By Aaron Boyd
As the government’s buyer and landlord, the General Services Administration created a central contract vehicle for screening services to prevent infected people from entering federal buildings.
While the Trump administration has told federal employees to work from home to the greatest extent possible due to COVID-19, that’s not possible for some missions that must continue to operate through this crisis.
To help mitigate the spread of the disease, the General Services Administration put together a contract vehicle and guidance to support agencies in standing up screening protocols for anyone entering a federal building.
GSA is well-positioned to offer this support, as both the government’s central buyer through the Federal Acquisition Service and landlord through the Public Buildings Administration. In those capacities, GSA developed a COVID-19 ordering guide that includes a set of 60 vendors offering a host of pandemic-screening services.
“These services will augment existing security screening at government buildings, or at buildings used by government agencies, by providing temporary signage, requesting all building entrants—to include facility management teams: security, custodians, mechanics, and construction personnel—to provide information about symptoms they may have that could indicate COVID-19 illness,” according to a request for information. “This will include taking the temperature of individuals—with a calibrated remote temperature sensing device—requesting access to the facility.”
GSA divided COVID-19 screening procedures into two buckets. The first is self-certification, in which a person trying to gain access to a federal building is asked a set of questions about their health. Questions include: “Have you tested positive for COVID-19;” “Have you been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19;” and, “Do you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, chills, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches or abdominal pain?”
The other option is administered health screenings, which include the same set of questions, as well as taking the person’s temperature using no-contact thermometers.
“An affirmative response to any question, or a temperature of 100.4 F or above, would require the screener to present a recommendation that the employee, contractor, or visitor be denied entry to the federal facility,” the RFI states. “In most facilities, this recommendation would be passed onto the on-site security guard, and it would be at the security guard’s discretion to permit entrance if the employee, contractor, or visitor does not wish to comply with the recommendation.”
The contractors are expected to provide all tools and supplies needed for administered screenings, including personal protective equipment, or PPE, for their employees. However, GSA acknowledged the nationwide shortage of PPE and said: “Discussions regarding government provided PPE continue.”
The contracted personnel performing the administered checks do not need a medical background, though they must be otherwise trained and qualified, according to the RFI.
The RFI technically closed at the end of March. However, GSA opted to leave it open to allow more contractors to join the vendor list, which “will be updated periodically,” according to a GSA spokesperson. The current list consists of more than 60 vendors, including large and small businesses, all with contracts on schedule vehicles managed by GSA and the Veterans Affairs Department.
If an agency needs additional services, or if the pool of contractors is insufficient for any reason, GSA also created solicitation templates and market research tools through the Acquisition Gateway. The COVID-19 Acquisition Resources Hub includes a wealth of information for agency buyers, including relevant PSC and NAICS codes, appropriate government wide acquisition vehicles, acquisition playbooks and COVID-19-specific guidance from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.