For information on how this option can be activated or if your municipality is interested in this option, please reply to e-mail audioconference@auma.ca to register your municipalities for this service. 

Video conferencing:
As you also know, video conferencing or streaming is another option for electronic council meetings and to facilitate public participation. Video conferencing does require appropriate equipment, local technical expertise, and sufficient broadband. If your municipality has determined that video conferencing is the solution that it wishes to explore, please also reply to email audioconference@auma.ca  and we will send you information on a few different video conferencing solutions and companies.

More information: 

What should we do with upcoming events?

The Government of Alberta has been updating their public health measures related to large crowds and crowded spaces. Please visit the Government of Alberta's COVID-19 webpage for the latest restrictions on gatherings and events.

How can we assist local organizations?

If you are helping local organizations plan for a COVID-19 outbreak, consider the following:

  • Business continuity planning is vitally important to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption.
  • Field officers from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency are available to support municipalities, First Nations, and Metis settlements with their emergency management and business continuity planning.

To support the health system, communities should:

  • Promote 811 as a source of information and to refer those with health-related concerns.
    • People suspected of being infected with COVID-19 should be directed to call Health Link 811 and told not to visit a walk-in clinic or emergency room where they might infect others.
  • Promote Alberta Labour’s Respiratory Viruses and the Workplace for workplace guidance.
  • Review existing business continuity plans to assess if disruptions from staff absenteeism have been considered, especially for critical operations.
  • Stay informed about the situation in Alberta via the Alberta Health Services or Alberta Health COVID-19 websites.

What services are available to remediate contaminated workplaces or other spaces?

We have arranged special member-only pricing with two province-wide service providers. Please contact our Insurance & Risk Services department via e-mail to request details.

Info: for Employers

As an employer, what can we do?

Employers should consider their business continuity plans and think about how the possibility of COVID-19 could impact their workplace. In order to prepare, we recommend plans are made to protect employees, limit spread in workplaces, and ensure continuity of critical services if staff are ill or self-isolating.

What additional steps can we take?

Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees. Communictate these actions by:

  • Placing posters that encourage staying home when sick, correct etiquette for coughing and sneezing, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% - 95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.

Perform routine environmental cleaning:

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Ensure the information you are receiving is from a reliable source to prevent the spread of misinformation. Review the 'Links: Government Information on COVID-19' section on this site for reliable sources.

Who should stay home from work?

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:

  • Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Recommend that employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (37.8°C / 100.4F or greater on an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Alberta Health Services has created an online self-assessment tool to help determine who should be tested for COVID-19.

What about employees returning from vacation or business travel?

Employers should inform their employees of the following advice provided by Alberta public health officials:

  • Effective March 12, if employees are returning from an international trip, they should isolate themselves for 14 days after they return. This should be done even if they are NOT feeling ill.
  • Employees should self-isolate and call Health Link 811 (do not go to a walk-in clinic or hospital emergency room) for additional precautions and follow-up testing if they have travelled to anywhere outside of Canada and / or experienced any of the following:
    • contact with someone who was suspected or confirmed to have the novel coronavirus
    • were in a health-care facility
    • have symptoms, such as cough or fever
  • Alberta Health Services has created an online self-assessment tool to help determine who should be tested for COVID-19.

What if an employee is directed to self-isolate?

Alberta Health is providing information to guide those required to self-isolate. If an employee is directed to self-isolate:

  • Employees and employers should work together to explore alternate working arrangements. This could include:
    • Working from home or remotely
    • Doing work that does not require the employee to contact other people in the community or at work
    • If an alternate working arrangement is not possible, employees can use paid sick time if their employer offers this
    • Employees may also be able to use five days of sick time without risk of losing their job with the personal and family responsibility leave, but this time is unpaid

What support can we offer employees who are quarantined?

Isolation can be difficult for some people to manage. It can take a toll on mental health, so offering your employees supports is important.

One way to support them is to guide them through plan their mental readiness and resiliency for isolation. The Conference Board of Canada offers some strategies to help you cope and to support your mental health, and mitigate the negative impacts of feeling isolated. They have also made available webinar recordings on managing mental health during this time. Alberta Health has also published a guide to aid with self-isolation

Info: for subscribers to our Employee Benefits plan by Sun Life

Travel Coverage: 

Provinces and borders are starting to reopen, and international travel will start to resume. It’s important that you and your employees understand your out of country coverage. Here are some key points about this coverage to keep in mind as international travel makes its slow return: 

  • COVID-19 coverage in place: Our coverage does not exclude or limit travel coverage in the event of epidemics or pandemics. Medical emergencies resulting from COVID-19 will be treated in the same way as any other medical emergency outside Canada. 

  • Trip duration limit: For anyone who leaves Canada after March 19, 2020, the standard trip duration limit in your contract applies. Employees need to check their coverage to ensure their trip falls within these limits. There’s no extension to the trip duration limit, even if travel home is restricted. 

  • Travel advisories: Employees should check the Government of Canada Travel Advisory website before deciding to leave Canada. Some borders could close if the COVID-19 situation changes. In such a case, an employee could have their coverage expire while they are still abroad due to the trip duration limit.

Travel cards are available on the my Sun Life mobile app. Please make sure you have this with you when you travel.

You must call Allianz if you or a dependent needs immediate attention for a medical emergency: 

  • In the USA and Canada call: 1-800-511-4610 

  • From anywhere else: 1-519-514-0351* 

*Members can call this number collect through an international operator 

  • Fax: 1-519-514-0374 Allianz is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Out-of-Country Coverage for Students Studying Abroad  

You may have a child currently studying outside of Canada, or one who is planning to. Based on travel advisories from the Government of Canada, here’s how Sun Life is handling medical emergency coverage for students.

  • If your child has an approved extension: If Sun Life approved extending their medical emergency coverage, they will continue to honour the extension outlined the coverage period in your approval letter from them.  

  • If your child doesn’t have an approved extension: They’ll have coverage for the trip-duration limit outlined in your contract. For now, Sun Life is not extending coverage beyond the trip-duration limit. This is due to various travel advisories from the Government of Canada,.  

For all students, coverage ends on the date they reach the dependent student age limit. Your contract outlines this age limit. 

What if my child gets COVID-19 while studying abroad?  

We’ll treat a medical emergency resulting from COVID-19 the same as any other medical emergency. 

Continuing Benefit Coverage 

We understand that many employers such as yourself may be having to make difficult decisions regarding temporary lay-off of staff or reduce their hours. We want to ensure that you have the information you need to make the best decision, while ensuring that your employees have the coverage they need during this period.

Temporary Lay Offs 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a couple of changes to benefits coverage to accommodate temporary lay-offs. However, there are no changes relating to benefits coverage for when processing terminations and their severance arrangements. 

If you are considering adjusting the coverage for those employees experiencing temporary layoffs, you may choose one the following three options. Please understand that these options are common across the industry and that your selection must be applied equally to all employees within the same class regardless of their employment status. 

  1. Maintain coverage for all exiting benefits you currently subscribe to 

  1. Maintain coverage for all your existing benefits, but remove any disability coverage you currently subscribe to 

  1. Terminate all coverage  

Any changes outside of these options must be submitted on a Continuation of Coverage Form, which will be reviewed by Sun Life to determine its acceptability. There may be direct impact on your employees and long-term consequences for the option you select. If you are considering changing your benefits coverage for staff that have been temporarily laid-off, please call or e-mail us so we can explain what this will mean for your organization and your employees over the long-term. 

Life events are those circumstances that are beyond the control of your employees. An example of a life event is when an employee's spouse or partner loses their benefits coverage. If this occurs, Sun Life will provide them 31 days to add health and dental coverage without the usual penalties. For details, please connect with your dedicated Employees Benefits consultant.

Employees on Reduced Hours 

Because of COVID-19, many employees have been working reduced hours. They could fall under the minimum number of hours required for benefits coverage. With the ongoing pandemic, we’ve made a change to this temporary practice. You may now maintain coverage for employees on reduced hours for six months, instead of three months. However, after three months of reduced hours, you must update employee salaries for premium payment purposes. The updated salaries need to reflect the true amount of compensation paid. Please notify your dedicated benefit services consultant or contact us at benefits@auma.ca.  

Coverage Changes-Life Events: 

Life events are those circumstances that are beyond the control of your employees. An example of a life event is when an employee's spouse or partner loses their benefits coverage. If this occurs, Sun Life will provide them 31 days to add health and dental coverage without the usual penalties. For details, please connect with your dedicated Employees Benefits consultant. 

Short Term Disability: 

Short-term disability (STD) provides replacement income for a limited time period for those with injuries or illnesses that prevent them from working. Here is what you need to know about STD and COVID-19: 

  • Positive COVID-19 test result

    • If you tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot perform the duties of your job, Sun Life will:

      • Waive any waiting period

      • Pay STD benefits for at least 14 days

    • The employee and employer still need to complete an STD statement as part of the application process. However, Sun Life is waiving the requirement for an Attending Physician’s Statement. Instead, to qualify for these COVID-19 related STD benefits, you will need to fill out this Confirmation of Illness form.  

  • No positive COVID-19 test result

    • If you have a flu-like illness but have not been tested or do not have a positive test result for COVID-19, Sun Life will assess your claim application according to the terms of your contract.  

  • Self-isolation

    • Sun Life won’t pay STD benefits to you if you are not ill. This applies even if you self-isolate:

      • voluntarily

      • at the direction of your employer, or

      • following any government or public health directive that recommends employees stay home as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

To summarize, if you are under quarantine by a doctor or public health official but you do not have signs of COVID-19 or have not tested positive for it, then Sun Life will not pay STD benefits. 

Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) 

Participating members can remind their employees of EFAP should they require assistance with anxiety or other mental health issues. Shepell has put together a document of resources to support resilience during this pandemic that is also available for you to use. 

For immediate assistance, contact 1.800.387.4765 or visit workhealthlife.com. 

Part of your EFAP program includes access to Life Speak which is a well-being platform providing instant access to expert advise on a wide range of topics that matter. Life Speak is committed to giving you as much expert information they can to help you and your employees navigate the constantly changing environment. To access please log in at: AMSC.lifespeak.com. 

Prescription Medication Delivery: 

Sun Life has partnered with McKesson Canada and Rexall Direct and are offering plan members free home delivery of prescription drugs if their local pharmacy cannot deliver. To start the process, plan members can call 1-833-554-0731 and speak to a McKesson Canada representative. The representative will help coordinate the delivery. To learn more about McKesson Specialty Prescription Pharmacy Services, please visit them here. To learn more about Rexall Direct™, please visit them here. 

Personal protective equipment costs due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has created new health and safety standards for many health care providers. All health-care providers must follow these additional standards as set by their associations, regulatory bodies, and levels of government.

As an example, new governmental public health guidelines require dental providers to use additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and allow more time between patients for cleaning equipment.

PPE Fees

Many health and dental care providers are adding the cost of PPE to their fees. PPE fees for dental and medical services are not an eligible expense under our extended health care and dental plans. PPE fees are a reimbursable expense if they are tied to an eligible medical or dental expense (such as a paramedical service) under a Health Spending Account (HSA).

If your plan doesn’t currently have an HSA, we can add it at any time to your benefits plan. Please notify your dedicated benefit services consultant for more information.

Links: Government Information on COVID-19

Webinars

Ongoing webinar series:

Recorded webinars: