March 12th, 2020 COVID-19 Update

Memo to Families and Guardians: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-CoronaVirus (COVID-19)

From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society

CC: Team Leaders, Coordinators, Managers

March 12th Update

Last week we sent out an important message to all employees of Skills Society, families and guardians, outlining quick facts as well as prevention and preparedness measures for the potential spread of COVID-19. A recap of this message is included at the end of this email for your reference. This is an update with some additional information. 

To date, the number of cases in Alberta remains low and all are travel related. This could change in the coming weeks. Every effort is being made by Health authorities to contain the spread of the virus. All citizens need to do their part to reduce the spread by washing hands properly and staying home if sick. 

Team Leaders and Managers are having conversations with teams to ensure the prevention and precaution measures outlined in our previous message, including wipe down procedures and regular hand washing, are being followed. 

Alberta’s public health officials are recommending that all travelers returning from outside of Canada monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If they experience flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or a cough, they should self-isolate immediately and call Health Link at 811. Returning travelers, or others with flu-like symptoms, should not visit emergency departments, urgent care centres or their primary care physician for testing. Calling Health Link 811 is the best way to get quick assessment and testing. 

A reminder that as per our policies, employees have to report to Skills Society if a test confirms a COVID-19 diagnosis. 

Further Emergency Preparedness Planning Being Undertaken

If someone we support is confirmed, through a test, to have COVID-19

If anyone we support is confirmed to have COVID-19, we will be following the direction of Health authorities. Quarantine support from Health Services will be required. We are currently working on confirming that support and will update you as we learn more. 

A reminder for staff to do the following if someone we support is showing signs or symptoms:

  • If the person is in distress or having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately
  • If the person is not in distress but is displaying signs of a common cold, and you are unsure if they need to go to the hospital or not – Call Health Link at 811
  • Move the individual to a separate room or space in the house, provide them with a mask to cover their mouth and nose if available/appropriate, and follow all instructions given by Health Link
  • Contact your Team Leader or Manager immediately after receiving instructions from Health Link
  • Managers will contact their Senior Manager
  • The Senior Management Team will provide additional direction to the team as needed
  • Follow regular reporting lines for staff sick time off

Supporting people we serve in their homes if our staff numbers are reduced for weeks at a time

We are exploring options for the remote possibility a large number of employees may be required by health authorities to self quarantine for periods of 2 weeks or longer. Normally, when employees are sick, we call on our casual support list to fill in shifts. Unfortunately, we do not have an endless list of casual supports. In the event we do not have enough people on our casual list to cover emergency support shifts, we are exploring the possibility of partnering with day support organizations to see if their employees may be able to be deployed to help us. This has never been done before and we are striving as quickly as possible to be able to mobilize these extra supports in the safest way so that they are in place should they be required. 

Calling on families for support

We also want to be prepared, and share now, that we may have to call on families who are able to take home a loved one for a period of time until staff are allowed to come back to work. This may come as an urgent call if we start to see 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. In this scenario, there may be the potential for a family member to come to the home supported by Skills where a family member lives and support them there. Details will be explored on a case by case basis in the remote possibility the need for this emerges.  

Temporary emergency group living

If staffing reduces significantly, for people we support who are not confirmed to have COVID-19, we may have to move a small grouping of people or potentially large groupings of people we support, to an accessible hotel, or other emergency accomodation where a small number of employees can support people for a temporary amount of time until staffing resumes to normal. 

Conclusion

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to be in touch with the manager who serves your family member or individual you support or myself. As we learn more from authorities and experts about the virus we will send further updates. We appreciate your support as we navigate this together and do our best to be prepared. We hope this planning will simply be a cautious exercise that we don’t end up having to fully execute. 

See below, a reminder of the recommended precautions and prevention that were sent out in an earlier message. 

Recommended Precautions and Prevention for Everyone

The best prevention at present is regular, thorough hand washing, disinfecting surfaces frequently touched by people, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 

 

  • Proper hand washing: Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

 

  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing: Coughing or sneezing into the inner side of your elbow has shown to prevent spread of colds and flu.
  • Stay home when sick: This prevents the spread of viruses and protects people around you.
  • Remind yourself to not touch your face (eyes, nose or mouth) with unwashed hands
  • Frequently disinfect surfaces, door knobs and other frequently touched objects: Use Lysol or Clorox that states clearly on the bottle that it eliminates 99.9% of germs and viruses.

 

 

What to Do if Someone is Displaying Symptoms of COVID-19

If you are an employee of Skills Society and you or someone you support is displaying symptoms follow the steps outlined below

  • If the person is in distress or having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately
  • If the person is not in distress but is displaying signs of a common cold, and you are unsure if they need to go to the hospital or not – Call Health Link at 811
  • Move the individual to a separate room or space in the house, provide them with a mask to cover their mouth and nose if available/appropriate, and follow all instructions given by Health Link
  • Contact your Team Leader or Manager immediately after receiving instructions from Health Link
  • Managers will contact their Senior Manager
  • The Senior Management Team will provide additional direction to the team as needed
  • Follow regular reporting lines for staff sick time off

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