March 20, 2020 COVID-19 Update

Memo to people we support, families, and guardians: 

Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-CoronaVirus (COVID-19)

From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society

The leadership of Skills Society continues to work day and night on preparedness measures, advocacy, and creative collaborations in the sector that are unprecedented as we navigate the spread of COVID-19. 

We continue to follow directions and information provided by the provincial and federal government as well as health authorities. The situation is constantly evolving and we are working diligently to be as responsive to new information as possible as it becomes available.  

A Bit About the Current Situation in Alberta and Canada

As of 1pm on March 20th, there are 146 confirmed cases in Alberta and 736 in Canada. At least eight of the cases in Alberta are suspected to be community-acquired (i.e. not related to travel). Alberta has declared a state of emergency and both provincial and federal governments have released a variety of financial relief measures available to citizens in this uncertain time. To get the most up to date information we recommend checking the following websites regularly:

Effective immediately, the Chief Medical Officer has directed the following aggressive public health measures:

  • Effective March 12, all travellers returning from outside Canada must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.
  • Mass gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people
  • Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreation facilities and private entertainment facilities.
  • Albertans are prohibited from attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.
  • Sit-down restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50% capacity to a maximum of 50 people.

Remember, the above is as of March 20th and may change in coming days and weeks. 

Actions Being Taken by Skills Society

Below is an overview of what measures are in effect at Skills Society in addition to the messages sent on March 16, 2020. These measures are based on directions given from the Chief Medical Officer, Government of Alberta, and Government of Canada. 

Working to Safeguard Around the Clock

We are working around the clock to keep the people we serve as safe as possible. Skills Society staff have, and continue to, show impressive leadership in these uncertain times – stepping up to problem solve in creative ways, collaborate with others in the sector and beyond, and advocating on behalf of the people we serve. 

Advocacy for Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for Staff

Shortages and absence of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE – things like gloves, masks, gowns, and eye protection), is a challenge everyone in the disability services sector is facing. We are working diligently with others in the sector to impress upon authorities the utmost importance of getting appropriate PPE to our staff so they can safely continue to support people. Know that we are doing all that we can to address this challenge and will continue to update you as we know more. 

Guidelines and information on Social Distancing Provided to Staff

As per direction from the Chief Medical Officer, and to promote safety, we are currently recommending the people we support and staff practice social distancing. At this time, it is up to Managers and Team Leaders to work with individuals, families and guardians to determine what the safest options are for the people we support. 

We, at Skills Society, are following all directions provided by the Chief Medical Officer, and therefore may need to adjust these recommendations in the future. As changes are made, we will communicate them as quickly as possible. 

To support our staff in making decisions around social distancing we have provided them with the following guidelines. These are meant to provide a framework for staff to start from. Staff continue to be expected to be in regular communication with individuals, guardians, and families in making decisions and plans with the people we support. 

Social Distancing Guidelines Provided to Staff

Social distancing means reducing how often we all go out and reducing the frequency with which the people we support have contact with others outside their home. This might include:

  • Helping people limit how often they leave their home to only essential outings (e.g. essential medical appointments) and making alternative arrangements for non essential outings. This might involve:
    • Stopping attendance of regular group activities and/or day programs
    • Avoiding places like malls and coffee shops
    • Stopping in person religious gatherings
    • Having only staff do grocery shopping or doing grocery shopping outside of peak times
  • Helping people determine which visitors to a home, including family and friends, are essential, and working with people to arrange phone or video calls as replacements where possible. It is not a rule, however following the chief medical officer’s public advice, we recommend in order to protect people as best we can to limit the number of interactions. This will protect people best until COVID-19 passes. 
  • Getting creative in developing new routines of meaningful things to do at home such as:
  • In all cases the proper hand washing and wipe down procedures we have sent in previous messages are essential. 
  • We would like any visitors to wash hands before arriving to a home and right before leaving. 

Information for Staff About Unpaid Leave Related to COVID-19

A memo went out today to all Skills staff, providing information about unpaid leaves related to COVID-19. We have also provided staff with information around the financial relief they may be eligible to receive from provincial and federal governments. 

Collaborating with Other Disability Service Orgs to Share Staff in Times of Need

We have led an unprecedented collaboration with other service providers in Edmonton. We have set up with one other organization for the time being to explore in emergency staffing situations how we could contract other organizations with properly trained and certified disability services staff to come in and support people we serve. More details on the logistics of this are being worked out in the coming week. 

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 pandemic coordinators, Linda or Ed at 780-496-9686.

Previous Public Memos

Public Memos are available on our website under the ‘news’ tab.

We appreciate your patience and support as we continue to navigate these uncertain and unprecedented times. Please know that we are working our hardest to keep the people we serve and our staff as safe as possible. 




Ben Weinlick, Executive Director, and the Senior Management Team


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.