Memo to: People we Support, Families, and Guardians
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19) – Skills Society Stage 3 Relaunch
From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society
July 6, 2021
Table of Contents
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
SECTION I: Introduction
SECTION II: Rescinded Procedures
SECTION III: Procedures & Guidelines that Continue to Remain in Place
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
Dear Skills Community,
It goes without saying it has been quite a time for everyone this past year and half. Thank you to you all for being patient, kind and doing your best to safeguard yourselves and each other as we navigated this pandemic together. We’re hopefully entering the final leg of this journey as vaccine uptake has increased in community and transmission of COVID-19 has significantly reduced. Below you will find a well researched, cautious and thorough approach to relaunch based on Provincial, Federal and Municipal Health information we have at present. With the province having lifted most health restrictions for all citizens, we have outlined our plan and safeguards below. It’s hopefully our last long memo related to COVID… Bear with the length as there are many important pieces to cover and help our community with being informed. High fives, kudos and huge thanks to pandemic and safety coordinators this past year and a half Rebecca Rubuliak, Paige Reeves, Ed Woodward and Linda Marchand. Researching and getting out accurate information in a timely manner has been no small feat to keep people safe.
We also just celebrated our 40th Annual General Meeting(AGM)! In the link right below you’ll find our AGM report with reflections and stories from people we serve from the past year. I highly recommend checking it out. Link Here: https://skillssociety.ca/about/reports-and-tools/
Wishing everyone good health well into the future and a safe and good summer to you all.
Ben Weinlick, Executive Director.
SECTION I: Introduction
On July 1st, 2021 Alberta entered Stage 3 of the Provincial Open for Summer Plan. Therefore, as per the Skills Society Relaunch Plan (June 2021), Skills Society will be entering Stage 3 of our relaunch on July 9th, 2021. Below is important information regarding changes to Skills Society COVID-19 procedures and practices. To date, we have received no direction from our Ministry (PDD/CSS) or Health Authorities regarding our sector. What we are hearing both from Government and the Edmonton Council of Service Providers(CSP) is that we, as an organization, are to make our own decisions regarding COVID-19 procedures and safeguards. Skills Society and employees we expect will always follow any current or future provincial and municipal health mandates. Skills Society has chosen to take a cautious approach, maintaining important outbreak prevention and control practices and procedures. We are using the most recent information from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Alberta Government, and Chief Medical Officer of Health(CMOH) Order 32-2021 to inform our Stage 3 relaunch practices and procedures. In particular, as an extra precaution we are going to delay removing continuous masking in all direct support environments until July 19th, 2021 in order to give a bit more time for people we serve and staff to receive second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines have been available to all people we support since March 30th as part of Phase 2B and staff since April 30th as part of Phase 2C.
The whole world is in uncharted territory with regards to easing COVID-19 restrictions, but what is clear from health data around the world is that vaccines work and health officials say are our best protection for ourselves, our families and community. What is clear from CMOH, the province and municipalities is that citizens will be more responsible going forward for their own decisions around protecting their health based on their unique situations. This memo will help ensure everyone is informed and supported to make an informed assessment of risks and needs. People we serve and Guardians may decide to keep their individual and roommate plans in place, and will be different in each unique support environment.
*Note – We will continue to monitor what is happening within the province and our community. Should cases begin to rise, or we receive new information from Government or Health, we may return to Stage 1 or 2 COVID-19 procedures and processes.
We all have a part to play in keeping people safe during reopening
Skills Society is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our employees and the people we serve.
Skills Society will:
- Keep required procedures related to COVID-19 in place (see below Section III: Procedures & Guidelines that Continue to Remain in Place) as per the most recent information from Health Authorities. These will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and updated based on provincial mandates and as we receive new information from Health and/or our Ministry(CSS/PDD)
- Ensure/provide proper information and training to all employees
- Ensure all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is readily available (PPE includes items such as gloves, gowns, protective eyewear or face shields, medical masks and N95 masks when applicable)
- At present, Skills Society anticipates having all necessary PPE readily available until March 2022
- Keep employees informed to ensure they have the required support and resources to perform their job duties
- As long as COVID-19 procedures are in place, Ed Woodward, Health & Safety Coordinator will continue to be available to answer questions and check in with teams. Ed just completed team meetings with every team following the release of the Skills Society Relaunch Plan (June 2021)
- Managers will continue to check in with teams, answer questions and support
At the same time, to ensure their ongoing safety, and the safety of the people we serve, the employee shall:
- Continue with following all Universal Precautions procedures
- Follow procedures and when required(for example if someone we serve is confirmed COVID-19) wear all the appropriate PPE and follow the donning and doffing procedures as per Skills Society COVID-19 procedures
- Follow all Skills Society Policies and Procedures, including all new Health and Safety procedures related to COVID-19 (e.g. thorough hand hygiene)
- Complete once daily health checklist(until further notice) and report any changes to employee health immediately to a supervisor and leave the worksite if any symptoms of COVID-19 are present
- Not come to work if any COVID-19 signs or symptoms, even if mild. Will complete the AHS online self-assessment tool and seek advice from Health Authorities, such as calling 811, in determining their eligibility to return to work
Guidance for all Albertans
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
By getting the vaccine, you help protect yourself, your friends and family, and your community. Health officials continue to tell us that vaccines are the most effective protection against COVID-19 and our path out of this pandemic; “The best thing you can do to support your health and reduce the risk to the broader community is to get vaccinated. 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 and employees who haven’t already, to book an appointment. If you are waiting to receive the vaccine or have questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccines please talk to your doctor and follow their advice.
To date, 100% of the people we serve who have consented to receiving the vaccine have received their first dose, and 65.4% have received both doses.
Assessing your personal risk
As per the Alberta Government:
With the removal of most mandatory restrictions, Albertans are encouraged to assess and manage their personal risk during the final stages of the pandemic. It is reasonable for people to continue using precautions that will serve their needs.
When assessing your personal risk, it is important to consider your setting, individual health and wellness factors, and comfort level.
Factors that increase COVID-19 risk:
You are not fully vaccinated yet.
You regularly interact with children 11 and under who cannot be vaccinated yet.
You attend crowded indoor spaces.
You have risk factors for severe health outcomes from COVID-19.
Factors that lower COVID-19 risk:
You are fully vaccinated.
You mostly socialize outdoors, instead of indoors.
You have a small social circle.
You can normally maintain distancing from other people.
Consult your physician or primary health care provider if you want input on assessing your personal risk of severe outcomes or to assist in determining your personal risk level.
CMOH recommends all Albertans practice good hand and respiratory hygiene (e.g., coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow, promptly disposing of used tissues in a lined garbage bin) and staying home when sick. If you have risk factors as described above, it is reasonable to consider additional precautions such as:
- avoiding or limiting time spent in crowded indoor places
- minimizing close contact with anyone showing cold-like symptoms
- continuing to use a face mask
Continue to be kind & support one another
As we enter the final stages of the pandemic, it is important to remember that we live interdependent lives, meaning everyone is valued, has something to offer, and our actions impact one another. Individual’s preferences and perceptions of risk will be diverse and personal. It is important to be courteous and respectful. Be kind to one another and help each other to feel safe. Everyone will transition into the final stages of the pandemic at their own pace – work with people to ensure as best possible people feel supported to continue with precautions.
Keep supporting each other in the days ahead by getting vaccinated ASAP & making safe choices in Stage 3, staying home when sick, getting tested, & supporting others who need to keep taking precautions for a while longer.
– Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Mental health & wellbeing is more important than ever
(From Alberta Health Services Community Conversation for Alberta Employers, June 30, 2021)
Throughout the pandemic Skills Society has been committed to supporting the mental well-being of the people we serve and employees. As we enter Stage 3 of Alberta’s reopening plan, now more than ever, we encourage everyone to check in on and support the mental health and wellbeing of the people we serve, colleagues, and community.
Alberta Health Services resources
- Help in Tough Times: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/amh/Page16759.aspx
- Addiction Helpline: 1-866-332-2322
- Community Resources: 211 Alberta
- Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
- Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-303-2642
Government of Alberta – Mental Health Support: Transitioning to Stage 3 and Beyond
To view PDF click here.
Additional resources are also available on our website: https://skillssociety.ca/covid19-resources/
SECTION II: Rescinded Procedures
Health Assessment Checklist for People we Support – Rescinded
The people we serve are no longer asked to complete the Health Assessment Checklist twice daily. However, as with all Albertans, the people we serve should monitor their symptoms everyday to help protect others and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and are required to follow all legal isolation/quarantine requirements as mandated by the Government of Alberta. If they are able, people supported by Skills Society must immediately notify a Community Support Worker or Team Leader if they are feeling unwell. If someone Skills Society serves requires support with self-monitoring, a resource is available for support workers to help with monitoring symptoms and what the requirements for isolation/quarantine are.
Effective July 19, 2021: Working for Skills and Other Disability Service Organizations Procedure – Rescinded
As of July 19, 2021, Skills Society staff who were on a Leave of Absence due to circumstances related to COVID-19 or had been working at a designated supportive living (DSL) or long-term care (LTC) facilities are required to return to work with Skills.
As per CMOH Order 32-2021, it is the responsibility of staff to immediately notify their Skills supervisor if they have worked in the last 14 days or are currently working at a site where there is a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak. Staff will not be permitted to work at any Skills homes until authorized to do so by Alberta Health Services/Health Authorities and their supervisor.
Effective July 19, 2021: Continuous Masking Procedure for Staff – Rescinded
As of July 19, 2021, Skills Society employees providing direct support will be asked to follow the NEW Masking Guidelines for Staff (see below). The new masking guidelines are informed by the Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations are based on the vaccination status of the individual (in this case, Skills Society employees), the setting and/or activity, and the vaccination status of others in that setting/activity. Therefore, Skills Society will not be implementing the new guidelines until July 19th in order to give more time for people to receive their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “The best thing you can do to support your health and reduce the risk to the broader community is to get vaccinated. 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).
SECTION III: Procedures & Guidelines that Continue to Remain in Place
At this point and until further notice the below Skills Society COVID-19 policies and safety procedures remain in place. Employees are required to follow all Skills Society policies and procedures while at work including pandemic safety procedures that have been developed during COVID-19. These continue to be in place based on the most recent information from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Alberta Government, and CMOH Order 32-2021. We don’t know when these will shift, but they are important safeguards; operational and outbreak standards help ensure that the people we support and staff are kept as physically safe as possible.
Summary of procedures that continue to remain in place:
- PPE Procedures & N95 Mask Procedure
- Hand Hygiene Procedure
- Supporting Someone Who is Showing Symptoms of COVID-19 Procedure
- Supporting Someone Who is Confirmed to have COVID-19 Procedure
- Responsibilities and Guidelines for Staff who have Consented to Support Someone Confirmed to have COVID-19
- Daily Cleaning Procedure
- Staff Checklist Procedure
- Staff Isolation/Quarantine Procedure
- Transportation During COVID-19 Procedure
- Woodcroft Guidelines During COVID-19
- Action Lab Procedure During COVID-19
- Procedure for Working in and/or Visiting the Skills Main Office
- Working from Home Guidelines
- Effective July 19th, 2021: Masking Guidelines for Staff
Procedures for Skills staff using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when supporting someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and/or is on contact and droplet precautions, as well as regular universal precautions to follow on a day to day basis when supporting the people we serve.
Hand Hygiene Procedure
Practicing good hand hygiene is an important step in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 – protecting yourself and others from COVID-19. Staff are required to wash or disinfect their hands frequently and practice the 4 moments of hand hygiene while on shift, using soap and water or hand sanitizer.
Supporting Someone Who is Showing Symptoms of COVID-19 Procedure
Procedure for Skills staff to use when someone we support begins to show symptoms of COVID-19. These guidelines draw on information provided by Alberta Health Authorities and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Supporting Someone Who is Confirmed to have COVID-19 Procedure
Outlined in this procedure is information for staff teams to use in the event that someone we support is confirmed to have COVID-19.
Daily Cleaning Procedure
As per CMOH Order 32-2021, as more people are out interacting with their community, enhanced cleaning and disinfection is essential critical practice to help minimize spread of COVID-19. This procedure is to help staff in daily cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surface areas. These cleaning routines are to be completed at minimum once per day (in accordance to the ‘Skills Society Daily Cleaning Checklist’).
Staff Checklist Procedure & Staff Isolation/Quarantine Procedure
As an extra preventative measure all staff who provide direct support to the people we serve are required to complete the staff checklist (adapted from the Alberta Health Daily Checklist for Adults 18 and older) prior to the start of their shift and prior to entering the support environment. If a staff answers yes to any of the questions on the checklist, they are not permitted to enter the support environment and work their shift. If this happens, staff need to notify their supervisor immediately and follow the guidelines in the ‘Staff Isolation/Quarantine Procedure’.
If a staff becomes symptomatic at any point during their shift they must leave their mask on (if wearing a medical mask) OR immediately don a medical mask, and notify their supervisor immediately to find coverage so they can leave and follow the guidelines in the ‘Staff Isolation/Quarantine Procedure’.
Transportation during COVID-19 Procedure
In keeping with Alberta Stage 3 restrictions, when a staff is transporting an individual in their personal vehicle they are required to follow the guidelines outlined in the ‘Transportation during COVID-19 Procedure’, including that staff and the individual(s) wear a mask. Or if the individual cannot wear a mask, then they must wear a face shield.
Woodcroft Guidelines during COVID-19
Supports offered through Woodcroft will resume with the modifications and precautions outlined in the Woodcroft Guidelines during COVID-19. Prior to entry to the house, children will complete the Alberta Health Daily Checklist for Children under 18 and follow the direction outlined in the checklist based on their response.
Procedure for Working in and/or Visiting the Skills Main Office
If you are feeling sick, you are NOT permitted to come to the office. Any individuals required to isolate or quarantine as per the Government of Alberta requirements, as outlined in the procedure, are NOT permitted to come to the office and should seek advice from Health Authorities on isolation/quarantine procedures.
At present, staff and visitors to the Skills main office are asked to follow recommendations by the Public Health Agency of Canada for masking and physical distancing based on vaccination status. These recommendations can be found here and will be posted at the Skills Office and Action Lab. Medical masks will be made available throughout the Skills Office and Action Lab.
Effective July 19th, 2021: Masking Guidelines for Staff
Effective July 19, 2021, in alignment with the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, all Skills employees providing direct support will be required to 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, with the exception of the following scenarios:
- When supporting someone who is suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and/or is on contact and droplet precautions employees are required to wear a medical mask (or N95 mask as applicable) in accordance with the PPE Procedure, Supporting Someone Who is Showing Symptoms Procedure, and the Confirmed COVID-19 Procedure
- If a staff becomes symptomatic at any point during their shift they must immediately don a medical mask (if not already wearing one), and notify their supervisor immediately to find coverage so they can leave as per the Staff Checklist Procedure
The Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines can be found here and are attached to this memo.
Sincere heartfelt gratitude from the whole Senior Team. Your patience and kindness to one another these past 16 months is seen. The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community, is to get vaccinated. In addition, following these simple practices like good hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick are important in protecting yourself and others against infection. Let’s all continue to do our part during the final stages of the pandemic. We’re in this together.
Senior Leadership of Skills Society