Update on CSI Plans related to pandemic
September 25, 2020
Community Systems, Inc. has continued to stay abreast of the best scientific information in making our decisions related to how the people CSI supports, our staff and our extended CSI families maintain optimum health during this pandemic. The CSI focus for the last seven months has been to evaluate the information available and develop standards that limit exposure to COVID19.
I thank all of the CSI staff for your commitment and diligence in helping to keep everyone in our network safe. Your efforts and the policy guidance has been extremely effective in keeping the number of positive COVID cases and exposures well below the averages for our areas and specifically in the long term care world. I thank our extended CSI family for their cooperation and understanding to help limit exposures and stop the spread of COVID 19. I recognize the restriction are wearing on people and to now be seven months into the pandemic and the restrictions is exhausting.
As the general public has been more active in their communities and colleges and schools have reopened, CSI has seen an increase in exposures and positive cases in our Virginia supports. CSI had an outbreak that included seven people who tested positive. The seven were staff, people supported and staff family members who tested positive. The tracing showed the CSI employee was exposed in their personal life and brought it into the home. This was our highest outbreak since the pandemic hit and the second outbreak in two weeks in our VA supports. It is a reminder that the exposure and risks are real and CSI must continue to take serious efforts to help keep the people CSI supports safe.
CSI has maintained many changes to how our supports are provided but two restrictions have been most challenging to handle for staff, families and the people CSI supports. The first restrictions causing stress at this time is the stay at home restriction. CSI has maintained a level of stay at home for all the people supported. We have required that people not return to congregate day programs, and all community activities be limited to outdoor areas where social distancing can be maintained. Any variation to the restriction is reviewed on a case by case situation by senior staff. Some of variations to the stay at home guidance have been family visits, vacations, and returning to work. The process for any exceptions remains evaluating the level of exposure and how that exposure touches the people CSI supports and the others around them. CSI has a legal and moral obligation to provide the safest environment we can for the people CSI supports and our employees. If a person (or family member) is advocating for an activity with outside of current guidance, our evaluation reviews how does the activity present potential exposure and how does the potential exposure affect the others supported and the CSI staff. We have a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment for our staff.
The second area of stress is the limits placed on CSI employees related to second jobs and returning to college. CSI has been very concerned with the potential for exposure to our employees at second jobs and their potential exposure will then transfer to the CSI community. Limited exceptions have been made to this restriction, with a full review of each situation. The data demonstrates there are marked variation to the level of risk and exposure state to state. The variation in risk is related to the number of new cases, the percentage of people testing positive and how each state has handled the reopening of their state. The state’s restrictions related to reopening vary greatly and for some states, allow for a potentially higher level of exposure. CSI sees some of those of risk as a level we are unwilling to take.
As CSI moves forward we need to be focused on data, evaluate the risk on a state by state basis, look at the changes to the rules in each state and make only one change at a time. It is important that we make one change at a time to be able to evaluate the effects and know what is driving the results, whether positive or negative. A huge influence on the moving forward plan is the opening of schools and its effect on the community numbers in general. Many school systems across the country are in the process of phased openings. As on site education returns, we are staying abreast on its effects on the new cases and the percentages in the communities. I believe right now, this is a hot point and one that leads us to stay the course of restriction for the next few weeks.
I highly encourage each staff person and family member to be very cautious as your move about your community. Wearing a mask, good hand washing, social distancing and avoiding crowds are your best protections. There are many states that are increasing the number of people who can congregate in public settings which is safe if the people follow precautions. Unfortunately, we often hear of large gatherings without good COVID precautions. Your exposure then migrates to the CSI community if you come into contact with the people CSI supports or our staff. PLEASE….. be cautious, follow the guidelines and use good judgement.
That said, the data on the case numbers and the guidance from different states varies greatly. The risk of exposure in MA compared to VA is dramatically different. The state of Massachussets is showing 0.8% positive cases for those tested compared to the state of Virginia with 5.3%. In MA there were 455 new cases yesterday and in VA 902, with a high number of those cases in Northern VA. The likelihood of you coming in contact with a person with a positive case of COVID 19 is much lower in MA than in VA. The continuity of the low risk in MA has been long term.
CSI is working on the next phase in our pandemic plans to move forward. In MA and CT we will now be evaluating numbers within specific communities and regions within the state. The states of CT and MA have had months of lower number of new cases and long term low percentages of positive tests. In these two states if an employee has a second job or attends school where the potential exposure to people is low, the community numbers are low, the second job has sound precautions in place and there is no exposure to “human traffic,” we may consider it being acceptable for the employee to return to work their second job with their CSI employment. It will be imperative in these situations to maintain oversight of community data and changes to the person’s second job work policies. Each of these situation will be reviewed and approved individually.
Moving forward, CSI will continue to evaluate the data in each state, the states policies on reopening, the percentages and numbers of new cases, and individual community data to determine the best course to maintain supports with the lowest possible risk of exposure to Covid19 for the people CSI supports, our staff and our extended CSI family. We have been very successful in our focus on health and safety and if we work together can continue this trend!
With gratitude and respect,
President/CEO Community Systems, Inc.