AABR CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATES

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4/14/20 – AABR Featured in Another NBC NY Story

CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY

Seven developmentally delayed residents of a Queens group home are mourning the death of their joyful, 56-year-old housemate who loved Barbie dolls.

The woman, identified by her first name Dulcette, is one of 156 disabled group home residents who have died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, or OPWDD. 

“One of the hardest things was explaining to them that this individual will not be coming home,” said Esan Torrington, facility manager for the John and Marie Bladt residence in Flushing, where Dulcette lived. – CONTINUE TO FULL STORY

4/9/20 – Status Update and Call to Action

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS UPDATE AND CALL TO ACTION AS A PDF

April 9, 2020

Dear AABR Staff and Family,

We’ve learned that Congress may begin drafting a fourth COVID-19 package as early as this week. I have been in touch with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez advocating for additional funding to support agencies like ours and the Disability communities across this nation for additional funding from the next stimulus package to be delivered directly to providers. Please read the attached sheet to see how you can help.

Stay well,
Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director


CALL TO ACTION

To get this message heard, we need your help! 

We are supporting the NY Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation and the American Network of Community Options and Resources’ (ANCOR) joint effort to send a message to our representatives to let them know that they need to address the continuing challenges in disability support during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Time is of the essence, so we ask that you take the below steps TODAY:
1. Copy the below message. Feel free to modify it to your own voice if you’d like.  Ex. “Where I work” “Where my son/daughter receives services.” 
2. Click this link to go to the ANCOR website
3. Click under Message Body on the right side of your page and paste your message.
4. Fill in your contact info.
5. Hit send.

And, if you’d like, please forward this email to your friends and family and ask them to do the same thing!

COPY BELOW:
AABR is an organization at the epicenter of the COVID pandemic in Queens, NY where 68% of our disabled individuals tested positive for COVID 19 in our congregate care settings. 20% of our HERO DSP staff are essential health care workers have also tested positive. Emergency enhanced rates are needed immediately to cover the cost of caring for our individuals in their homes as opposed to sending them to the overburdened NYC hospitals. WE BEG for your attention to this matter. NY is the leader in Disability Advocacy. Lead this nation in this pandemic on how they will be treated now. KEEP THE NY PROMISE to these individuals and families! Please keep in mind essential Medicaid disability supports as you prepare a fourth COVID-19 package. While I am grateful that the CARES Act contained provisions such as reimbursing front line staff’s time supporting people with disabilities during hospital stays, the coronavirus’ impact is growing exponentially and continues to disrupt key community supports that are keeping people with disabilities healthy and safe at home. Including funding for the following purposes in any forthcoming COVID-19 package will ensure these supports’ survival:

(1) Sustain the operations of Medicaid-funded disability service providers.

(2) Prevent the closure of disability programs.

(3) Supercharge staff stabilization, retention, and recruitment.

The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) can provide you with more detailed suggestions. Please contact Sarah Meek, ANCOR’s Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, at smeek@ancor.org for more information.

Thank you again for your hard work during this crisis.

3/31/20 – Continuing to Fight This Pandemic on Many Fronts

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March 31, 2020

Dear AABR Families, Friends, and Staff:

Much has occurred since our last update. AABR is continuing to fight this pandemic on many fronts. I want to reiterate that we are doing everything in our power to keep our individuals and staff safe as we move forward during this global pandemic.

Our Personal Protective Equipment shipment has arrived and has been distributed. Our gowns should be arriving shortly. All our residences have the other necessary equipment to keep safe. I am especially grateful that we acted quickly to secure the necessary PPE for our staff early. The reports of shortages of PPE in NYC healthcare settings is devastating. I thank all of you who sourced, donated and assisted in our battle to ensure the safety of our staff.

As the news reports indicate, AABR individuals and courageous staff have been significantly and directly affected by COVID. Many are asymptomatic, many have recovered, while others are fighting the illness. For those that are ill, we offer you our prayers for your speedy recovery. Your AABR family is here for you. It’s impossible for us to express the level of gratitude we have for every staff member who has stepped up during this crisis to care for our individuals.

As this virus has spread, the guidance from our state partners has quickly changed. The strategy for ‘contact tracing and containment’ has moved to one of ‘community spread’. This change has a significant impact on how AABR is operating. Just a few short days ago, under the containment strategy, we were able to get testing performed through the drive-through sites and/or a DOH nurse collecting samples directly from our facilities. Now, testing is only being provided if you are presenting significant symptoms. AABR is no longer able to arrange for testing for our sites or our staff. If you are ill and need to get tested, you need to go to your health care provider to get testing. At this time, we are unaware of any other avenues to get testing.

There have been changes to protocols from OPWDD to modifying training, the return to work for essential employees and direct support staff who have tested positive or who have had a known exposure to COVID-19. AABR is following all protocols.  All guidance is available on the OPWDD website and on our website for easy reference.

COVID 19 Staffing Guidance
-COVID-19 633 .16 Guidance Training and Recertification
OPWDD Interim Guidance Regarding Modified Training and Recertifications to Address COVID-19 Emergency Response

– COVID-19 Essential Employee Return to Work
Protocols for Essential Personnel to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection

-COVID-19 Direct Support Return to Work
Health Advisory: Updated Protocols for Personnel in Clinical and Direct Care Settings to Return to Work Following COVID-19 Exposure or Infection

Our Day Program staff are now assigned to our residences to support our individuals with the continuity of care to meet their service plan goals. Staff is being transported by our AABR drivers to outer-borough locations in efforts to limit staff exposure on public transportation.  

Thanks to the hard work of our selfless staff, we have made tremendous strides throughout this pandemic. We must keep up our resolve under these extraordinary circumstances. I cannot reiterate enough; staff must maintain full compliance in the proper use of PPE and prevention measures in the residences to wipe out this virus from the AABR sites. Please strictly adhere to all safety protocols for yourselves, our individuals and our community.

I know these are difficult times and many of you have expressed concerns. Please remember the SPARKS program is available for staff who need additional support and our Human Resources team is available to answer any of your questions. Our individuals need you more than ever. Be healthy and stay safe. We will get through this together.

Sincerely,
Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director

3/27/20 – AABR on NBC FOLLOW UP
“OUR FINANCIAL CRISIS”

Last week NBC NY aired a story about us focused on our difficulties acquiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how the City told us that we fell below their priority level. Thank you to those of you who reached out with leads and support afterward. After that story and the one on CNN.com, we heard from the Governor’s office, and they supplied enough PPE to bridge the gap until our shipment came from overseas.

With our PPE fire put out, for now, NBC followed up with us last night and discussed our new troubles. First and foremost, 55 individuals and 29 members of our staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The remaining healthy members of our staff, along with many temporary workers, now shielded with PPE, are working very long hours in difficult circumstances and doing everything they can to care for those with more mild symptoms in our care. Sadly, there are some individuals whose conditions have worsened beyond our abilities, and we are putting our faith and trust into the doctors caring for them.

On top of this, the state recently enacted a rate cut, which is costing us $150,000 a week. Add this to the astronomical cost of PPE, staff overtime, and temporary hires, we are now facing a financial crisis. We will continue to find ways to make ends meet, but we need your help. We understand that this virus has led to a lot of lost income for many people. However, if you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford to give, we ask you to please think about our individuals and make a generous donation.

Click here for new NBC story | Click here to make a donation


3/21/20 – Our fight to get PPEs for our Staff and Individuals featured on CNN and NBCNY

We’ve been told by the NYC Office of Emergency Management that we “fall below the priority level to receive PPE.” So we have taken our fight to keep our staff and individuals protected to the national and local news.CNN and NBCNY have both been kind enough to share our story.


3/20/20 – Update from AABR Executive Director on Continued Tests and Steps Taken After Positive Results

VIEW THIS MESSAGE AS PDF

March 20, 2020

Dear AABR Families, Friends, and Staff:                                                                   

We wanted to update and assure you that we are doing everything in our power to keep our individuals and staff safe as we move forward during this global pandemic.

We have had more than one person test positive for COVID-19. When an individual shows any signs or symptoms, they are immediately taken for testing. We are not waiting for results; we are then taking the rest of the residents and staff in the home for testing as well. We are checking temperatures twice daily and requiring staff to take their temperature prior to entering any residence. Staff and individuals are using masks to prevent spread, and we are constantly cleaning high touch surfaces. 

We understand that just because someone isn’t showing signs, doesn’t mean they aren’t infected. The moment we learned that the drive-through testing sites had opened, with approval from NYS DOH, we organized busses of staff and individuals to get testing. We are also working with NYS Department of Health on getting nurses to come to our facilities to provide on-site testing. We hope this will be operational soon. We wish we could tell you that every result has been negative; unfortunately, they weren’t. Some individuals had to remain in hospitals while they recovered. The good news is that some individuals who did test positive are now ready to come home. 

When an individual is ready to leave the hospital, we will keep them a safe distance from others. Individuals will be brought back to their residences so that they can remain in a place they know and feel comfortable, while also being with familiar staff who know their daily needs. They will be placed in an isolated living area away from all the other individuals. Staff will be supplied with all the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed to care for individuals with COVID19, including gloves, goggles, masks, and gowns. We are following the medical protocols provided to us by the NYS DOH to care for our individuals and staff safely. 

As you’ve undoubtedly read in the news, PPE supplies have become scarce in hospitals, nursing homes, and in all health care facilities. Currently, we have sufficient supplies. While we have enough, for now, many items like gloves and masks are for single-use only. So, supplies dwindle quickly. We’re working with our government partners, as well as independently, to make sure we have enough of these pivotal items to last us for however long this may go on. 

However, we cannot wait for the government to help. We have sought out our own supplier and have a shipment en route to arrive late next week from overseas. This has come at a great financial expense. An expense we did not hesitate for a minute to spend because no price can be placed on our individual’s or staff’s safety. We have set up a donation page to help us offset our increased COVID19 expenses. It can be found at www.aabr.org/covid19

While this has certainly not been an easy time, I thank the kind-hearted, courageous, and hardworking staff who continue to show up for our individuals. Many are tired, some are scared, yet they continue to be on the front lines caring for our most vulnerable friends

Sincerely,
Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director

3/16/20 – Update from AABR Executive Director on Positive Tests

VIEW THIS MESSAGE AS A PDF

March 16, 2020

Dear AABR Community,

It has come to our attention that individuals receiving Day Program Services at Wellington Hall have tested positive for COVID 19. Upon learning of the positive results, AABR immediately closed the program.

Currently, no one from St. Pascals Day Program has tested positive. We recognize that many of our individuals share bussing and staff and residences. Therefore, after seeking guidance from OPWDD and NYS DOH, out of an abundance of caution, we are closing our St. Pascal’s program as well. We are doing all we can to ensure the health and safety of all our individuals and staff during this crisis and to mitigate any contagion.

Wellington Hall Day Program and St. Pascals Day Program and Chances will be closed until 3/29/2020. At this time, we plan on reopening on 3/30/20, pending approval from OPWDD and the NYS DOH. For staff, this period of time will be paid.

In addition, The NYC Department of Education has closed all schools. Therefore, the New York Child Learning Institute has closed as well. The teachers at NYCLI are preparing curriculum for at-home learning for students and creating distance learning plans to support our students and families during this time of crisis.

Additional actions AABR is taking to protect our staff, individuals, and community:

  • We have requested from NYS DOH that all staff and individuals who may have been potentially exposed be tested. Once we receive approval and a plan from NYS DOH, we will assist in facilitating this testing.
  • Personal Protective Equipment has been requested to NYS DOH to distribute to our programs.
  • All non-essential medical appointments will be rescheduled as directed by the nursing staff. All canceled medical appointments will be tracked and rescheduled for a later date.
  • ALL staff and individuals will be monitored twice daily for temperature and symptoms. In addition, the staff is currently being screened prior to entering the residence at the start of a shift.
  • There will be no visitors to any of our locations. Staff can arrange video messaging for family members to virtually ‘visit’ their family members living in our residences.
  • We have closed our Thrift Shops, Drop- In-Center, and our Saturday Program.
  • We have moved our mandatory staff training to an online platform.
  • We are preparing to close our Main Office to have staff work remotely. Communications and computer access are currently being readied.
  • The Community Habilitation program will remain open under the following guidelines:
    • Prior to the visit, AABR staff will phone the family to screen that no individuals are experiencing symptoms.
    • AABR staff will be required to wear face masks when working with individuals in their homes.
    • AABR staff will enter the home wearing a face mask and immediately wash their hands.
    • If staff or families are uncomfortable with these provisions, services can be suspended until such time as we are ready to resume regular service.
    • If face masks are not available, AABR staff will not be able to enter Individuals homes.

We are living in uncertain times, but that does not mean we have to live in fear. The staff of AABR are prepared, well trained, professional, and dedicated. We are problem solvers and adaptable. I believe in each and every staff person. Together we will navigate this crisis. If you have not visited our website www.aabr.org/coronavirus, please do so and add your email address to our registry for continued updates.

Sincerely,
Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director

3/12/20 – Update from AABR Executive Director

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS MESSAGE AS A PDF

March 12, 2020

Dear Staff and Family Members,

Your health and safety remain our highest priority! We just want to again assure you that we at AABR are staying informed and are receiving guidance from OPWDD, NYC and State Departments of Health and the CDC. We are closely following their recommendations. We are taking preventive measures, specific to our agency and population, to protect our employees, individuals and learners to maintain a healthy work environment.

  • As of today, there are NO plans to close facilities or services.
  • We have updated our website www.aabr.org to include a section for COVID 19 information and communication. Please visit our website for important updates and links to relevant information.  
  • We have increased our cleaning efforts in each of our residences and our vendor has completed and/or scheduled deep cleaning and disinfecting of the main offices, NYCLI, Weldon Hall, Wellington Hall and Chances sites. Our own facility staff are continuously sanitizing high touch areas of each facility throughout the day.
  • Our transportation vendor has provided documentation of their completed and ongoing action plan for disinfecting transport vehicles ( see link in Resources section www.aabr.org ).
  • We have been in touch with all our vendors and suppliers to ensure our facilities are stocked with necessary items.

Staff have received training and guidance in our action plan including:

  • Scheduled and documented facility cleaning and restocking of cleaning supplies;
  • Routine handwashing of our individuals and hand over hand washing for those individuals that require assistance;
  • What to do if any individual or staff member at any time appears ill or is experiencing unusual behavior for them;
  • Communication plans for reporting sick individuals and staff persons;
  • Isolation procedures for ill staff or individuals;
  • Daily temperature and symptom check of individuals and monitoring of new fever and/or respiratory illness;
  • Screening visitors in advance and upon arrival for fever or signs of an acute respiratory illness (see official guidance from OPWDD and NYC DOH on our website at www.aabr.org );
  • Limiting community inclusion to activities where large groups are not prevalent;
  • Social Distancing including but not limited to:
    • Limiting the number of people in congregate area’s to under 20 people
    • Arranging beds so that individual lay head to toe (or toe-to-toe)
    • Staggering meal times.
    • Reducing the size of group activities.

We continue to practice general infection control techniques and are assisting people we support in doing the same by:

• Promoting proper hand-washing techniques;

• Providing hand sanitizer;

• Covering one’s mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing;

• Redirecting everyone from touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

We request that if anyone feels sick or manifests symptoms of illness – coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, fever – they should stay home and call their doctor.

We ask that all visitors to any of our facilities/programs who may not feel well and have any symptoms of illness DO NOT visit. All visitors will be screened prior to entrance to any of our facilities. If people visit and are showing symptoms, they will be turned away.

We do not want to offend anyone, but all people entering one of our programs will be asked to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer upon arrival.

As always, our priority is the health and safety of all members of the AABR community.

Sincerely,
Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director
AABR, Inc.

3/11/20 – DEEP CLEANINGS SCHEDULED

Please be aware that the following sites will be cleaned using CDC recommended disinfectant products in our diligence to prevent illness in our sites.

  • Main Office- Thursday night – 3/12/2020
  • St. Pascals – The weekend of 3/14-3/15
  • Wellington Hall- The weekend of 3/14-3/15

3/11/20 – CDC: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FACT SHEET

3/2/20 – MESSAGE FROM AABR REGARDING CORONAVIRUS

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS MESSAGE AS A PDF

March 2, 2020

Dear Families and Staff,

We have all been watching the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic unfold around the world and new information becomes available every day. We felt that is was important at this time to reach out to all of you and let you know that we are monitoring the situation very closely, along with our local Department of Health and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). We receive ongoing guidance and information as to infection control protocols from these entities and will ensure swift implementation of any and all recommendations. Our emergency preparedness plans are currently being updated to include all guidance available to date and will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.

Since the virus is very new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working hard to learn as much as possible about this new virus, so that we can better understand how it spreads and causes illness. The CDC considers this virus to be a serious public health concern and have made travel recommendations that can be found at:  https://wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/novel-coronavirus-china.

We want to be very clear that we are acting in an abundance of caution and have absolutely no reason to suspect that staff or people who receive supports and services from AABR are at risk at the moment. Agency-wide training on general infection control precautions including the most important step in infection prevention, which is frequent handwashing, will be reinforced at all agency locations.

At this time, it is important to listen to facts and not respond to fear. Currently, there is only one confirmed case in New York City, who is a patient under quarantine, and the risk to New Yorkers remains low. Therefore, there is no need to cancel regular activities or social events and there is no need for staff or people to wear surgical masks, unless otherwise directed by a healthcare professional.

Prevention

The NYS DOH recommends the following ways to minimize the spread of all respiratory viruses, including the Coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Follow recommended travel advisories from the CDC.

Symptoms

Information to date suggests that the Coronavirus causes mild-to-moderate illness and symptoms like the flu, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Please ensure prompt reporting of symptoms of people supported, as evaluation by their health care provider will be critical. Staff should also seek the advice of their health care provider should they have any symptoms.

The best outcomes always come from thorough preparation, especially when it concerns the health and safety of the people who we support and our workforce. We also believe in sharing pertinent information with all of you as it becomes available and will continue to do so as the need arises. We will continue to monitor the situation and will act at the direction of public health experts.

Sincerely,

Libby Traynor, LCSW
Executive Director

Additional Resources:

https://health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html