April 13th, 2020 COVID-19 Update

Memo: New aggressive COVID-19 policy and procedures implemented at Skills Society

To: All People we Support, Guardians, Families, Skills Society Employees

From: Skills Society Executive Director and Senior Leadership 


Since early March, Skills Society has proactively been taking aggressive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through new procedures and practices. Procedures for staff continue to be updated as new information comes forward. Procedures for staff can be found through the “COVID-19 employee login” on our website here – https://www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources/  

CMOH Order 10-2020

On April 10th, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) released another Health Order (CMOH Order 10-2020) for congregate care and long term care facilities. Following what is outlined in this order, Skills Society will be implementing more aggressive preventative measures to safeguard the people we serve and staff. 

Skills Society does not have any SLALA licensed or large congregate care health facilities that the CMOH health orders are meant for. However, in the CMOH health order they recommend that organizations like ours, that serve vulnerable citizens, also follow the recommendations. Skills Society continues to go above and beyond to safeguard the citizens with disabilities we serve and we believe it is in the best interest of the people we serve and our staff to adopt additional CMOH health orders from CMOH Order 10-2020. 

To be clear the community living support arrangements for many of the people we serve are small – with 3-4 roommates in a regular community home. Skills Society supports about 35 of these small living arrangements. Skills Society also provides up to 24 hour per day support to people who live in apartment buildings and share support with others. These are regular community homes, where people we support pay rent or own their own home and Skills Society provides community living supports. The supports Skills Society provides ranges from outreach support to 24/7 support depending on needs determined by PDD (government funder of services). 

In a recent town hall that took place on April 4th, 2020 with disability services providers, CMOH Dr. Hinshaw, shared that in small community living arrangements where 3-4 roommates live together, the risk is low of contracting COVID-19, as long as there is social distancing, adherence to hygiene routines and reducing the amount of people coming and going from people’s homes. These measures have already been taken at Skills Society to protect the people we serve.

The intent of previous measures, and now these new more aggressive measures, continues to be to help ensure that seniors and other vulnerable individuals living and working in settings where Skills Society provides support are kept as physically safe as possible, mitigating the risks of COVID-19 as best as possible.

Additional Procedures Skills Society is Implementing Effective April 14th, 2020

  • Only essential supports, residents, and designated essential visitors allowed in community living arrangements where Skills Society supports the people we serve: 
    • An essential support is an employee of Skills Society.
    • A resident is the person we support who lives in the home.
    • A designated essential visitor is someone other than an employee of Skills Society and the person we support and might include a homecare worker or family member. A guardian or family member may be deemed a designated essential visitor for health and safety. Managers in concert with people served, guardians and team leaders will continue to determine the safest ways to maintain essential designated visitors that balances physical, and mental health needs while safeguarding from COVID-19. 
    • All essential supports and designated essential visitors will continue to fill out the Skills Visitor and Staff Checklist before entering a home or residence as outlined in “Skills Visitor and Staff Checklist Procedure”. 
    • Should a designated essential visitor be permitted to visit, they must wear a mask continuously throughout their time in a home and shall be instructed how to put on and take off any PPE by a staff that has been trained how to do so. 
    • Any visits from the permitted designated essential visitor must occur in the individual supported’s room, other than when the designated essential visitor is assisting with required care activities (e.g., mealtimes)
    • Residents and permitted designated essential visitors shall perform hand hygiene (including hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer) on entry and exit from their rooms as well as when leaving and returning to the home.
    • Essential supports shall continue to follow hand hygiene practices outlined in the “Washing Hands at Work Procedure” which includes thorough handwashing every 30 minutes while on shift.
  • Continued adherence to the daily cleaning checklist maintained by Team Leaders outlined in the “Daily Cleaning Procedure”. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and equipment assists in disrupting disease transmission and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • People supported by Skills Society, named residents in #1 above, are required to conduct daily self-checks, like all Albertans, for signs of COVID-19. Details on the procedure for these daily self-checks and the checklist itself can be found below as well as in the “Health Assessment Checklist for People we Support Procedure”. 
    • The Health Assessment Checklist for People we Support can be viewed in Appendix A of this memo. A paper copy of the Checklist will be couriered out to houses and a fillable PDF version will be added to the website in the “COVID-19 Resources section”.
    • If someone Skills Society supports is unable to do a self-check, a support worker will help them with the Health Assessment Checklist.
    • The people we support are to complete the Health Assessment Checklist twice per day, once in the morning after breakfast, and again in the evening before bed. *Outreach staff are required to do the checklist each time they see or check in with the person (this may not be daily). Outreach staff may complete the checklist over the phone with the person they support if not seeing the individual face to face. 
    • Team Leaders are to collect completed checklists and store then in a section in the medical binder. Documenting completion of the checklist
    • Note that the list of signs and symptoms for residents is different than for staff, as residents may experience milder initial symptoms or be unable to report certain symptoms if they experience a cognitive impairment.
    • If able, people supported by Skills Society must immediately notify a community support worker or team leader if they are feeling unwell
    • When a Skills Society employee becomes aware that someone we support has symptoms (either because the individual told them or through completion of the Health Assessment Checklist), the employee must follow the steps outlined in the “Supporting Someone who is Sick Procedure”.
  • Skills Society employees are required to conduct twice daily self-checks (like all Albertans) for signs of COVID-19, for their own health. The first check takes place prior to coming to a shift through filling out the “Skills Society Visitor and Staff Checklist” found as a fillable PDF in the “COVID-19 Resources” section of the Skills Society website (https://www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources/).
    • Any staff member that determines they are symptomatic at any time shall notify their supervisor and remain off work for the length of time directed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. These directions from the CMOH, provided to all Albertans, can be viewed on the following website: https://www.alberta.ca/isolation.aspx
  • Where possible, Skills Society employees and people we support will maintain a distance of at least 2 metres, except when required to come closer to one another to complete necessary job tasks such as personal care, supporting someone to eat, etc. 
    • Employees and people we support should avoid gathering as a group in rooms within the home for activities such as meals and TV viewing when 2 meter distance is not possible. 
  • Effective on April 23, 2020, Skills Society staff will not be permitted to work for other health or disability service organizations. This is in keeping with CMOH orders to reduce the spread between facilities and organizations. 
    • As soon as possible, but no later than April 15, 2020, staff will disclose to their supervisors: 
      • If they are employed by multiple facilities and/or operators, and which site they prefer as their single primary worksite for the duration of this order 
        • Skills employees are to let their manager know in writing of their choice of primary worksite by April 15, 2020. 
        • If the chosen primary worksite is one other than Skills Society, the manager will process the termination form for a leave of absence for the employee. 
      • Staff will be granted a leave of absence from their non-primary employers. Non-primary employers will not penalize staff. 
      • Expected to be extremely rare, any requests for a consideration of an exemption may be brought forward on a case by case basis for consultation with AHS Zone Medical Officers of Health. Only the Chief Medical Officer of Health may grant an exemption. 
    • Managers, Team Leaders, and guardians will work to reduce the number of homes staff work at within Skills Society. This will help reduce the number of staff that interact with the people we support on a daily basis. This needs to balance core support needs of people we support while reducing COVID-19 spread. 
  • Minimize the size of the group of people we support eating at any one time (e.g., increase the number of meal times, distribute groups eating into other available rooms, stagger the times when meals happen, etc.) 
    • Reduce the number of residents eating at a table to a maximum of 2, with as much distance apart as possible or implement alternatives that allow the required 2 metre distance. 
    • Have staff handle cutlery (e.g., pre-set tables).
    • Remove shared food containers from dining areas (e.g., shared pitchers of water, shared coffee cream dispensers, salt and pepper shakers, etc.) 
    • Provide single service packets of condiments, provide packet directly to each resident, rather than self-serve in a bulk container. 
    • Remove any self-serve food items made available in public spaces.
  • In alignment with the CMOH health order 10-2020, people Skills Society supports must stay in their home as much as possible.
    • In community living residential supports must stay in their home as much as possible except in the case of necessity (e.g., walking, groceries, pharmacy) or exceptions (e.g., medical appointments) while observing physical and social distancing requirements. 
    • In supported independent living (outreach) support workers will encourage people they support to stay at home and only go out for essential items and advise to maintain social distancing of 2 meters at all times.
  • As per Skills Society “Supporting Someone who is Sick Procedure” procedure, employees are to contact the AHS Coordinated COVID-19 Response Line when a person we support is showing symptoms of COVID-19 for additional guidance and decision making support. 

Note – What’s happening with COVID-19 is changing rapidly. We become aware of new information from the provincial and federal governments and health authorities on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. We are working hard to be responsive to this new information as it becomes available. As such, information in this memo may change and quickly become outdated. We are doing our best to communicate new information to the people we support, families, guardians, and staff in a timely manner.

APPENDIX A: Health Assessment Checklist for People we Support