COVID-19 UPDATE- 3/13/2020

COVID-19 Update- 3/13/2020



March 13, 2020 

Dear Arc/proAbility community,

The Arc of Bristol County  is paying special attention to the widely reported and unfortunate outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), that is now spreading throughout the region.  We are following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended guidelines, and all local and national organizations.  As you may be aware, both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Rhode Island have both declared a State of Emergency in Response to this outbreak. 

It is important to note that no employee or program participant has tested positive for COVID-19 at this time.  However, our focus has been to Prepare, Protect, and Prevent.  Although no program or service is currently being closed or suspended at this time, we are taking proactive measures towards reducing the exposure of those we support and our employees.  At The Arc of Bristol County, the health and well-being of our participants and staff are our top priority.  We understand the concern and uncertainty you may be experiencing surrounding the virus and we are committed to being responsive to the needs of the individuals in which we support, and our workforce.

Towards preparation, we have been closely monitoring the Department of Public Health and the CDC guidance, and have implemented additional sanitization protocols at all of our locations towards minimizing the spread of infection.   We have supplied all of our locations with additional hand sanitizers and have increased cleaning protocols to every 2 hours.  We have issued guidance to staff and individuals on the following preventative precautions to minimize contracting the virus which are very similar to the usual steps we take to avoid the cold and flu:

• Frequent and thorough hand-washing for at least 20 seconds
• Use of hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash
• Get a flu shot, if you have not already done so

In addition, over the past few weeks, we have been purchasing additional emergency supplies of cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, face masks, protective equipment and emergency supplies of food, medical supplies, and temporary beds, should they be necessary.

Towards protection, effective immediately, all program locations and offices will begin health screening of all participants, staff, scheduled and unscheduled visitors to our locations.  The screening will include a no contact, infrared temperature scan.   Anyone who does NOT pass the screening requirements, will be asked to refrain from entering the building.   We ask that visitors please limit their contact to essential visits only, especially for those in our residences and/or adult day programs.  Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employees remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications. Many times, with the best of intentions, employees report to work even though they feel ill. We provide paid sick time and other benefits to compensate employees who are unable to work due to illness. Employees who report to work ill will be sent home in accordance with these health guidelines.   

Additional protection measures that we are implementing include:

·         Any large group activities and/or event participation will be cancelled

·         Recreation programs will be limited to small group activities and each activity will be assessed on case by case basis- we will provide as much notice as possible for upcoming event cancellations

·         Day program community based activities will be very limited and we will temporarily suspend outings to activities such as the YMCA or library

·         Residential and Community Support programs will work to limit community contact during this period to prioritize basic needs, medical, health and employment needs of those we support

·         Adult Family Care, Shared Living, Family Supports, Guardianship, Trust Management and Representative Payee home visits will be limited and prioritized based on medical and basic needs

·         We will also teach groups about the importance of social distancing and it will be encouraged going forward

·         All large in-person agency meetings have been suspended.  We will be utilizing our telecommunication features towards hosting meetings/trainings virtually. 

·         Administrative staff will be re-assigned to various offices to ensure continuity of operations and program staff will be working remotely from home, where possible.

Towards prevention, we understand the importance of keeping you up to date on the latest information, and towards that end, we have assigned Virginia (Ginny) Street, RN, Director of Adult Health Services, towards assembling a COVID information and response team.  Ginny will work closely with all of the agency healthcare professionals, and in concert with our Vice President, Donna Brown, who chairs our Safety Committee.   Any and all reports of potential exposure and/or active infection, should be reported to Ginny at 508-226-1445 x2501  or Donna at 508-226-1445 x3105 immediately. 

As we receive additional guidance from the respective state health officials, we will be sure to share updates and communication towards providing the latest best practice approaches towards containing this outbreak.  We will provide these through our website, social media, and email communications.

For additional information, please visit the following websites (these will also be posted on our website at www.arcnbc.org):

·         https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

·         https://health.ri.gov/diseases/ncov2019/

·         https://www.mass.gov/doc/english-2019-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-0/download

·         http://www.dlt.ri.gov/pdfs/COVID-19%20Workplace%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

The Arc of Bristol County/proAbility has taken these immediate steps to keep our community safe. This message is to assure you that we are carefully monitoring the situation, and to share with you the recommended precautions that we can all take to ensure the health of our community.  We recognize that this may cause temporary hardship, but feel that as a responsible organization, we must take important measures to protect our most vulnerable members and staff.   Our greatest tool toward prevention, is to remind all who are ill to refrain from visiting an Arc location or any public location in the community as directed by the Health Department.

The Arc of Bristol County is prepared to take all the necessary steps should the situation escalate and require further collaboration with local officials. We appreciate your help in keeping our community healthy. While we understand that this is a stressful situation, filled with much waiting and uncertainty, we hope that our continued communication and transparency helps to keep us all grounded during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Michael Andrade                                                                    Richard Harwood
President & CEO                                                                     Chair, Board of Directors