Village debates vacation policy amid COVID-19

Chris Potter
Village of Dansville officials discuss the village's vacation policy during COVID-19 over a Zoom meeting.

DANSVILLE — Where an employee is planning to spend vacation time is typically little more than idle chatter at the water cooler, but like so much else, COVID-19 has changed that aspect of everyday life.

An employee’s vacation plan has become vital information for local municipalities and businesses. New York state is requiring individuals who have traveled to New York from COVID-19 “hot spots” to quarantine for 14 days. The travel advisory has grown to around 35 states, many of them popular vacation destinations like Florida and North Carolina.

A week’s vacation on the beach could quickly turn into 21 days away from work.

An employee looking at vacation plans recently asked the Village of Dansville to clarify its policy on the matter.

“My own personal feelings are an individual who voluntarily goes someplace that’s a hot spot, regardless of what his position is here in the village, when he comes back he has to quarantine for two weeks and as far as I’m concerned he doesn’t get paid for that, unless he wants to take vacation time or sick time for that as well,” said Mayor Peter Vogt. “If a person has to go someplace because it’s part of his duty, that’s on us and I have no issues with that.”

New York’s travel advisory applies to any person arriving from an area with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

The village board agreed that it must follow state guidelines regardless of any personal feelings on the matter.

“I don’t like telling our great employees we have here in the village, but it’s not our rule. It’s the rule of the Heath Department,” said Trustee Dan Rittenhouse. “If we allow an employee to come back and the employee has no signs of anything but yet we put them back in the workforce, and then they go out and have contact with the public and we knowingly did this, we knowingly allowed them to come back (after) they were in a red state, the liability if they were then to give it to somebody else while working as a village employee would put liability on the village.”

Trustee Floyd Sick wondered if village employees might stack up vacations waiting for “red states” with hotspots to turn blue. Sick noted that employees traveling to hot spots would result in a three-week gap in staffing.

“We may have to deny other vacations because of that,” he said.

Rittenhouse said he sympathized with those impacted by the travel advisory. Just like cases were relatively low locally during New York City’s COVID-19 surge, Rittenhouse said some parts of each state on the list were being impacted by hot spots in other regions.

“We didn’t create this. We’re getting guidance from the state,” Rittenhouse said. “We’re moving through the muck and mire of it just like everyone else. I don’t like it but I do have to agree, we have to follow the guidelines.”