Executive Director\’s Message – September 25th, 2020

Here we are at the start of school and the start of fall. We are in challenging times and we are in a climate of concern with schools opening. I last sent a message when we were in crisis at the start of the pandemic. Now our new routines of handwashing, keeping the distance and wearing masks have become normalized. Things have certainly changed in a very short space of time. When I reflect back to the start of the pandemic it is clear that a lot has been done to respond to the new reality. 

CVS took immediate action to minimize the exposure and impact of COVID-19 on the individuals we serve, families and our staff. Here are some of the steps we have taken since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. In early 2020, before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, we mobilized to increase purchases of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies for our staff and the individuals we serve. Conversations began in mid-January to identify areas of response for CVS in order to be well prepared.
  2. On March 13th, I instructed our administration staff to move out of their offices and start working from home to free up program space and enable greater social distancing.
  3. In mid-March, we minimized on-site support so that social distancing could occur – moving our service delivery to an online platform as well as providing service to a few individuals in our offices. Additionally, support was provided directly to individuals in their home.
  4. Our employees have done an amazing job and we are deeply grateful for their commitment. We support staff by making sure they have enough masks, shields and gloves along with the right guidance to reduce the risk of infection. I acknowledge that the last several months have been stressful and an ordeal. To help reduce the stress we have endeavoured to be flexible and accommodating with our staff who are dealing with their own families, health issues and concern for their personal safety. CVS has worked hard to recognize and acknowledge our staff with letters of commendation, small gifts and especially early on, increased communication and acknowledgement. In the next few months eligible staff will receive the Federal/Provincially funded Pandemic Pay of $4 an hour for taking up risk when working directly with people. We are glad that staff have not suffered any loss of pay throughout the last six months and that CVS remains financially stable.
  5. A comprehensive online program was developed for the individuals we serve to continue support for families and the individual – this continues to be delivered over Zoom. Between now and Christmas we are moving to Microsoft Teams for enhanced security. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks. 
  6. We developed detailed policies and protocols for COVID-19 response to prepare for any infection outbreaks. These plans and protocols were widely communicated to staff, the individuals we serve and families. We have since learned from our colleagues who have had occasions of infection.
  7. Provided activity kits to the individuals we serve so families had something to do with their loved ones while at home.
  8. Upon entering Phase 2 of the reopening plan, CVS developed strategic plans on the best approach to bring the individuals we serve back to face-to-face service but also to enable adequate social distancing. At the same time, we made plans with families in case we had to severely restrict service. 
  9. CVS rented out 2 additional spaces in Coquitlam to enable more face-to-face support in a social distanced environment.
  10. In light of an anticipated 2nd wave of COVID-19, CVS started to work on kits to provide PPE to individuals, families and staff so everyone has access to this equipment. We expect these to be sent out in mid-October. We hope you can use the kit to augment your supply of PPE so that you can minimize the transmission of COVID-19 for you and your loved ones. Please contact us if you need more PPE.

Throughout this pandemic, CVS has tried to stay ahead of the curve and plan as much as possible to protect the individuals we serve, families and our staff. We have done our best to shift our service delivery to create and maintain bubbles. However, this has had an impact on staffing as our ratios of staff to people served are becoming smaller due to trying to reduce the number of people who are grouped together, to try and keep staff in bubbles, and also because our staff have issues of personal concern arising from the pandemic in terms of health or childcare. As  a result, some days we are short on staff. If you have an issue or concern please give us a ring and we will do our best to respond. 

It appears as if we are in a 2nd wave of COVID-19 with rising cases across Canada. We have had some scares with people who have been exposed but so far we have been lucky that no one has tested positive yet. 

We have learned that this virus is mostly airborne so keeping 2 metres away from others and wearing masks are the best tools we have at present. We must stay the course with these efforts. As Dr. Henry says this is no time for gatherings. Clearly, social restraint is no fun and we have been unable to have the social events that we take for granted such as BBQ’s, parties and certain activities in the community. 

We are practicing segregation rather than inclusion. It is important that we keep to our vision and mission of inclusion as we practice segregation. At the same time, our prime directive is to keep people safe. We are in this for the long haul so we will do what we can to create opportunities for fun and connection. We are going to work on new ideas for activities indoors as winter approaches. Please know that Halloween and Christmas will have to be virtual this year and we are currently planning how to make this meaningful. 

We are prepared with PPE, good policies, and we have a great staff team. For the immediate future we will continue to provide service as best as we can while being safe. If we can, we will add more capacity and if things get worse and infections continue to rise we may have to be more restrictive. If someone in our circle gets infected we will support them. We will be patient, kind and understanding. Together we will get through this crisis.

Thank you and have a great weekend, 

Kevin Lusignan