Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Very Important Message Regarding Prevention and Preparedness for COVID-19 – New Mandatory Public Health Measures
From: Senior Leadership of Skills Society
December 10, 2020
Like most Albertans, we at Skills Society watched the news update on December 8th from the Premier and Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH). We are working as fast as we can to share this information with our Skills community and the implications we are seeing at present for the people we serve, families and guardians over the holiday season. These are not easy times and the new mandatory restrictions the province has issued for all Albertans will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect vulnerable populations and preserve the health care system every Albertan relies on. More than ever our virtual means of helping people we serve to stay connected while physically apart will be very important over the coming months.
COVID-19 Cases in Alberta and at Skills Society
As of December 8th, Alberta has 20,388 active cases (9,383 in the Edmonton zone), and 1,727 new cases were identified on December 7th.
To date and since the beginning of the pandemic 11 individuals we serve and 25 employees have tested positive with COVID-19. There has been an increase due to community transmission in the last month.
Hope on the horizon
There is some hope on the horizon. On December 9th, Canada approved one of the vaccines that is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. We are hopeful our province will begin vaccinating the populations they choose to be vaccinated first within the new year. Our board sent a letter to CMOH and our Minister on December 7th, 2020 to advocate that both the people we serve and our employees be on the list of first recipients. The province has said they will not make the vaccine mandatory and Skills Society cannot make it mandatory either, but we hope the people we serve and staff will have the choice very soon. But it will be up to the province to decide who receives the vaccine first.
New Public Health Measures and Implications
Below we are sharing what we know so far from the new public health measures announced yesterday (December 8th, 2020) and the implications we understand at present for the people we serve.
We have a few pressures to navigate here
- The new mandatory restrictions the province announced are for all Albertans
- The supports that Skills Society provide fall into a grey zone where we are not operating under specific standards set up for Designated Supportive Living (DSL), Long Term Care (LTC), Supportive Living Accommodation Licensing Act (SLALA) or any health facilities, but we strive to implement safe recommendations as best we can
- We are not the guardian of anyone we serve and need to respect the choices, rights and decisions of individuals we serve and guardians
- We support people in their own homes. People we support procure our support services through the PDD system to support people in their own homes
- Although not clear in the orders, when a household is mentioned in the orders, we currently take this to also mean roommates who live together
- Previously we worked with every person we support, and guardian to create individual and roommate COVID-19 safety plans, but the provincial restrictions also have to be followed now by all citizens
- Our employees have to follow all of our policies and procedures and safety protocols
- We strive to get provincial and ministry information out to people as quickly as possible so people we serve and guardians can make informed and safe decisions, but it is also up to citizens we serve and guardians to be aware of provincial and municipal safety measures and restrictions that apply to all citizens of Alberta
NEW Mandatory Public Health Measures
Watch the Premier’s December 8th, 2020 address here.
On November 24th Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency and new mandatory measures to stop the spike of COVID-19 cases. Despite these measures cases continued to rise, and on December 8th stronger public health measures were implemented. These measures will be in place and enforced by the province and municipalities at least until January 12, 2021. Below are images displaying key points of the new mandatory restrictions. For more information visit alberta.ca/COVID19.
Skills Society will not be loosening our temporary measures, as per our memo on November 26, 2020 to people we support, families, guardians and employees. Effective November 26, 2020 Skills Society employees are unable to support individuals for outings not deemed essential. As outlined in the memo, these temporary measures were going to be reviewed by December 17th, however – as with the new provincial public health measures – these measures will stand until January 12th, 2021 when they will be reviewed again.
Social Gatherings are the Top Source of Transmission
Effective December 8th, 2020, the province mandated that all indoor and outdoor social gatherings – public and private – are prohibited, and close contacts are limited to household members only. The measures mean the Premier and Health Minister are requiring that there be no visitors (indoors or outdoors) to anyone’s home or meeting in indoor or outdoor public spaces, and noncompliance with this order can lead to fines. We recognize this is very challenging but critical that everyone does their part to keep loved ones and community safe and protect our health care system. We encourage people to continue connecting virtually or by phone, and we have shared additional opportunities to stay engaged and connected during this time (see below).
Implications for the Holiday Season
We have received a few requests from families to take loved ones home for the holidays, despite the new mandatory restrictions announced December 8th. As per the mandatory public health measures put in place by the province, Skills is strongly recommending that your loved ones not go to family members’ homes over the holidays unless it’s deemed an emergency, such as a staffing crisis due to mandatory isolations. The recommended (by CMOH) and safest way to connect is virtually or by phone. Some families may choose to overlook these orders and Skills cannot prevent you from doing so, but there will be safety precautions we will need to put into place if families make the choice to take a loved one home. The safety precautions will be based on CMOH order 32-2020.
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.
If individuals do visit or stay with family during the mandatory public health restrictions, Skills will be asking individuals and guardians to follow the measures outlined in CMOH Order 32-2020 in order to safeguard roommates and support teams as best as possible upon their return home. We have outlined below the key CMOH 32-2020 risk chart and safeguards that health authorities recommend and that we will be implementing if guardians and individuals decide to go to a family home over the holidays. Again we strongly recommend individuals and families follow all mandatory provincial and municipal orders. It is important to remember that we live interdependent lives and that our choices impact others. Roommates need to be considerate of each other’s needs and support each other to be as safe as possible. Your choices during COVID-19 impact your roommates and your support teams.
As per CMOH Order 32-2020, individuals will be strongly recommended to consider their risk of unknown exposure upon returning from staying with family and requested to follow the safety precautions based on their risk of unknown exposure (see below).
For example, if a guardian took a loved one home and there was high risk of exposure as per the chart below, then the implication would be that when the person returns to their household where they live with roommates, then the returning person would have to quarantine for 14 days in their room after returning.
Risk of Unknown Exposure
Table 9 on page 26 of CMOH Order 32-2020
Returning from overnight stay – safety precautions
Table 11 on page 29 of CMOH Order 32-2020
Please consider very carefully. We urge everyone we support to follow all provincial and municipal health orders and temporary restrictions. These measures won’t last forever and have been implemented to keep everyone as safe as possible.
If we receive new information that is clearer for PDD funded persons we serve around holiday visits, we will update as soon as possible. But the above is our safest option based on the complexities and pressures of supporting people in their own homes who make their own choices.
Below are images displaying the key points of the NEW mandatory public health measures issued by the Province of Alberta.
Helping People Stay Connected and Safe
We, at Skills Society, have been spearheading a new Virtual Community Building Initiative to keep people connected and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 Activities: 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.
Virtual Connections Opportunity Through Kudoz and co-make-do
Our friends at Kudoz, in partnership with co-make-do are offering a range of daily experiences that the people we support can join. These experiences are free and connect folks with self, community and the wider world. Experiences include things like chats, classes, and digital cafes. Everyone we support is welcome to participate in these experiences!
Want to Join an Event?
Simply click on the Zoom link in the event’s description at the time of the event to join.
People can also sign up for a weekly newsletter (email) that features experiences and resources and/or event reminders (phone number) by clicking here.
If you have questions about participating in these events please contact Rebecca (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Senior Leadership Team of Skills Society
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.