Supporting the citizenship of people with disabilities

March 16th, 2020 COVID-19 Update

Memo to families, guardians, and all employees:

Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-CoronaVirus (COVID-19)

From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society

March 16, 2020 Update

I can tell you with confidence that the leadership of Skills Society is working day and night on preparedness measures, advocacy, and creative collaborations in the sector that are unprecedented as we navigate the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a serious threat to public health and in particular to the vulnerable people we serve. Everyone needs to do their part to reduce the spread.

The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is spreading and will continue to spread. There are 74 confirmed cases in Alberta. At least two of the cases in Alberta are community-acquired (i.e. not related to travel).

Effective immediately, the Chief Medical Officer has directed the following aggressive public health measures:

  • Student attendance at K to 12 schools is prohibited and in-person post-secondary classes are cancelled.
  • All licensed child care facilities, out-of-school care programs and preschool programs are closed indefinitely.
  • All mass gatherings of 250 people or more should be cancelled. Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations, should also be cancelled
  • All people returning from international travel must self isolate for 14 days. This is critical for slowing the spread. Additional info for airline passengers and travellers is available on the Alberta Health website.
  • All people who have any cold symptoms must stay home and not go out to work or any other public spaces.
  • Everyone must practice and teach very thorough hygiene practices as outlined below
    1. Proper hand washing: Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    2. Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing: Coughing or sneezing into the inner side of your elbow has shown to prevent spread of colds and flu.
    3. Stay home when sick: This prevents the spread of viruses and protects people around you.
    4. Remind yourself to not touch your face (eyes, nose or mouth) with unwashed hands
    5. Frequently disinfect surfaces, door knobs and other frequently touched objects: Use Lysol or Clorox that states clearly on the bottle that it eliminates 99.9% of germs and viruses.

“I know some Albertans may wonder if all these measures are truly necessary. I want to stress that they are necessary. It is crucial that we do everything possible to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19. The most effective way to do this is by taking a comprehensive, society-wide approach. Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not social distancing alone. All of them, together.” – Chief Medical Officer

Actions Being Taken by Skills Society

Below is an overview of what measures are in effect at Skills Society in addition to the messages we sent last week. These measures are based on directions given from the Chief Medical Officer and Government of Albera and need to be taken seriously.

  1. Assignment of Pandemic Coordinators: Over two weeks ago we assigned 2 pandemic coordinators (Linda Marchand and Ed Woodward). They can be reached at 780-496-9686 or edwardw@skillssociety.ca & linda@skillssociety.ca, if you have any questions. Ed has been in contact with team leaders about plans, expectations, prevention and cleaning protocols.
  2. Cleaning Protocols Distributed and Essentials Gathered: All team leaders have been given cleaning protocol checklists to use in the homes of the people we support. Additionally, they are working to ensure a supply of essentials are stocked in people’s homes.
  3. Families Asked to Take Loved Ones Home When Possible: Managers are in the process of contacting guardians and families and asking as many as possible to take home a loved one, self isolate and practice social distancing measures. This will protect people, reduce pathways for spread, and free up staffing for emergencies.
  4. Exploring Collaborations with Other Orgs to Help with Staff Shortages: Advocacy messages and collaboration in the disability services network is underway to explore ways to contract other organizations for staffing support if required. Working as fast as possible.
  5. Plain Language Guide to COVID-19 Preparedness Distributed: A guide to explaining COVID-19 to people with disabilities is posted on our Skills Society FB page and we are sending out the link to Managers and Team Leaders today to help with explaining why we all are going to have to go out less for awhile, and how to prevent the spread. You can access this resource here: https://selfadvocacyinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plain-Language-Information-on-Coronavirus.pdf
  6. Skills Main Office Closure: We are closing the Skills office at 430pm today until further notice. Although the physical location will be closed, Skills administrative and management staff will continue to work remotely to ensure as smooth operations as possible. These staff will be on call and available to coordinate, work with families and answer questions. A memo to team leaders will be going out soon explaining how to get essential paperwork administrative staff so that payroll and accounting continue seamlessly.
  7. Staff Training Suspended: All staff training events have been suspended until further notice to reduce exposure and free up staff availability to support the people we serve.
  8. Staff Continuing to Provide High Quality Supports: We are advising teams to explore creative ways to make home life as fun and supportive as possible for people we serve, during this time of uncertainty. We are hearing of many closures and cancellations that impact people’s daily routines and will work diligently to develop new routines with the people we support that avoid exposure and keep them and our staff as safe as possible.
  9. Recommending Social Distancing for the People we Support: Based on the recommendations to protect vulnerable people in long term care facilities by the Chief Medical Officer, we are currently recommending the people we support and staff practice social distancing. This means reducing how often people go out and reducing the frequency with which the people we support have contact with family, friends, and others outside their home. Managers will continue to work with families and guardians to determine the most safe options.

For More Information

  1. Check the AB Government Updates: Please regularly check and follow Alberta Government updates on the COVID-19 situation. View those here: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
  2. If you are a Skills Employee and require additional information you can be in touch with pandemic coordinators, Linda or Ed at 780-496-9686
  3. If you are a family or guardian and require additional information you can be in touch with the manager associated with your loved one’s support.

We appreciate your patience and support as we continue to navigate these uncertain and unprecedented times. Please know that we are working our hardest to keep the people we serve and our staff as safe as possible.

Sincerely,

Ben Weinlick, Executive Director and the Senior Management Team

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