From the comfort of their own homes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District staff are finding innovative ways to adapt and embrace the challenges of coronavirus.
As of April 16, the Army Corps of Engineers had completed 1085 site assessments, added 15,702 hospital beds to the nation’s capacity and engaged nearly 17,000 personnel to support the COVID-19 response. The effort spans 50 states and 5 territories.
Pittsburgh District leadership has worked to mitigate the spread of coronavirus by adapting their workforce and ensuring the staff fulfill their missions while prioritizing the safety of their people.
“The day that Ohio closed their schools, we put together a crisis action team,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Klink, commander, Pittsburgh District. “We had a very quick turn on a plan that allowed us to adapt and implement modified telework, modify Corps hours, and a litany of other things that allowed us to take care of our families and quickly adapt the situation.”
In addition to following recommended Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and modifying telework plans, district leadership worked to maximize personnel protection by adjusting operational hours at its 23 locks and dams, and its 16 reservoirs by modifying the previous 24-hour, three-shift schedule that the district’s facilities followed. District facilities have since returned to normal operating hours.
While washing your hands is crucial to take care of the public’s health, Corps employees are reminded to take care of themselves.
“We had to adjust to a new normal,” said Lt. Col. Klink. “During this period of physical confinement, it’s important to take care of your emotional health.”
Many employees have already taken steps to adjust to their new occupational circumstances. Some have set up home offices, tried new hobbies and taken up new fitness regimes.
“I appreciate the flexible work hours that allow me to work when my daughter doesn't need help with school work,” said Water Management Unit Lead Megan Gottlieb. “I also started jogging after work.”
Other personnel have used their time at home to work on long-running projects.
“It’s just a hobby I work on over the weekends, but I’ve been restoring a 1985 Monte Carlo Super Sport,” said biologist Doug Rowles. “Right now, I’m working on the front suspension.”
Some personnel have taken the time to engage in artistic endeavors. Andrea Carson, one of the district’s community planners, has participated in virtual painting classes and is learning how to cross-stitch. She’s also constructing a 3’x3’ cork wall piece that, when finished, will work as an optical illusion.
A few personnel have engaged in other interesting hobbies while practicing social distancing.
“The night before this quarantine started, I adopted a puppy and six chicks,” said Emergency Management Specialist Kristen Day. “I’m up to two dogs, a cat, and eight chickens now.”