Dear Family Members and Guardians,
I wanted to provide an update about the impact of COVID at Emmaus and share our plans on how you can safely visit with your loved ones during the upcoming holiday season.
As you may know, Missouri continues to be a hot zone for COVID. On Friday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported the highest 7-day moving average of hospital admissions related to COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals in our area are currently at approximately 90% capacity for total beds and ICU beds. Dr. Alex Garza, Incident Commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, stated, “There is so much virus in the community at this point it is frankly beyond frightening.”
Recently another service provider reported more than 50 new cases of COVID at their organization. Fortunately, we had gone more than 3 months without any clients who tested positive for the disease, and we have experienced relatively small numbers of staff with the disease; however, last week, two of our clients tested positive for COVID.
One of our greatest challenges remains critically low staffing levels, which are further compounded when a staff member or client tests positive. You may recall in a previous message that since the onset of COVID in early March, we have been forced to consolidate homes due to staffing shortages and we have developed contingency plans for all of our homes where the staffing is critically low.
As cases increase in our community, our COVID response team met recently to address the following issues:
- Holiday celebrations
- Visits at the client home
- Return to day program and sheltered workshop
Despite the high transmission rate in our community, we have chosen not to limit family visits during the holidays. Since we began allowing visits with families over the summer, we have not had a single COVID case as a result of one of these visits and we appreciate the diligence of our families.
Dr. Garza stated in his update this week that the transmission we are currently seeing in the community is driven, in large part, by informal gatherings. Therefore, it is important that you continue to remain diligent. We are respectfully asking that you consider smaller gatherings of 10 people or less during this holiday season and that you encourage masks when extended family members are present.
If we suspect that safety guidelines were not followed during a visit, we reserve the right to request you quarantine your loved one at your family home or we may choose to quarantine a client in their room and/or require a COVID test.
Visits at the Client Home
We know that some of you are unable to visit with your loved one away from their home for a variety of reasons including accessible transportation and accessibility in your home. Many of you have been visiting outdoors at the client’s home which will be a challenge as we move into late fall and winter. However, we have chosen to continue to limit visitors to the client’s home for the protection of their housemates and our team members. If you are unable to take your loved one home, please work with your client services team for creative and safe ways to visit, including:
- Dining at a local restaurant
- Reserving a hotel room for the day
- Using the technology we have provided in the homes. Most of our homes now have IPADs available to allow for remote visits by families, case managers and others. We have purchased IPADs for all homes and anticipate that they will all arrive in the homes prior to the year–end.
Day Programs and Sheltered Workshops
We know that clients are anxious to return to these activities and visit their friends and staff. Unfortunately, we are aware of several COVID outbreaks in these areas and have chosen to continue to restrict participation in day programs and sheltered workshops. The COVID team will re-evaluate this decision in February 2021.
We understand that while some of these decisions may be frustrating, they were made with an abundance of caution to continue to protect the lives of our clients and staff. As a reminder, the Emmaus COVID-19 response team continues to meet twice weekly to evaluate our practices and address emerging issues. The decisions we have outlined are subject to change based on our response to internal or external factors related to the disease, and of course, any more restrictive orders that may be issued by state or local government. Our website is updated frequently and this information can be found at www.emmaushomes.org/covid19.
On behalf of everyone at Emmaus – our clients, team members, and Board of Directors – please know the tremendous gratitude we feel for your prayers, donations and delivery of critical supplies. Without your support, we could not continue our important work.
Thank you for the continued prayers, encouraging messages, and unwavering support of our mission.
President & CEO