Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19)
From: Executive Director & Senior Leadership of Skills Society
October 30, 2020 Update
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
Hello to everyone in our Skills Society community. It’s been a few weeks since our last public post on how things are going. Lots has been going on with direct communication with people we serve, families, and support teams. As of today all fall/winter individual and roommate COVID-19 plans are completed. These are very in-depth safety plans facilitated by our stellar team of Managers and Team Leaders. The process involved communicating again with individuals and families about health orders, Skills Society recommendations and policies and documented individual and guardian wishes around safeguarding from COVID-19. This was a very big undertaking and an expression of one of our core values in action- Practice in Person-Centered ways. Big shout out and thank you to people we serve, families, guardians, Managers and Team Leaders for navigating this in a timely way.
Remember we do not have any licensed facilities, nor health system funding. We support people in their own homes, and the people we serve procure our supports with approved funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services – PDD. People we serve and their guardians have rights and responsibilities in the decisions and risks they assume around activities undertaken during the global pandemic. We are recommended to follow the health orders as best we can and adapt them to non medical settings while balancing those orders with supporting individual choices, mental health and wellbeing.
Community Transmission of COVID-19 on the Rise in Edmonton
As you know community transmission is on the rise around the world and in our own city. More than ever we all need to do our part to follow city and provincial health orders. We have all heard them many times before like a broken record, but they are the best we have for protecting each other and people we serve. Wash your hands, wear a mask when in public, never go out or come to work if any COVID-19 symptoms, follow our Skills Society safety policies and procedures.
Numbers are low at Skills Society but we have navigated confirmed COVID-19 cases
As of today and since August we have had 4 individuals we serve, and 7 employees test positive for COVID-19. Isolation periods have ended for all except 1 individual who is with family and 1 employee. For the 4 individuals we serve this was in 2 separate and unconnected small support home environments. With the employees, they responded quickly at the first signs of illness, did not come in to work and likely due to our continuous masking and other safety procedures this controlled further spread. From what we have heard, everyone who has tested positive so far since August has had mild to no symptoms at all. This is a serious illness and as Health Authorities keep telling us, no one knows who will have mild symptoms and who will have more serious complications, so it needs to be taken seriously and remembered that COVID-19 is definitely not just a common cold or flu.
With rising cases and even though we have very thorough safeguards and preventative measures in place, we can’t control all variables of community transmission spread. It is likely we will be navigating further confirmed cases in the coming months. We are asking that everyone be vigilant, be extra cautious as we have been since the beginning of the pandemic, follow health orders and be good citizens- realizing that we are all interconnected and individual choices have ripple effects in our communities.
“It’s a marathon not a sprint”
This quote from Dr. Hinshaw and others is important to remember. COVID-19 will be with us for a while and we need to be kind to ourselves, to each other and look out for fellow community members. Take time to rest, de-stress, and seek support and help if needed. We feel very fortunate to have support from Anita Watts who has been working with supporting mental health of teams and employees. Anita also facilitated a session for people we support on October 15th as part of our CommuniTEA Connection Events. Anita shared tools that people can incorporate into their daily routine to manage stress and anxiety.
COVID-19 Edmonton Zone Public Health Measures
To limit the current spread of COVID-19, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) has put in place new mandatory and voluntary public health measures for the Edmonton zone. As of October 26, 2020, all private social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 15 people regardless of whether the gathering is fully or partially indoors or outdoors. Voluntary measures include limiting cohorts to no more than 3 and wearing a mask in all indoor work settings. Effective April 18th 2020, in alignment with recommendations from CMOH, all Skills employees are required to follow the Continuous Masking Procedure. For more information click here.
Helping People Stay Connected and Safe
COVID-19 and all the changes associated with it have made it challenging for people to remain feeling connected to others in their community. With people not able to go out as often or see friends and family in person regularly, feelings of boredom, isolation, and loneliness can creep in. This is why we, at Skills Society, have been spearheading a new Virtual Community Building Initiative.
How the people we support can get involved
- Become a Virtual Community Builder: A Virtual Community Builder (VCB) is someone we support who is friendly, interested in having conversation with others to brighten up their day, and excited to meet new people “virtually”. They are conversation stewards – connecting with other people within Skills through informal ‘tea time’ chats using an online platform called “Zoom”. VCBs will be supported by a Skills staff in their role, are required to participate in an orientation, and will be paid an honorarium for each conversation they steward.
- Sign up for a Virtual Chat with a Community Builder: People we support who may be feeling socially disconnected, bored, or lonely, can sign up for a virtual chat with a community builder. A VCB will arrange a time to connect with the person online over a platform called Zoom. Together they can chat, have tea, and maybe even play some games.
- Participate in Weekly Virtual CommuniTEA Connection Events: These might include things like preparing a snack together, having a conversation around a specific topic, or doing a guided art project. See the latest schedule of events here: www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources. Everyone we support is welcome to register for these events!
Have a special skill or talent you would like to share with the Skills community? …Have an idea for a CommuniTEA Connections Event? …Interested in becoming a Virtual Community Builder?
Let us know! Feel free to get in touch with Jessica the Virtual Community Building Initiative Coordinator (email@example.com) if you want to sign up or learn more.
A reminder not to come to work if you are feeling sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
As you are already aware, we have provided a list of supports and resources available for employees on the Skills Society Website during COVID-19. We have included the links here for easy reference:
WEBSITE: Federal Financial Resources for Individuals and Families Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan and listing of available financial resources from the federal government.
WEBSITE: Provincial Financial Resources for Individuals and Families COVID-19 supports for Albertans.
WEBSITE: Alberta Health Services – Help in Tough Times Supports and resources for Albertans during stressful times. Includes COVID-19 online resources and where to find support.
The Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 1-877-303-2642.
Although it may seem simplistic or hard to see how we can all benefit from simple acts during a pandemic, when you wash your hands properly for 30 seconds, wear a mask securely, monitor for mild symptoms and stay home if you have any, you are being heroic and are protecting the people we serve, you, your co-workers, your family and community.
Thank you all for your dedication and hard work to supporting some of the most amazing citizens we have the privilege to serve.
Please know that we are working our hardest to keep the people we serve and our staff as safe as possible.
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.