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Google Office Reopening Plans Further Delayed

'While conditions do vary from state to state, we need to see that the U.S. outlook as a whole is stable before we move forward,' Chris Rackow, Google vice president of global security, wrote in a memo that Bloomberg said it obtained.

Google is delaying the reopening plan for its U.S. offices, saying it’ll now remain closed until at least Sept. 7 amid reports that coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are surging in the U.S. west and south, including its home state of California, according to a Bloomberg report.

“While conditions do vary from state to state, we need to see that the U.S. outlook as a whole is stable before we move forward,” Chris Rackow, vice president of global security, wrote in a memo that Bloomberg said it obtained. “As the recent resurgence of cases demonstrates, COVID-19 is still very much alive in our communities.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, told U.S. senators yesterday that the country is “going in the wrong direction,” and that some regions are putting the entire country at risk. The U.S. is reporting approximately 40,000 new cases per day, and Fauci said he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.” California reported 8,610 new coronavirus cases today, a record number for the second consecutive day. The virus’ spread has prompted California and other states to reverse course after relaxing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

“For all of you that are working from home, please continue to do so unless you are told otherwise by your manager,” Rackow said in the latest Google memo, according to Bloomberg. “We don’t expect this guidance to change until Monday, September 7 (Labor Day) at the earliest.”

A Google spokesperson confirmed the Bloomberg report.

Google was among the first major U.S. companies to advise its North American employees to start working from home in early March – if their roles allowed -- to help prevent the coronavirus’ spread. The tech giant previously had given employees in Google’s San Francisco Bay Area and New York City offices the option to work remotely on a voluntary basis.

The changing nature of the pandemic has forced the company to push back its reopening dates.

In early May, Google had said that workers who needed to return to the office likely could start in June or July, but it expected the majority of its employees would continue to work remotely through 2020. By late May, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, informed employees that Google hoped to start reopening more of its buildings beginning July 6 for Googlers looking to return to in-office work. Offices would begin reopening in unspecified cities “assuming external conditions allow,” he said at the time, presumably referencing the pandemic and state and local restrictions that forced many businesses to close and employees to work remotely from home.

Google has said it would take a gradual and phased approach to reopening its offices, “taking both team and individual needs and preferences into account.” Under the plans disclosed in late May, Google said employees who needed to return to office work – or, depending on capacity, those who wanted to return -- would be able to return on a limited, rotating basis. That could mean employees working one day in the office every couple of weeks, so Google’s buildings were about 10 percent occupied, Pichai said at the time. Google plans to implement health and safety measures to ensure adherence to social distancing and sanitization guidelines.

Pichai had acknowledged there was a limited number of Googlers whose roles required them to be back in their offices this calendar year. Returning would be voluntary for all other workers, whom Pichai encouraged to continue working from home if they could. Google also said it would give each worker the equivalent of $1,000 for equipment and office furniture.

Google had hoped to further scale the rotation of workers around September to build up to 30 percent office capacities over time, which would have allowed most employees who wanted to return to the office to do so on a limited basis, while prioritizing those who need to return.

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