An Important Message Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

From Steve Howard, Executive Director, WACOSA

April 3rd, 2020

To:  All WACOSA stakeholders

From:  Steve Howard, Executive Director

Re:  Update on WACOSA’s services   

We hope everyone is well and continuing to follow the Governor’s order to remain home and “shelter in place” as much as possible to protect our community from the spread of the current pandemic.  As we shared in our March 27 memo, we feel it is important to provide occasional updates regarding WACOSA’s plans to manage the current COVID-19 crisis.  Unfortunately, our earlier hoped-for deadline of April 6, 2020 to continue our services will not be possible.  In keeping with the advice of our state and federal authorities, WACOSA will remain closed until further notice. We will resume services again as we receive guidance that doing so will not jeopardize the health and well-being of our clients, staff, stakeholders and/or community.   

Please continue to monitor WACOSA’s various points of social media including our website (www.wacosa.org), our Facebook page and our recorded phone line for the most up-to-date information we can share regarding our services at this time.   If you prefer, our informational email is also available at info@wacosa.org.  

Thank you. 

March 27th, 2020

To:  All WACOSA stakeholders

From:  Steve Howard, Executive Director

Re:  Update on current response to COVID-19

WACOSA appreciates the effort all of the individuals we serve, our staff and our stakeholders are expending to deal with the many complex issues presented by the current COVID-19 crisis. We feel it important to provide occasional updates regarding WACOSA’s plans to manage this issue as concerns deepen and persist.  Beginning Friday, March 27, 2020, we will be honoring Governor Walz’s most recent directive to stay at home or “shelter in place”, to do our part to protect our community and stop the spread of this pandemic.  This means that all WACOSA offices will be closed entirely to both staff and the public.  Aside from our need to sustain a few administrative functions, staff will be unavailable to take calls or receive visitors during normal office hours.  Those staff whose duties allow may work remotely for a period.  Additionally, until further notice, both our ThriftWorks! and DocuShed businesses will be closed with tentative reopening dates of April 13, 2020.  This includes both our DocuShred storefront, as well as our shred pick-up services.

In spite of the immediate challenges, WACOSA continues to do its best to respond to the needs of our community.  Many of our direct support professionals are continuing to work in group homes during this time.  This allows the people we serve to continue receiving supports from the safety of their own homes, while also allowing many of our staff to earn their same wages and benefits, and granting residential providers much-needed help.  We continue to hold a weekly conference call with many of our key residential providers to collaborate whenever possible.  Our sincerest respect goes out to all of our residential providers right now who are doing their best under very difficult circumstances.

WACOSA staff who have questions related to their individual employment situation should contact HR Director, Sandie Westergren at swestergren@wacosa.org or 320-257-5181.  If you are unable to reach her, please leave a message and she will return your call as soon as possible.

We understand how difficult our being closed continues to be for persons served, families and residential providers.   We thank you for your hard work and partnering with us during this unprecedented time in our history.  Please continue to follow the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH – http://www.health.state.mn.us/),  the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO – WHO).  Since this remains a rapidly evolving situation, please continue to monitor WACOSA’s various points of social media including our website (www.wacosa.org), our Facebook page and our recorded phone line for the most up-to-date information we can share regarding the current state of WACOSA’s services.  You may also contact our informational email at info@wacosa.org.

We appreciate this time continues to be filled with uncertainty and concern. The many kind emails, calls and positive messages we have received from so many of you have been much appreciated.  Rest assured we would resume services once we receive guidance by our state and federal authorities that doing so will not jeopardize the health and well-being of our clients, staff, stakeholders and/or community. Thank you for your support and patience during this time.  I am confident we will get through this COVID-19 crisis soon and will be stronger for our efforts and for the great partnerships we have forged during this time.

March 18th, 2020

Hello WACOSA Stakeholder:

The link below is a reference on Plain Language Information on Coronavirus.  Please feel free to use this document to share information related to preventing the spread of COVID-19 with those you support.  This document was created by Green Mountain Self-Advocates in  Montpelier, Vermont (http://www.gmsavt.org/) At this time we hope everyone remains safe and is engaged as possible in stopping the spread of this disease.

Plain-Language-Information-on-Coronavirus

MARCH 17th, 1:30 PM.

To:  All WACOSA stakeholders

From:  Steve Howard, Executive Director

Re:  Temporarily closing our services

In light of the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, WACOSA will be closing all Center-Based Day Services at all locations as of Thursday, March 19, 2020, with a tentative reopening date of April 6, 2020.  However, we wish to emphasize this date is tentative.  With the constantly evolving COVID-19 health care crisis, we ask that you monitor WACOSA’s website (www.wacosa.org) or phone line (320-251-0087) for the most up-to-date information on current and future WACOSA services.  We will work individually with persons served, families, case managers, group homes, and guardians to determine a plan for people that cannot be safe at home during the day. WACOSA is dedicated to continuing to provide services so that people are safe. If this is the case for you or your family member, please contact your WACOSA supervisor or case manager as soon as possible.

At this time, we have not been notified of any confirmed cases of exposure to COVID-19 here at WACOSA. However, anyone who is at higher risk based on guidance from the CDC (guidance from the CDC) should immediately stay home and contact their medical professional should they be experiencing flu-like symptoms. WACOSA’s offices in Waite Park, St. Cloud and Sauk Center that support our services will be closed to the public.

Closure will mean that clients will not be working at their respective community work sites.  WACOSA leadership is currently engaged in determining how best to meet the needs of employers during the current health care crisis.

We understand that closure may be a hardship for families and residential providers, but think this step is best in order to support the health and safety of persons served, as well as our many staff, stakeholders and the community, in general. We are following the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and our disability trade association. Please keep in mind this is a rapidly evolving situation and the information contained in this letter may change in the future. We appreciate this is a time filled with uncertainty and concern.  Rest assured WACOSA remains dedicated to protecting and balancing the mental, physical and safety needs of everyone we support.

You will be able to find the most current WACOSA status on our website and Facebook pages, along with our recorded phone line. Any significant changes to the information in this notice will be posted in those places and/or emailed via our email list. If you have additional questions, please contact info@wacosa.org.  I am also available to answer questions during this time on my cell phone at (320) 292-9319.

Thank you for your support and patience during this time.  I am confident we will get through this difficult time and emerge strong after.

MARCH 15th, 2020 – 2:40 PM.

WACOSA remains open at all program sites. Please note that our situation may change rapidly and we ask that you check back regularly to our webpage, www.wacosa.org and click on the yellow bar on the top titled, “WACOSA & Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update,” the News Section of our webpage, or at WACOSA’s Facebook page for updates.   We are in close communication with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, our trade associations, and our peer providers regarding service delivery, and we will continue to follow guidelines and/or mandates established by the Minnesota Department of Health and other health agencies. For WACOSA staff, clients, guardians and group homes, we respectfully ask that if you are ill you refrain from coming to WACOSA. 

March 13, 2020 — As we continue to monitor the challenges presented by Coronavirus, we wish to keep you posted on what we are doing at WACOSA to remain as proactive as possible and to adjust to this continually changing situation.  Please keep in mind our effort to keep you posted is designed to educate you, which will hopefully help you remain informed, while at the same time preventing you from feeling anxious or fearful of the current situation:

  • We are making available all Memo’s related to Coronavirus on our website (www.wacosa.org), with a link to our Facebook page directing folks to these memos, as well.
  • We are meeting with our key residential facilities next week (week of the 16th) to discuss protocols we can implement to promote a consistent response between work and home to be as proactive as possible in our coordinated response to the current situation.
  • We are stepping up our maintenance effort by changing out the air filters more frequently in our HVAC systems at all of our service locations in an effort to promote cleaner air throughout WACOSA, to address Coronavirus concerns, in addition to suppressing various allergens that might be present. 
  • We are continuing our deep cleaning efforts, most specifically areas of WACOSA that experience frequent hand contact (i.e. key boards, doorknobs, computers etc.)
  • We have instituted ultraviolet light disinfecting processes to clean IT equipment (i.e. IPads) that our clients use regularly.
  • We have instituted additional training for staff and clients to promote social distancing, health and wellness, in addition to increasing/respecting personal space. 
  • Our maintenance team has instituted disinfecting procedures of the interior of all WACOSA vehicles multiple times a week.
  • Timers have been installed in bathrooms to improve handwashing procedures for clients and staff.
  • We continue to assess appropriate environments for community outings to take place.
  • WACOSA has designated additional places away from program areas that are designated as sick rooms where individuals can be removed from their colleagues, should signs or symptoms of illness develop.  In like manner, staff will be asked to remain home if they are feeling ill, with corresponding testing/quarantine imposed prior to returning to work, as a particular situation may require.
  • We have begun dialogue with area employers, with whom WACOSA provides services or does business to keep them mindful of the plans and potential restrictions that could be imposed upon WACOSA workers or work crews, as any specific situation may require. 

In addition to these, in addition to earlier mentioned steps, we will continue to monitor the situation and implement our Emergency Response Plan as needed to address this developing concern.  We continue to ask that you locate travel notices and guidance on precautionary measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Minnesota Department of Health ( http://www.health.state.mn.us/) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Also, feel free to call me at (320)257-5180 or email at showard@wacosa.org if I can answer additional questions. We will continue to keep you updated with any significant changes to this situation via memos and on our website.

–  Steve H., Executive Director, WACOSA