Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-CoronaVirus (COVID-19)
From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society
May 1st, 2020 Update
We continue to follow directions and information provided by the provincial and federal government as well as Health Authorities. As you know, the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving and we are working diligently to be as responsive to new information as possible and do everything in our power to protect the citizens with disabilities we serve, our employees and community.
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
To date, due in part, to our own measures, as well as measures set out by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), and citizens doing their part, none of the people we support, or staff, have tested positive for COVID-19. This is great news, but we also need to remain vigilant and not let our guard down too soon. As we have seen in other parts of Alberta, other provinces, and other countries, one or two people with mild COVID-19 symptoms going into public spaces and gatherings can spread the virus significantly. This is why we still need to adhere to our policies and COVID-19 procedures – especially since we serve many people with medical complexities that make them particularly vulnerable to becoming seriously sick.
New Orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health
In an updated order from the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Order (12-2020), it continues to be strongly recommended that staff in our sector work within only one home or worksite. We have confirmed this strong recommendation made by the CMOH also applies to PDD funded community living homes and sites. We take the safety and wellbeing of people we support and our employees very seriously and so we have decided as an organization to continue to implement this recommendation in all possible homes and sites as long as immediate safety needs of the people we serve are met. These measures will continue to protect people we serve, our employees, and community.
I want to acknowledge these measures have not been easy to implement, and we are grateful for the patience, understanding, and perseverance of our senior leaders, managers, coordinators, team leaders and community support workers in working so diligently to implement them. We are also grateful for all the messages of support from families and staff as we have navigated these changes in recent weeks.
In another CMOH order (14-2020) released this week, there were additional recommendations around visitors to the people we serve. We think these new recommendations will be welcomed by people we support, families and staff and hope they will provide some opportunities for people to connect in new ways. Below is a summary of how the recommendations made in this order have been implemented at Skills Society.
New Guidelines for Outdoor visits
As CMOH Dr. Hinshaw has noted in order (14-2020), it is important for mental health to spend time outdoors. This is why we have taken steps to incorporate new guidelines for outdoor visits between the people we serve and their family and friends. As per a memo that went out to staff, today, May 1st, the people we serve will be supported to spend time outdoors, where desired and feasible. This can include visits with friends and family so long as the following precautions are followed:
- Where possible, outdoor visits should be limited to two people at a time
- Visitors are asked to complete the Skills Visitor Checklist prior to the start of the visit
- Visitors are asked to wash their hands thoroughly with either soap and water or hand sanitizer at the start and end of the visit and throughout as needed (i.e. if the visitor coughs or sneezes into their hand)
- We ask visitors to meet the people we serve outside their home. A staff can help the individual get outside to meet the visitors
- Where possible, have the visit take place in the neighborhood of the person we serve, avoiding travel in vehicles. Going for a socially distanced walk in the neighborhood or visiting on the lawn while sitting in chairs that are 2 meters apart are great examples of safe outdoor visits
- Where possible, maintain 2 meters distance between the person served and the visitors.
- We ask that visitors wear a mask for the entire visit. If possible, we ask visitors to bring their own masks because we have limited supply
We know, although the opportunity to have outdoor visits may bring some relief, that these measures are still not ideal. We want to thank the families and friends of the people we serve for doing their best to follow the procedures we have put in place as this goes a long way in helping protect the health and well being of the people we support.
The Premier’s 3 Stages for Alberta’s Re-Launch
On April 30th the Premier shared the government’s plan for re-opening Alberta. Although it is relieving to hear of plans for loosening restrictions, we want to reiterate the importance of continuing to follow all precautions and measures we have in place at Skills as well as those put in place by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. We serve many people who have medical complexities that make them particularly vulnerable to becoming seriously sick if they were to get COVID-19. This is why it continues to be so important that we continue to be cautious and remember that we are still in uncertain times with how COVID-19 will play out in coming months. We really believe safety protocols and measures will protect and safeguard lives.
“I want to stress that the fight against this virus is far from over. Alberta’s relaunch strategy is the next phase in our collective efforts to protect each other. We must continue to work together to manage risk, use common sense and remain vigilant to contain this virus. Each stage of our relaunch will be advanced after careful consideration.” – Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hinshaw
Below is a summary chart of the three stages announced as part of Alberta’s Re-Launch. We would ask people to pay particular attention to the staged plans in support of “Vulnerable Albertans living in community (outside facility)” and “Vulnerable Albertans Supported in Facilities”. These recommendations are the ones that would most closely apply to the people we serve.
As stated by the Premier in his address, the recommendations outlined in the Re-Launch strategy may change in the coming weeks and months. At present, the recommendations indicate that the people we serve, should continue to stay home wherever possible and that visitor, staff, and operational restrictions should remain in place. We will not make any changes to our current measures until we receive further direction from Health Authorities and will continue to follow the direction of Health Authorities in making decisions around future stages of re-opening. Stage 1 is presently set to begin May 14th as long as the province does well over the next two weeks with COVID-19. It is important to note though, that Stage 1 will NOT be implemented until the go ahead is given by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Premier.
More information on Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy can be found here: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-relaunch-strategy.aspx
We Continue to Innovate, Adapt and Evolve
I also want to share a cool update around an innovation to one of our existing social innovations called the CommuniTEA Infusion project. Our own Senior Leader Paige Reeves has led, in record time, an innovation to adapt and evolve the teavan project to enable virtual CommuniTEA Infusion events to help folks we serve both participate and lead conversations as community builder hosts. Below is some additional information about this cool initiative and the ways the people we serve can get involved.
CommuniTEA Infusion is Going Virtual
It is the time of year where we start to think about bringing out the CommuniTEA Van. However, due to social distancing requirements related to COVID-19, in person block parties are not possible. SO we have decided to take the CommuniTEA Infusion Project online! Just like before we will be here building community and helping people stay connected – only this year, it will look a little different!
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 Virtual Community Builder 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 Activities: Beginning in May, there will be weekly Virtual Activities that the people we support can join in on. 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: May CommuniTEA Connection Schedule
Contact Jessica, Virtual CommuniTEA Infusion Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306.450.3168 to sign up or for more info.
Shout Out To Our Stellar Employees
I continue to hear stories of how employees are going above and beyond to be pillars of support to people we serve, families and fellow employees. It warms the heart when you hear how dedicated, protective, empathetic and supportive people are. Thank you so much for this, and showing by example how you’re putting our Skills values into action everyday.
The best part of my day these days is seeing and hearing some messages coming in from guardians, families and fellow employees giving kudos to express gratitude to our stellar employees. Some kind words in these times go a long way and I continue to hope guardians, families and employees can, in small ways, keep sending shout outs and support to our people on the front lines.
Actions Being Taken by Skills Society Since Our Last Update
Below is an overview of measures we have taken since our last update. For an overview of preventative measures previously implemented please see our previous memos linked at the bottom of this message.
New Actions Since Our Last Update
- Social Distancing Procedures & Guidelines for outdoor visits with friends and family
- Additional guidance provided to employees from AHS on when it is safe to return to work after self-isolation
- Virtual CommuniTEA Infusion events launching to help keep people connected https://www.skillssociety.ca/news/introducing-the-virtual-communitea-infusion-project/
- Mental Health and Wellbeing virtual workshops are being offered to all employees.
- Thursday May 14, 2020 10:30 am – 12 pm or
- Wednesday May 20, 2020 3:30pm – 5pm.
- As noted in the memo this week, employees can contact Tracey Woodward to sign up.
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.
- Check out our new COVID-19 Resources section on our website: https://www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources/.
Previous Public Memos
Public Memos are also available on our website under the ‘news’ tab.
We appreciate your patience and support as we continue to navigate these 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 Leadership 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.