Memo to: People we Support, Families, and Guardians
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19) – Updates to Alberta’s COVID-19 Measures
From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society
August 16, 2021
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
Folks, it’s been a while since we’ve checked in with our whole Skills community on updates. Hoping everyone is having a calm summer and safely reconnecting. Much work and planning has been underway within leadership at Skills to make sense of changes Health Authorities and the Government of Alberta have implemented and how we can keep doing our best to inform and safeguard. The best safeguard Health Authorities keep advising is to get both vaccine doses. These vaccines are truly a marvel of human innovation and we are all so fortunate to have them available to safeguard ourselves and each other. We continue to strongly encourage our Skills community to consult their family physicians and follow their advice if advised to get vaccinated.
To date, 100% of the people we serve who have consented to receiving the vaccine have received their first dose, and 93.33% have received both doses. This is so great!
Wishing you all a safe and calm entry into the fall. Below are updates from the leadership team on our response to changes from health and the province.
PS- If you haven’t checked out our 2021 AGM report you can do so in the link right below.
Vaccines Are Our Most Effective Protection
The greatest act of kindness you can give yourself, your friends & family, & the health of this province is to get vaccinated – both dose 1 and 2 – as soon as you can.
– Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Health officials continue to tell us that vaccines are the most effective protection against COVID-19: “Vaccines are our best protection against COVID-19 and the safest and most effective way to protect against infection and severe illness” (www.alberta.ca). We strongly encourage the people we serve, employees, and members of our community who haven’t already, to consult their physician if questions and book an appointment for a vaccine if advised to.
Updates to Alberta’s COVID-19 Measures
On July 28th, 2021 the Government of Alberta announced that “with strong vaccine uptake, Alberta will gradually bring COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses to ensure health system capacity for the fall”. Effective July 29th quarantine for close contacts shifted from mandatory to recommended, and asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended (testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic). As per the Alberta Government, “Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days” (www.alberta.ca).
On August 13th, the Government of Alberta announced they will be extending the timeline for implementing the gradual easing of restrictions. Below are the first round of Provincial changes, with the next round of changes to begin September 27th. The following public health measures will remain in place until September 27th:
- Mandatory masking orders in publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-shares
- Mandatory isolation for 10 days for those with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result
- Testing at assessment centres for any symptomatic individual
For more information on this announcement, visit www.alberta.ca. Announcements regarding changes to Skills Society COVID-19 policies and procedures in response to the next round of changes can be expected later in the fall.
Below is a summary of the first round of Provincial changes announced on July 28th (effective July 29th). For more information visit (www.alberta.ca).
What this means for Skills Society
Despite the easing of quarantine requirements by the Alberta Government, Skills Society has chosen to take a cautious approach and will be following the ‘Alberta Health Services Directive: Attending work with COVID-19 symptoms, positive test, or close contact’ (effective August 12, 2021). This means that staff who are not immunized or are partially immunized and are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case will be prohibited from attending work for any purposes. This is a safeguard to protect the citizens we serve and colleagues in our Skills community.
Important safeguards we continue to follow
Until further notice Skills Society’s COVID-19 policies and procedures that employees are required to follow while working continue to remain in place (e.g., hand hygiene procedure, enhanced daily cleaning checklists, masking guidelines, etc.). As per the Skills Society ‘Masking Guidelines for Staff’ in alignment with the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, all Skills employees are required to honestly self-assess whether or not to wear a mask while at work based on (1) their vaccination status and (2) the setting or activity they are engaging in while at work. We have also shared expectations with all employees that we expect employees to be honest and accurately self-determine based on vaccination status and activities listed in the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines whether they need to wear a mask while supporting people we serve at home or in community settings.
This procedure change, in addition to others, was shared with people we support, families and Guardians on July 6th, 2021 with the announcement of Skills Society entering Stage 3 of Relaunch (view the memo here).
A reality is, at present we cannot require employees to disclose their vaccination status, but we can ask and welcome if employees would feel comfortable to disclose for the purpose of strategizing safeguards. At present and based on recent consultation with our Board of Directors and legal counsel, we have not mandated vaccination as a requirement of employment. We continue to share vaccine facts and information from experts with employees and strongly encourage those who haven’t already, to book a vaccine appointment.
We continue to monitor closely what is happening within our community and the province, as well as updated information from Health Authorities and the Government. As events unfold and we learn new information in the coming weeks and months, we may have to reinstate additional safeguards (e.g., continuous masking of all employees in direct support roles), to keep the people we serve, employees and our community safe.
Reminder of tensions we are navigating with health and provincial lifting of restrictions
As we have stated since the beginning, Skills Society does not operate licensed facilities, we do not receive any health services funding either. We support people in their own homes. People we serve direct their own lives and make their own decisions. In addition, most people we serve do not live alone, but with roommates whom we also support. Roommates and Guardians have different perspectives, and we need roommates and Guardians to work together to find common ground that keeps everyone as safe as possible. Individual and roommate COVID-19 plans have served and can continue to help serve this purpose to come to a shared understanding and set of safeguards roommates and Guardians agree to. Again, Health Authorities and provincial leaders keep telling all Albertans that the best safeguard we all have is to get both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you have questions or concerns
If as an individual or Guardian the provincial requirements do not feel safe enough (ie. you are uncomfortable, they are not in line with your risk tolerance) and you wish to have additional safeguards (above what is expected by Skills Society COVID-19 procedures and provincial requirements), then we will help to facilitate conversations to do an addendum to individualized COVID-19 plans and roommate agreements (where applicable). Please be in touch with the Manager associated with your (or your loved one’s) support to set up a further conversation.
Changes to Alberta’s COVID-19 Measures
The following changes from health and province became effective July 29, 2021:
- Quarantine for close contacts shifted from mandatory to recommended.
- Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
- Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
- All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
- Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
- Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
- Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
We all live interdependent lives in community. Please continue to be cautious, safe and look out for each other in our shared community.
Skills Senior Leadership Team
For More Information
- If you are a family or Guardian and require additional information please be in touch with the manager associated with your loved one’s support.
- If you are a Skills Employee and require additional information you can be in touch with your supervisor or Pandemic Coordinators, Linda or Ed at 780-496-9686.
- Keep up to date on our COVID-19 Resources section on our website: https://skillssociety.ca/covid19-resources/.
Previous Public Memos
Public Memos are available on our website under the ‘news’ tab.
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.