New mask and viral prevention procedures

August 5, 2021

The CDC has recommended that masks be worn by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in public settings and in areas where there is high or substantial transmission of Covid-19. This includes counties in which Stone Belt provides services. 

Unfortunately, with the spike in infections from the Delta variant of the virus and with the percentage of people who are not vaccinated, in the community and within Stone Belt, we feel it is necessary to revise our virus prevention practices effective August 6th as follows:

At Tenth Street, Larc, United Way Center in Columbus, and Adams Street while working with clients in group services and using common areas:

  • Masks are required for vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and clients capable of wearing a mask. Clients who are not capable of wearing a mask will be kept within their home cohort while attending Lifelong Learning services. Social distancing should be maintained for unvaccinated clients who do not live together. 
  • Social distancing is required when eating as masks are removed. 
  • We have supplied all locations serving clients with 3-ply medical masks. DSPs and others who provide client care should use these 3-ply medical masks when working in these facilities or using common areas. 
  • All visitors are required to wear masks in these facilities and will be screened for symptoms upon entry.

Working with clients 1:1:

  • Vaccinated staff working with a vaccinated client 1:1 do not need to wear a mask.
  • Unvaccinated staff must wear a mask. 
  • If the vaccination status of the client is unknown or the client is not vaccinated, then the client and staff must wear a mask.
  • While providing 1:1 services staff should maintain social distancing wherever possible.
  • In all settings, masks must be worn when providing personal care to clients.

Offices, meetings, and group training:

  • Those who work in offices, who are providing remote services, or who only have sporadic contact with clients should use a 3-ply medical mask or a multi-layer cloth mask when in locations that prevent appropriate social distancing. Per CDC cautions, gaiters, bandanas, and face shields are not acceptable face coverings for use while working at Stone Belt.
  • A 3-ply medical mask or a multi-layer cloth mask must be worn when at work and you are unable to ensure proper 6-foot social distancing guidelines. In addition, when working in an enclosed space with more than 3 people and no physical barrier between workspaces, 3-ply medical masks or a multi-layer cloth mask must be worn regardless of ability to maintain an appropriate social distance of six feet or more.
  • Department Directors may in some instances determine mask use is required in settings not defined within this procedure. 

Vehicles: 

  • Masks are required for staff and clients that will tolerate wearing a mask when clients or multiple staff are in a vehicle.
  • Staff must wear KN95 masks when in a vehicle with an unvaccinated client(s). 
  • If more than one unvaccinated person is in a vehicle, physical distancing should be practiced wherever possible.

Services to children and youth:

  • Masks are required for staff serving children and youth. At this time, children under age 12 are not protected by vaccination.
  • Children and youth served in group settings must wear masks.
  • The teams will determine a safety plan for any child who cannot remain mask compliant.
  • Social distancing shall be used for planning group and community-based activities.

Outdoors:

  • Vaccinated clients and staff are safe without masks or social distancing while outdoors.
  • For unvaccinated clients and staff, in activities where social distancing cannot be maintained, masks are required.

Family homes: Vaccinated staff should follow the wishes of the family in regards to wearing a mask in the home. Unvaccinated staff must continue to wear medical masks in these homes.

Community Access and Visitation:

  • Stone Belt will support vaccinated clients in resuming regular community activities.
  • In any activity with a client in a community setting, the client(s) and staff should follow the rules of that setting in addition to any prevention measures described in this protocol.
  • All clients should be educated about potential risks of public settings, particularly if they have not been fully vaccinated, and reminded to avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. They should be encouraged and assisted with adherence to all recommended infection prevention and control measures, including mask-wearing, physical distancing, and hand hygiene. If they are visiting friends or family in their homes, they should follow the masking and physical distancing recommendations for visiting with others in private settings as described in the Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated 

Residential Settings:

  • Group Homes: According to the Indiana Board of Health, masks are still required for staff and visitors in all group homes, so the mask protocol is unchanged in group homes until it is changed by the Indiana Board of Health.
  • Supported Living Homes:  Unvaccinated staff is required to wear a medical mask.  All staff is required to wear a medical mask in supported living homes with unvaccinated clients.  Visitors will be requested to wear a mask.  All members and guardians of a household may make visitor mask use a requirement in their home. 

Other precautions:

  • Staff and clients must continue to monitor/be monitored at home for COVID-19 symptoms, and should stay home and get tested if they have any of the following symptoms:
    • Fever over 100
    • Cough (more than normal)
    • Experiencing shortness of breath (more than normal)
    • Chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Congestion or runny nose (more than normal)
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea 

Staff and clients should continue to practice good hygiene such as frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces. This helps to reduce the transmission of all viruses and bacteria that cause illness.

Universal precautions that were in effect prior to COVID-19 remain in effect at all times. Additional safety protocols, such as enhanced PPE, will continue to be used in cases where a client has an active or suspected case of COVID-19.

Stone Belt continues to strongly encourage all clients and staff to get a COVID-19 vaccination unless they have health issues and are advised by a physician not to get one.  Unvaccinated persons, as well as persons with certain immunocompromising conditions, remain at substantial risk for infection, severe illness, and death, especially in areas where the level of COVID-19 community transmission is high. The Delta variant is more than two times as transmissible as the original strains circulating at the start of the pandemic and is causing large, rapid increases in infections, which could compromise the capacity of some local and regional health care systems to provide medical care for the communities they serve. Stone Belt cannot move to full operations for many clients who remain at home until this community threat has passed.

We appreciate your assistance in helping to bring this about. Our individual actions are essential in this fight for the health and safety of all.

These are not actions we wanted to take, but we have consistently followed CDC recommendations and will continue to do so.  We hope it will be for the shortest period of time necessary.  

Thank you for your continued diligence in keeping clients and co-workers safe.

Leslie Green, CEO
Stone Belt

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Stone Belt Arc is the local chapter of The Arc in Monroe County. The Arc is committed to all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities realizing their goals of living, learning, working and fully participating in the community. The combined strength of local Arcs, The Arc of Indiana and The Arc of the United States makes The Arc the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Learn more about The Arc by visiting www.arcind.org and www.thearc.org.

Copyright © Stone Belt Arc 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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