At the Center for Disability Rights, we have been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and taking steps to prepare locally. Last week, the day after officials from the Centers for Disease Control said that Americans should prepare for the spread of the Coronavirus in communities across the country, we posted a blog of Action Steps for Attendant Service Users in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
As of today, there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Upstate New York, but yesterday (3/4/20) officials said that there is one individual under testing at the Rochester General Hospital. The individual is under isolation and results should be in within 48 hours.
With the deaths in the Washington state nursing facility, it is clear that inaction on this will cost people with disabilities their lives. We are taking steps to limit that locally. So far, we have purchased needed supplies, including a reasonable supply of surgical masks – including ones with a clear window to facilitate lip reading, unscented hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. We have installed wall-mounted hands-free hand sanitizer dispensers along the most common paths of travel in our offices, and purchased ultra-violet phone sanitizers to help limit the possible spread of the COVID-19 (and more). We have staff participating in our state IL association’s webinar on universal precautions and have scheduled our own in-house refresher classes. Most importantly, we are educating ourselves and talking about the issues.
Today our management team finalized the first version of an overarching organizational policy to respond to COVID-19. Although we are bound together by the same mission, we are a large organization with a diverse staff working in very different circumstances. This organizational policy is intended to support individual managers in developing their own operational plans to protect the health and lives of our consumers and staff. We are sharing this policy on our website as a way to communicate with our consumers and staff that we are taking COVID-19 seriously.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that businesses share their best practices with other businesses in their communities and similar organizations to improve community response efforts. Although we can’t say our policy is a “best practice,” it is a start. We are sharing it in the hopes that doing so will encourage others in the Independent Living network to develop their own policies to respond to COVID-19.
Based on their local circumstances, Centers for Independent Living across the country may be in very different places with regard to COVID-19. We appreciate feedback from folks about our policy because we know that it will need to change as circumstances do.
Policy to Limit the Spread of the Flu, COVID-19 and Other Viruses (Link to PDF)