I am hearing it from many of you — one or more of your staff are home or hospitalized with COVID-19. Many believe the next few weeks will be worse because of the Thanksgiving gatherings. How does that impact your CIL? Here are some of the thoughts you’ve expressed. We hope sharing will strengthen all of us as we navigate the next few months.
- What’s the rush in bringing everyone back into the office? Some of your staff and many of the people you serve are considered vulnerable, and if they contract the virus the consequences could include long term recovery or even death. Now I know that there are all kinds of viewpoints out there about how serious this is or isn’t. But what I also know is that some people are dying from it — even a member of my own family. You have gotten the hang of working from home. Continue to improve that process and don’t get in a hurry to re-open the office. If any part of it — email and phone service provision for example — is still a little rough, use this time to improve it.
- Do your consumers have new or different needs as this pandemic continues? If you haven’t done wellness checks (by phone usually) on past and present consumers, do that now. If you have done it in the past, do it again. Keep you finger on the pulse of our community, be responsive, but do it at a distance. Consider having more face to face (via Zoom or another video platform) to provide some social interaction for people who are really missing other people.
- What does peer support look like in a pandemic? This is a great time to expand your thinking and your provision of peer support. Are there people who are interested in a buddy system — a call relationship between two consumers (with their permission of course) that opens the door to peer support in a new way? Are there group meetings that make sense, for larger video calls. If you aren’t doing this now, consider it. The philosophy of peer support is alive and well, even if it looks different. People are finding a very real need for connections and this is one tool to provide that.
- What is your policy about when staff should stay home? Do you require staff members to stay home if they have a cough or fever? How about if a family/household member or someone they are close to tests positive? If not, consider developing and implementing that policy.
- Use this time for staff training from our website or via Zoom. If you have already completed all the training (which is doubtful!) take time to review — are your policies and procedures up to date? Do they lay out the steps that staff should take as they implement the requirements? Update them, not just to capture your remote service delivery, but also to improve all your processes. Then train staff on those at your regular check-in meetings.
- When you do reopen, go slow. Consider starting with a reduced number of staff, alternating maybe week to week, while observing rigorous cleaning protocols. Consider appointments only for in-person and really consider whether in-person provides enough benefit to take the risk. When you open to consumers, consider using the same precautions you see in the community, including asking if the person or anyone close to them has symptoms, and taking temperatures.
- Continually examine your policies, procedures and practices. As we have seen these last nine months and more, we are always learning new things. Keep up to date. Time at home isn’t time off, closure of the office isn’t closure of services, and we are able with CARES Act funds to address some real community needs. As this continues to unfold we should continue to assess what the community needs and respond to it.
A footnote — as you update your policies and procedures, make sure you know the effective date. You don’t have the option to apply things retroactively at this point, but only going forward, so you need to know when new elements become effective.