Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19)
From: Senior Leadership of Skills Society
January 11, 2022
Current COVID-19 Cases in Alberta and at Skills Society
As of January 10th, Alberta has 57,332 active cases (20,749 in the Edmonton zone), and 5,281 new cases in Alberta were identified on January 9th.
In our Skills Society Community, in the last two weeks, 4 individuals we serve and 13 employees have tested positive with COVID-19. 21 total employees are currently isolating due to symptoms and unable to temporarily work.
Even with our mandatory vaccine policy for all staff and the vast majority of people we support being fully vaccinated we expect there will continue to be some breakthrough cases. We need to continue to be vigilant and cautious.
We are grateful to the Government for sending us enough KN95 masks to ensure all staff have the best possible masks available as a safeguard to reduce spread.
Safeguards We Continue to Have in Place
Throughout the pandemic we have always taken a cautious and balanced approach. Skills Society continues to use the recommendations and expectations from Chief Medical Officer of Health Orders and Health Authorities to inform our COVID-19 policies and procedure for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are important safeguards, as operational and outbreak standards help ensure the people we support and staff are kept as physically safe as possible.
Important safeguards we continue to have in place include:
- Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all Skills Society employees
- Staff symptom screening prior to every shift
- Continuous masking and frequent hand hygiene
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
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 we update our COVID-19 policies and procedures, and add additional safeguards as needed to keep the people we serve, employees and our community safe.
We Are Once Again Very Concerned about Staffing Disruptions Beyond our Control in the Coming Weeks
Skills Society leadership has been preparing for staffing disruptions since early in the pandemic. However we cannot control all variables of this illness especially as community transmission increases with the highly infectious Omicron variant. With mandatory isolations of staff with COVID-19 like symptoms or confirmed COVID-19, we can end up losing staff for several days at a time. If this occurs in multiple homes at the same time, we could all be in a tough situation with limited staffing. The PDD system was not built for pandemics and everyone is doing their best to adapt and navigate. We got word just yesterday that at least one disability services day program has shut down until at least the end of January. This is a good safeguard to prevent spread, however where people go to a day program during the day, Skills is not funded for day supports of the same individuals. Our Managers and Team Leaders are working to arrange safe supports as best we can during these temporary disruptions.
We remind everyone that as an employer we cannot compel an employee to work with someone with COVID-19. However, many employees choose to step up, to support and help where needed with safeguards in place. With being fully vaccinated and provided with proper PPE and protocols there is a great deal of protection in place.
Calling on Families for Support Again
We want to prepare families that we may have to call on those who are able to take home a loved one for a period of time until isolation periods are over and staff are allowed to come back to work. Alternatively, if going to a family member’s home is not an option, in an emergency we may have to ask a family member to come to someone’s home to help with their support. This may come as an urgent call if we start to see significant numbers of staff being unable to come to work. Every effort will be made to avoid this scenario, but we would like families to think through a plan if we do need to call on them to take home a loved one for a temporary period of time. Details will be explored on a case by case basis with Managers if this emerges.
Here’s what Skills Society is continuing to do to address potential staffing shortages
- Our Mandatory Vaccine Policy for all staff is our best safeguard available for staffing shortages due to COVID-19
- Since the start of the pandemic, advocating to CSS/PDD about this challenge
- We continue to work hard at hiring new employees (We are also facing systemic challenges with hiring in the whole disability services sector)
- Last resort after all casual support options exhausted – Extra on-call weekend responders available currently
- Safety Procedures to support employees who are able to work with someone confirmed to have COVID-19
- As precautions and preparation we have completed isolation plans with all people we serve and Guardians
- Daily monitoring of the number of staff away due to self isolating and strategizing
- To help ensure staffing to support people we serve, we have generated lists of all staff able or not able to work with people we serve who are confirmed to have COVID-19
- Preparing families to be aware that once again on short notice we may have to ask families/Guardians to take a loved one home for an isolation period if no staff available
- The government has reduced mandatory isolation times for fully vaccinated individuals from 10 days to 5 days as long as no symptoms. In some cases Health Authorities may recommend longer isolation periods. This will help a bit in some cases with arranging emergency staffing during isolation periods.
Changes to Alberta’s COVID-19 Measures
The following changes to mandatory isolation requirements for Albertans became effective January 3rd, 2022 (https://www.alberta.ca/isolation.aspx):
Albertans with core symptoms
The mandatory isolation period for people with core symptoms that are not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition is:
- Fully vaccinated: 5 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer, plus 5 days of wearing a mask at all times when around others outside of home.
- Not fully vaccinated: 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
- If a person tests negative, they should still stay home and away from others until symptoms resolve.
Tested positive for COVID-19
- Fully vaccinated (2 doses or 1 dose Janssen): isolate for 5 days from the start of symptoms or until they resolve, whichever is longer, if symptoms are not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition. For 5 days following isolation, wear a mask at all times when around others outside of home.
- Not fully vaccinated (1 dose or less): isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms or until they resolve, whichever is longer, if symptoms are not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition.
3rd Doses are Available for All Albertans
Everyone 18 and older can book a booster shot, as long as it’s been at least 5 months since the second dose. “Boosters are needed because vaccine effectiveness against infection may decline over time – especially with the highly transmissible Omicron variant – but vaccines remain the best way to prevent severe illness and death” (Alberta Government COVID-19 Update, December 21, 2021). We strongly encourage people we support and employees to book an appointment as soon as possible; family members and Guardians of the people we support are also encouraged to reach out to their loved one to book an appointment. Ensure doctors are consulted where appropriate.
For more information about Alberta’s booster vaccine rollout visit the Alberta Government website here – https://www.alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine.aspx
Senior Leadership Team of Skills Society
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 Coordinator, Linda 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.
2021 Public Memos
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.