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2/4/21 – Vaccine Events a Success
Dear AABR Community,
Our vaccination events last week were a tremendous success! At our two events, at St. Pascal’s and the Main Office, we successfully vaccinated 250 people with no issues. The only complaints we have heard were of a little sluggishness and some soreness, which could occur with any shot or vaccine. Our second dose is scheduled for 2/24, and a second consent form is required.
The coordination of such a large scale and significant event was not easy. A special thanks to Kathy Flood and Mary Frank for leading the way and seeing to it that it occurred safely and efficiently. Of course, behind great leaders are great teams. Thank you to all those who made calls to organize and who, on the day of, ensured the vaccination process was completed smoothly and safely:
- The Main Office Team – Caron Gelfand, Eileen Keegan, Lee Lewis. Myla Lim, Carmine Marino, Kerry-Ann Moseley, Jessica Pareja, Jessica Reeger, Lynn Roffman, Barbara Sheridan, Debbie Van Cura, and James Weldon.
- The St. Pascal’s Team – Michele Danowitz, Sandra Khan, Frank Mathneny, Eva Marie Ruff, Sharron Lomax, Zachary Grill, Sonia Bhanot-Aguilar, Martine Pierre, Lizanne Robinson, Shelly Ann Cattle, Jodiann Spragg, Jocelyn Forteau, Marcia Morris, Janet O’Connor, Leorn Marksman, Denese Watson-Smith, Shariana Kamal, Joy Green, Renee Lynch, Nancy Palmer, Wendy Stanley, Mohamed Ali, Shameer Gajnabi. Mertland Nicholson, and Anand Apana.
A year ago we were just learning about this deadly virus and 6 months ago a vaccine seemed almost impossible. The fact that we were chosen to be part of Phase 1A shows the importance of the work you do every day. If you haven’t been vaccinated, we encourage you or anyone you know that is eligible to strongly consider it. The more people who receive the shots, the quicker we can get back to doing all of those things we love. More importantly, the faster we can get back to being together. We’ve already lost too many friends, family, and co-workers to this virus. Please help us ensure we won’t lose any more. Those who were not vaccinated but are interested and eligible under phases 1A or 1B, please register for our next vaccination event. To do so, families of individuals can contact Hezikeigh Elliott at email@example.com, and staff can reach out to Mary Frank firstname.lastname@example.org. Both can also be reached by calling the Main Office at 718.321.3800.
Thank you again to all those who made our COVID vaccination effort a success. I truly appreciate all of your dedication and hard work.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
12/16/20 – Residence Staff and Individuals to be part of Vaccine Phase 1A
Dear AABR Community:
At last, the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. As you have no doubt heard, the FDA has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine with Moderna’s vaccine pending approval. After much significant advocacy and lobbying, I’m very proud to let you know that it has been announced that people living in any type of OPWDD residence, as well as the staff that support them, will be included in “Phase 1A” of the vaccine distribution plan.
At the beginning of the Pandemic, our community fought to be heard and recognized. We had to demand government support for our front-line workers and individuals. They are hearing us now. We thank everyone who made their voices heard to ensure that this time, our community would not be ignored.
Distribution details are still being worked out, but we are on an accelerated timeline. Our understanding is that Healthcare workers are first to be vaccinated, followed by nursing home residents and staff, followed by our staff and individuals in congregate care settings. Vaccines for our staff and individuals will be occurring in the coming weeks, not months. Here are some preliminary details we can share with you:
- Individuals and staff will receive their vaccine at a designated administration site. Sites are being set up now to ensure priority populations are identified across the state.
- Individuals who are 65 years of age or older living in our residences will be prioritized.
- The distribution in New York City is being managed by NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and vaccines will be administered at area hospitals at first.
- Consent – OPWDD is working with DOH to address issues regarding the consent process “at the vaccination site” for most people. For those for whom consent will not be easily obtained, OPWDD is exploring changes to the informed consent committee regulations. More information on the consenting process will be forthcoming. You will be informed as soon as it is established.
While this is the most incredible news we have heard in a long time, we’re far from out of the woods. Though distribution will begin soon, it will still take a while for everyone to receive the vaccine. We still strongly encourage everyone to continue following safety protocols including hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing of facial coverings.
If you are experiencing COVID Symptoms, have been in a large crowd, had close contact with someone who has tested positive, or live/work in a hot zone (Map: nyc.gov/COVIDZone) we encourage you to get tested ASAP. Testing locations can be found at the following links: NY – https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you
CT – https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus NJ- https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/testing
As the Holiday Season continues, please stay safe. Remember, we may have already received the greatest gift of all, a vaccine that can help put an end to this pandemic. Thank you all for your support over the last year. 2020 was a struggle, but 2021 is already looking brighter. Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year to you all!
Libby Traynor, LCSW
10/28/20 – Helpful Links
- COVID Hotspot Map
- Management of Co-Circulation of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections
- Interim COVID-19 Guidance: Designated Cluster Mitigation and Oversight
- Health Advisory: All Residential Congregate Facilities
10/28/20 – Management of the Co-Circulation of Influenza/COVID-19
October 28, 2020
Dear AABR Families:
With Flu Season upon us, we are taking all of the appropriate steps to manage the Co-Circulation of COVID-19 and Influenza. In light of the pandemic and the demands on the health care system, it will be more important this year to reduce flu prevalence and severity.
Preventing transmission of the Influenza virus within OPWDD settings requires a multi-faceted approach. The most effective strategy for preventing Influenza is vaccination. The Influenza vaccine is recommended for ALL people over the age of 6 months. We strongly recommend that our individuals and staff be vaccinated.
AABR will also be educating and training staff on preventing the transmission of Influenza and COVID-19, including adherence to hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Education will also include:
- The importance of vaccination against the flu.
- Standard precautions such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, environmental cleaning and proper use of personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of viral illnesses.
- Droplet Precautions.
- Infectious (Contagious) Periods.
- Understanding the difference in Influenza and COVID-19 symptoms, and risk factors that increase the potential for complications of each.
Due to the similarities of influenza and COVID-19, any individual who is exhibiting symptoms will be tested for both. Pending test results, all COVID-19 guidelines will be implemented. This includes isolation of the affected individual as well as activity and visitation restrictions of all individuals in the home for a 14 day period. If the outcome of COVID-19 testing is positive, all current COVID-19 protocols will be followed. If the outcome of COVID-19 testing is negative, but the individual has an influenza diagnosis or Influenza-like illness, all of the control measures will remain in place; however, the activity restriction would be reduced from 14 days to 7 days from the onset of symptoms.
AABR will also be closely monitoring the weekly Influenza reports so that we can keep our staff up to date on current infection rates and the location of infection clusters. When Influenza activity is increasing, or becoming more prevalent, staff at the facility will be notified to monitor individuals closely for signs/symptoms of Influenza or Influenza-like Illness and to be vigilant about implementing precautions. We will also do our part to help with these reports by following all NYSDOH reporting requirements.
10/28/20 – New Hotspot Guidances
October 28, 2020
Dear AABR Families:
The Governor and the NYS Department of Health (DOH) have begun to identify geographic areas with higher than average rates of COVID-19 transmission, referred to as “hot spots,” “clusters,” and “micro clusters.” The risk of transmission in these areas are characterized by three colors: red, being the highest risk, then orange and yellow. Currently AABR has four facilities included in the Yellow areas. Our two Grand Central Parkway residences in Jamaica and two residences in Richmond Hill.
Programs certified or operated by OPWDD, like ours, that are located within such designated geographic areas, will immediately be subject to additional mitigation and oversight measures. Those measures, include, but aren’t limited to:
- For sites in the hotspots, AABR will be required to refer staff and individuals for COVID-19 testing on a weekly basis and to strongly encourage or facilitate such testing.
- In those geographic areas with the highest rate of transmission (designated as a “red” or “orange” geographic cluster), site-based day services will be temporarily suspended.
- Programs contained within the yellow designated areas may continue to operate but weekly testing is highly encouraged.
- Visitation to OPWDD certified residential facilities within the designated geographic clusters will be suspended in accordance with the DOH health advisory, All Residential Congregate Facilities, issued on October 23, 2020. Please see table below.
10/16/20 – New NYC Guidances
Dear AABR Staff,
NYC DOHMH has updated its guidance on COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing and Screening Recommendations for People Who Live or Work in New York City. Below is a summary of that document, which highlights what is important for you, the AABR workforce. Should you want to read the full document, it can be found here.
NYC is making an ‘Urgent Recommendation’ for all those who live or work in NYC neighborhoods that are experiencing increased COVID19 activity to get tested. Check here to see if you live or work in an area of concern. Those of you who live/work in these areas who have not had a positive test in the last 90 days are recommended to be tested immediately for COVID-19, even if you have no symptoms or a known exposure. Additional areas of concern may be identified in the future. Please check the City’s website regularly for the most current areas with increased COVID-19 transmission.
In addition to those living/working in hotspots, routine screening is being recommended for all essential workers. Screening testing is defined as SARS-CoV-2 testing among people who do not have symptoms or a known exposure so that measures can be taken to prevent transmission from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals. Specifically, periodic COVID-19 screening testing is recommended for all essential staff, including those who work in congregate residential settings.
If you test positive, it is of the utmost importance that you contact Human Resources immediately to contain any potential spread. Testing locations can be found here:
I know that these guidelines can feel like a burden, but they are incredibly important. We’ve been fortunate to have been virus free at AABR for six months; that isn’t by luck. It has been through your dedication to safety. Please continue to be extra careful in all that you do, and please continue wearing masks, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing.
Together we can keep ourselves and those around us safe and healthy.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
10/9/20 – COVID Hotspots
Dear AABR Families:
As you have no doubt heard, COVID-19 hotspots are popping up all around New York City. We assure you that we have not had a new COVID-19 case at AABR since April, and we will do everything in our power to keep it that way.
The staff in our facilities remains vigilant. They came face to face with this deadly virus before, so they know precisely how bad it can get, and none of us want to experience that ever again. We refuse to. We are carefully monitoring and adhering to all guidelines from NYS DOH, NYC DOHMH, OPWDD, and CDC. AABR has had two sites recently inspected by OPWDD for adherence to COVID protocols and have passed with flying colors. In fact, the auditors commended staff for their knowledge and practices around infection control.
We continue to practice all that we have done to keep ourselves virus-free these past seven months, which includes:
- Daily temperature and symptom checks for all staff and individuals at all locations.
- Frequent changing and washing of clothes.
- Wearing masks with regular replacement of single-use masks and washing of reusable face covers.
- Handwashing and hand hygiene.
- Wearing coveralls.
- Disinfecting of common areas and high touch objects.
- Social Distancing.
This list doesn’t include one of the most important reasons for our success, AABR’s family nature. It’s important, on a personal level, to every member of our staff that they keep each other safe and that they keep the individuals healthy. They spend so much time with your loved ones that they care for them like their own families.
It’s been a long and challenging journey. We know that these restrictions can be burdensome and that we dream of the day when things can return to normal. But we can and must all stay focused and work together towards our shared goal of keeping each other virus-free. I know we can do this because we are NY Tough, and we are AABR Strong!
Libby Traynor, LCSW
9/4/20 – Day Program Reopening and Video
Dear AABR Families:
It has been a long and hard road, but two weeks ago, we entered Phase 1 of reopening our Day Programs. We’ve all been through a lot, but when those bus doors opened for the first time, nerves turned to joy. The individuals were elated to see each other again. We were so excited to see all those faces we hadn’t seen in a long time. Even if those faces were covered by masks, of course.
Week 1, we worked hard to get the new processes down to a science. Every person who entered the building took a health survey, sanitized their hands, wore a mask, and had their temperature taken. In the classrooms, the individuals learned about health and safety while remaining at least 6 feet apart. By week 2, we were able to focus more on programming. The classrooms worked on various projects, some painted, and another is working on designing pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness next month. It was fun, educational, and, most importantly, done safely.
While there are already many individuals attending program, with attendance slowly but surely increasing daily, we hope to see more of those faces we have missed very soon. In fact, a few individuals have already asked when they will see the rest of their friends again. So please let your loved ones know that their friends are waiting for them!
As a reminder, we are still in Phase 1, which is open to those we serve in the community. We will continue providing services to those who live in our residences in their homes. We can’t wait to see you all again at St. Pascals, too.
If you are interested in your loved one returning to program. Please reach out to our Director of Day Services, Michael Arnold, at 718.321.3800 or email@example.com.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
8/21/20 – Day Program Daily Health Assessment Form
August 21, 2020
Dear AABR Families,
Phase 1 of reopening our Day Programs is this Monday, August 24. While we are excited, we must remain focused on our staff and individuals’ health and safety.
You will find the COVID-19 Daily Health Screening Attestation Form below. This form must be filled out each morning before boarding the bus or entering the program if you are transporting the individual yourself. If you have access to a printer, please print and fill it out before the bus arrives. If you do not have access to a printer, the bus driver will have copes available. We hope to move to a digital version in the near future. Also, please note that a Spanish translation version will follow next week.
Thank you to everyone who was able to join us last night on Zoom for our Family Forum. We understand that not everybody who wanted to join was able to, so please feel free to continue contacting our Director of Day Services Michael Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718.321.3800 with any questions and concerns you may have. Please remember that many of those questions may already be answered on our FAQ or Reopening Summary.
It has been a long road and we still have a long way to go, but we sincerely thank you for your support and for working with us through these difficult times. We can’t wait to see you and your loved ones on Monday!
Libby Traynor, LCSW
8/20/20 – Day Program Reopening Family Forum Tonight on Zoom at 6PM
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Meeting ID: 963 7447 0485
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8/17/20 – Day Program Reopening Information, FAQ and Policy Summary
Dear AABR Families,
AABR would like to thank you all for your commitment and trust over these last few months and especially now, as we reopen our day programs. Beginning August 24, we will begin reopening our day program. We will be operating out of one building, St. Pascal’s, while Wellington Hall will remain closed. Our reopening will be in phases. Phase 1 will focus on those individuals who live at home in the community with their families. Individuals living in IRA’s or ICF’s will continue to receive Day Habilitation services in the residential setting at this time.
Hopefully, by now, we have been able to speak personally to all of you to hear your concerns. Please rest assured that we have discussed at length every concern raised to us, and we have done our best to rectify each and every one of them the best we can.
Even still, we know, you may be uneasy. We empathize with your fears, many of us are parents ourselves, which helped us look at our situation deeper. We have thought about each step over and over again, transportation, classrooms, hallways, stairways, elevators, tables, desks, and bathrooms. We analyzed not just the programs as a whole, but the behaviors of each particular individual. We considered the questions we as parents would ask of program administrators, and what we would like to see done to protect our loved ones, and we did that for you and yours. The health and safety of our participants and staff is our highest priority.
Our policies and procedures are extensive, and you are free to read them. In fact, we encourage you to do so. They can be found online at aabr.org/reopeningguidance. Below, you will find a summary of those policies and an FAQ that will answer some of your most pressing questions. Below are a few of our most important safety procedures you should be aware of:
- AABR will conduct daily screenings of all individuals, staff and visitors deemed essential. The screenings will include a temperature check as well as a questionnaire that asks: In the past 14 days has the individual traveled internationally or to one of the designated states with significant community spread, had any COVID 19 symptoms, had a positive test or had any close contact with a confirmed or suspected case?
- All staff must wear appropriate face masks/coverings at all times consistent with OPWDD guidelines. All individuals will wear masks as medically tolerated when social distancing cannot occur. AABR will provide PPE as necessary.
- Class sizes will be limited and reconfigured to maintain 6 feet social distancing on all sides. We will ensure that groupings of individuals receiving services are cohorted with each other each day while also having the same group of individuals work with the same staff whenever and wherever possible. Individuals who travel on the same bus will also be cohorted together.
- We will also put in place reasonable measures to limit the sharing of objects, such as electronic equipment, arts and craft materials, touchscreens, as well as the touching of shared surfaces. When in contact with these shared objects must occur, it is required to practice hand hygiene before and after.
- Any individual exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be placed in an isolation room until they can be picked up. Should this occur with your loved one, we ask that you contact their health care provider for assessment and testing.
- We will have signs and visual aids throughout the program promoting social distancing, proper mask usage and handwashing.
We will be holding a virtual family forum on August 20 at 6PM on Zoom, a link will be shared via email and posted on our website. So we can be as prepared as possible, please send any questions you may have to Michael Arnold, Director of Day Services, at email@example.com or call 718.321.3800. Your concerns are our concerns and the safety of your loved ones is our number one priority.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
7/20/20 – Day Program Reopening
HOME VISITS, COMMUNITY OUTINGS & RETURNING FROM EXTENDED VISITS UPDATE
July 20, 2020
Dear AABR Families,
As NYC moves towards Phase 4 of the reopening process, the suspension and restrictions placed on programs and services, including Residential Home Visits, Community Outings, and Returning to a Residence after an Extended Stays, have been rescinded and replaced with interim guidance restrictions.
While we are excited that our individuals will soon have a chance to resume some of their normal activities, COVID-19 is still a threat; its numbers are spiking around the country. We must remain vigilant and responsible. We have all sacrificed over these past few months to ensure we are infection-free. Now that we begin to open, we are relying on you, our family members, to help us keep our residences safe. To do this, we all need to be compliant with the new regulations. Below is a list highlighting some of those new regulations. However, each section has a more extensive OPWDD guidance that can be found with the accompanying link. Please also understand that when picking up and dropping off your loved one, there will be a health check as well as a detailed form that must be completed. This form will ask questions such as location of visits and those who the individual interacted with.
Home Visits – Full OPWDD Guidance can be found at aabr.org/homevisits
- Home visits will be permitted if the individual is not suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, and is not under any quarantine or isolation requirements The individual passes a health screen and temperature check immediately prior to leaving the certified residence and washes their hands immediately prior to their departure from and return to the residence.
- The location(s) of the visit does not include: (a) any household member suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19; (b) any household member who has been exposed to COVID-19 in the prior 14 days; or (c) any household member displays any symptoms of COVID-19 in the preceding 14 days.
- You have not traveled to a state requiring a quarantine upon reentering New York (full list can be found in guidance).
- Documentation is required to be completed at the beginning of the visit, throughout the visit, and at the end of the visit via a form that will be provided to you.
Community Outings – Full OPWDD Guidance can be found at aabr.org/communityoutings
- Individuals shall not participate in community outings if any individual or staff member working in the home is suspected or confirmed positive for COVID-19.
- Recreational community outings should be limited to one location per day and limited to outdoor activity venues. Outings to stores, restaurants and salons should be extremely limited.
- The number of individuals permitted in a community outing shall be within the discretion of the facility, based on the ability to maintain safety, but should be as small as possible. Groups shall include no more than 4 people inclusive of staff members and should be cohorted with individuals in regular contact.
- Social Distancing principles must be adhered to, to the greatest extent possible and mask rules for the state must be followed as tolerated.
Returning from an Extended Home Visit – Full OPWDD Guidance can be found at aabr.org/ehv
- In the 14 days preceding the individual’s return, the residential facility must have no known or suspected cases of COVID-19.
- The individual must have not knowingly been in close or proximate contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has had symptoms of or tested positive for COVID-19.
- The individual has not traveled to a state requiring a quarantine upon reentering New York (full list can be found in guidance).
- Confirm, in writing, that for the 14 days prior to the individual’s return to the facility, that the individual did not display any of the following symptoms: Fever of 100.0°f or greater, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, fatigue, wheezing, new loss of taste or smell.
Please reach out to the Residential Manager to schedule a visit or if you would like to further discuss protocols or have any other questions. We thank you for your continued support during these uncertain times. The safety of your loved ones and our staff remains our number one priority.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
7/17/20 – Day Program Reopening
Dear AABR Families,
As NYC moves towards Phase 4 of the reopening process, the suspension and restrictions placed on our programs and services, including Day Programs, has been rescinded and replaced with interim guidance restrictions. We have reviewed the guidance and now preparing to implement these extensive safety measures.
While we are excited that our individuals will soon have a chance to begin resuming some of their normal activities, we have experienced firsthand the devastation that can be caused by COVID-19 and are therefore moving forward with an abundance of caution as we move towards reopening our Day Programs.
While the State’s guidelines are comprehensive, we must also have the input of you, our dear families, on the reopening process. In the coming days, staff will be calling you to discuss individual’s interest in returning as well as your desire for where, when, and how often you would like them to return. In addition, we will be conducting a risk assessment as part of the transitioning plan. Family member input is essential to the development of a safe reopening plan. The information gathering is our first stage. As we progress further, we do not expect to have one grand opening, but to reopen in phases. We will continue updating you throughout the process.
Though we are moving forward, COVID-19 is still a threat. It’s numbers are spiking around the country. Therefore, we must remain vigilant and responsible. We have all sacrificed over these past few months to ensure we are infection-free. Now that we begin to open up, we are relying on you, our family members, to help us keep our sites safe. To do this, we all need to be compliant with the new regulations. The full 11-page OPWDD reopening guidance, which goes into great detail regarding the standards for reopening, entrance to sites, social distancing, gatherings in enclosed spaces, schedules, activities, PPE, hygiene, transportation, tracing and tracking can be found at aabr.org/dpreopening. We ask that you please thoroughly review that document.
If you have further questions, or do not have access to a computer and would like to review the full OPWDD guidance, please contact our Director of Day Services, Michael Arnold, at 718.321.3800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank you for your continued support during these uncertain times. The safety of your loved ones and our staff remains our number one priority.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
6/22/20 – Help Oppose $250 Million in Cuts
In the wake of all that our staff and individuals have been through during COVID-19 and on top of our enormous expenses incurred trying to keep them safe, New York State OPWDD has proposed $250 million in cuts that will devastate our residential programs. The cuts will put some providers out of business and at the very least lead to loss of staff and service.
Here’s how you can reach out to your elected officials and tell them to oppose the OPWDD cuts:
1. Click here
2. Enter your personal information
3. Send the pre-written message, copy and paste the one below, or write your own.
We need a big pushback against this, so we also encourage you to pass this message to family and friends.
COPY AND PASTE BELOW:
My loved one receives services from AABR, a non-profit for people with developmental disabilities based in College Point, Queens and serves individuals throughout NYC. I’m writing you to ask that you oppose OPWDD’s proposed $250 million in cuts to certified IRA and ICF residential programs. These cuts will result in a loss of residential beds, longer waiting lists, and fewer options for those living at home with their families. Some providers will go out of business. At the very least, many staff members will lose their jobs, leading to cuts to the quality of service.
Specifically, these cuts will eliminate reimbursement to providers for beds that are vacant (most due to COVID-19 deaths) and slash reimbursement in half for days when individuals are in hospitals or home with their families. Just as your own basic expenses don’t go away when in the hospital, the cost to a provider for caring for an individual doesn’t vanish when they are.
The costs for direct care staffing are fixed and can’t be reduced simply because an individual is out of the house. Staff provides care around the clock for everyone in a home. If a person is in the hospital, they can’t just place a staff member on unpaid leave until the hospital stay is over.
These cuts feel particularly cruel in the wake of the COVID-19 when AABR has spent enormous sums of money to protect individuals and staff, with not a single cent of reimbursement from OPWDD.
Please oppose these cuts and protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers.
6/19/20 – Family Visits to Residences Set to Begin
As the State moves from Reopening Phase 1 to Phase 2, we, albeit extremely cautiously, are moving forward, too. Our main office reopened to staff this past Monday and, while the State has now approved visitation within residences, AABR will begin making visitation appointments via phone on Monday, June 22nd for visits to occur later in the week.… READ FULL ANNOUNCEMENT AND GUIDELINES HERE
4/14/20 – AABR Featured in Another NBC NY 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
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.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
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.
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!
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 email@example.com for more information.
Thank you again for your hard work during this crisis.
3/31/20 – Continuing to Fight This Pandemic on Many Fronts
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.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
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
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
Libby Traynor, LCSW
3/16/20 – Update from AABR Executive Director on Positive Tests
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.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
3/12/20 – Update from AABR Executive Director
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
- 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.
Libby Traynor, LCSW
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
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.
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.
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.
Libby Traynor, LCSW