March 18, 2020
We are writing to provide information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and the evolving outbreak in BC.
As the areas affected by the outbreak changes and we learn more about the virus, we will provide updated public health recommendations. We are now aware that this virus can cause a range of mild to severe symptoms, and it is possible that people will not recognize symptoms that are mild. Given this new information, there are steps that people at risk of COVID-19 can take to reduce the chance of spread to others.
We recognize that as social sector organizations you provide very important services to vulnerable segments of our population who may be at greater risk of COVID-19 such as people who are homeless, street-entrenched, reliant on group care, and/or persons living with other illness or disability. Suspending the important services you provide can cause unintended consequences for clients and other frontline providers.
We recommend that your organization work to adapt the way in which you provide services to minimize transmission of the virus. A risk-informed decision-making for social sector organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic is forthcoming.
SARS-CoV 2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is spread through respiratory droplets.
The most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
To help reduce your risk of infection:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using soap and water is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. See the attached handwashing poster to post in your organization.
• If a sink is not available, alcohol-based hand rubs (ABHR) can be used to clean your hands as long as they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, use a wipe and then ABHR to effectively clean them.
• Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or the crease of your elbow when you sneeze or cough.
• Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
• Do not share food, drinks, utensils, etc.
Advice on Continuity of Service
We do not recommend suspending social services. We encourage social service organizations to continue providing their important services, and consider adapting them as much as possible to support:
• Social distancing (i.e., having space of 2 metres, or two arm lengths, between individuals)
• Hand washing facilities
• Minimum twice daily cleaning of high contact surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, light switches etc.)
Organizations should consider that they may experience greater than normal absenteeism of staff and volunteers. We advise organizations to identify services that may be postponed or discontinued in order to free up staff and volunteer resources to provide essential services.
Advice for Persons at Higher Risk of Severe COVID-19
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing more severe illness:
• Elderly persons
• People with chronic illness and/or weakened immune systems
Anyone at risk of more severe COVID-19 should:
• Practice the things mentioned above – frequent hand-washing, maintain a distance of 2 metres from other people, avoid touching their hands and face, and have frequent disinfecting of high contact surfaces.
• Avoid crowds > 5 people
Advice on Wearing Masks
Masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person’s droplets in.
It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask).
Advice on Self-Isolation
We now recommend that:
• People returning from travel outside of Canada stay home or self-isolate for 14 days after they return to Canada. They should monitor themselves daily for symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing).
• People who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 by laboratory testing should self-isolate for 14 days after their last encounter.Individuals should monitor themselves daily for symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing).
• People who have been in close contact with someone who has been showing symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing), should monitor themselves daily for symptoms.
Advice for Those Who Have Respiratory Symptoms
For anyone who develops fever, cough, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, and can be managed at home (i.e., doesn’t need to go to the hospital), self-isolate for at least 14 days after onset of their symptoms. After 14 days, if their temperature is normal and they feel better, they can return to their routine activities. Coughing may persist for several weeks, so a cough alone does not mean they need to continue to self-isolate for more than 14 days.
Advice on Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are frequently touched (e.g., high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, etc.) will help to prevent the transmission of viruses from person to person through contaminated hands. These surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least two times per day. If household or commercial disinfection products are not readily available, hard surfaces can be cleaned of visible dirt and then disinfected using a mixture of 1-part bleach and 9-parts water.
Organizations should also consider increasing the number of hand wash stations (or alcohol-based sanitizer stations) around the institution, as well as providing tissues and waste receptacles.
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Resources for BC Public Agencies:
Vancouver Coastal Pandemic Response Planning Checklist for Homeless & Housing Services Providers: https://sneezesdiseases.com/assets/uploads/1584050040ueDrQ4uF2STpj0uScxV9XTftm9T8.pdf
Latest Public information about the disease:
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website contains the latest information about the disease, particularly as it relates to the health and well-being of British Columbians. Relevant BCCDC resources and channels include:
• Information for the public: www.bccdc.ca/covid19
• COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool: https://covid19.thrive.health/
BCCDC channels to follow:
• Twitter: @CDCofBC
• RSS feed: http://feeds.phsa.ca/bccdc-news.xml
Other regional, provincial and national resources about the virus:
• Vancouver Coastal Health: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/vancouver-coastal-healthstatement-on-coronavirus
• Fraser Health: https://www.fraserhealth.ca/health-topics-a-to-z/coronavirus#.Xk7Y975KiUk
• Interior Health: Ministry of Health Office of the 4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
Provincial Health Officer
PO Box 9648 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria BC V8W 9P4
Tel: (250) 952-1330
Fax: (250) 952-1570
• Island Health: https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/diseases-conditions/novelcoronavirus-information
• Northern Health: https://www.northernhealth.ca/health-topics/current-outbreaks
• HealthLink BC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/coronavirus-covid-19
• Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/publichealth/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html
MD, MPH, FRCPC
Provincial Health Officer
Dear CLBC eligible individuals and families –
I am writing you today about the outbreak of the virus called COVID-19. Our world has changed in the last few weeks. Health experts are giving us daily updates and asking everyone to take steps to help prevent the spread of the disease. CLBC has created a web page here for individuals and families.
First, I want to recognize this is not an easy time. I talk to self advocates each day. They tell me they are confused and scared. They are unsure how to be safe when they go out into their community, and many of the community resources they rely on are closed. They do not want to lose their connections to those they love. We all need to take a bit of time each day to talk to the self advocates we know and ask them how they are doing.
Families are anxious too. I know there is a burden of stress that comes with being a parent of someone who may be vulnerable. I also know that the COVID-19 outbreak poses great complexities for families. I’m sure you have many questions.
I must be honest. While we can answer some questions, we don’t have answers yet to all of them. This is a situation that this generation has not faced before. However, I am very hopeful. CLBC is working with the government and service providers to understand and respond to the challenges. I believe that we can meet them.
Here’s what we are doing:
Our first priority has been to help spread the word about COVID-19, and what people can do to protect themselves. This information is on our web page. If you are sick, call 811 and stay home. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your face and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing. Practice social distancing.
We are also working with our service providers. I understand you may be hearing different things about whether some programs will continue or not. I know our service providers and their staff are working hard and making good decisions to protect individuals, families and staff while continuing to provide essential support.
CLBC has provided guidance we hope will help them think about how to adjust services like day programs to protect individuals with chronic health conditions and prevent the spread of illness. If a program has to change or close, we are asking providers to assess the impact on the individuals and caregivers, and where possible to adjust staffing to assist caregivers by serving individuals in or out of their homes. Providers are really stepping up to this challenge.
What should you do if you or your family member becomes ill? This is a key worry for all of us. If a person has flu like symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing, call 811 to talk to a nurse. You can call 711 if you are deaf and hearing impaired.
I have been talking with the Ministry of Health and Provincial Health Officer in the last few days to ask them to ensure we have access to the care we need in our communities should one of our loved ones become sick.
If you have questions, here are some helpful contacts:
CLBC continues to be open at this time. Our staff will respond to your calls as quickly as they can. You can also send your questions to CLBCInfo@gov.bc.ca at any time.
Thank you for all you are doing to help your family and others during this time. Please continue to let your service providers and CLBC know how we can be helping during these uncertain times. And stay tuned for more updates. Be assured that self advocates, families and support workers are our top priority.
CEO, Community Living BC
Dear CLBC Service Providers –
We continue to hear from many service providers who we know are doing their best to keep individuals, families and staff safe. We are also hearing from families and caregivers that may be impacted by decisions about continuing services. We recognize decisions are not always easy to make and would like to provide further information that may guide you.
The question, “Should service providers continue to provide day services in their current configuration or not in light of COVID-19?” does not have a one-size fits all answer.
The top consideration should be keeping both individuals and staff safe and healthy over the next months. To do our best at this, we need to follow the advice of our public health officials.
CLBC expects that service providers, no matter the service, take the precautions as advised by public health officials and experts to keep people safe. These include ensuring extra cleaning and sanitation of facilities and communicating through messages and posters the advice to stay home if sick, regularly wash hands, do not touch your face, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and practicing social distancing. Please continue to refer to guidance on the BC Centre for Disease Control web site here.
Wherever possible, services have a duty to assist individuals to understand the situation, what the risks are and what they need to do to protect themselves.
So what are other factors service providers should consider around continuing services?
Health officials have told us today that where possible we should continue social services in a way that minimizes transmission and minimizes pushing the burden to other social services. They have said that supported individuals at higher risk for severe disease and individuals who may have challenges complying with the preventative practices above should try to stay away from crowds or areas of potential transmission.
Many individuals may have chronic health conditions and have health care plans as established by their doctors and other health care professionals who support them. These plans should be followed in combination with broad health messaging.
Where service providers operate services that result in congregation, or people coming together in numbers, it may make sense to alter the service to employ “social distancing” to help keep people safe and prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
In other situations where there is less congregation, once the provider has taken recommended precautions, service may be able to continue operation.
Where a service provider needs to change the delivery of services to reduce congregation and reduce risk to individuals or staff and do their part to prevent transmission by implementing social distancing, CLBC expects the following of service providers:
Thank you for your ongoing efforts to make decisions that will continue to put the ongoing health and well-being of individuals as our top priority.
CLBC is working on a range of other questions and hopes to provide further information soon on topics that include supporting home sharing providers and helping to access medical supplies.
I am also taking the opportunity to attach a pandemic planning checklist which you can access here to support you in your ongoing planning.
Community Living BC
I know that all of you are actively engaged in planning for the challenges we are facing with respect to COVID-19. Monday morning (March 16th) Karyn Santiago and I were part of the first of what are to become weekly calls of the Social Services Sector Roundtable. Minister Simpson acknowledged that this is a challenging time for everyone and these calls are being organized specifically to review the role of social service organizations throughout this crisis as well as to identify and strategize around the unique issues we face. The concern is how to both meet the needs of the individuals receiving support as well as ensuring that staff stay well. Dr. Daniele Behn Smith from the Public Health Office was also present during this call who advised that there was no need to close services providing the group did not exceed 50 persons and that people must be able to maintain social distancing and frequent handwashing protocols. She also stipulated that disinfecting procedures should be increased as well as decreasing opportunities for community interaction. We are expecting more formal information from the Public Health Office today with respect to community living services but this has not yet been received.
We are also aware that personal protection supplies are generally unavailable. This includes masks, eye shields, gowns and hand sanitizer. It is our understanding that CLBC is working directly with the Ministry of Health to ensure that supplies will be available on an “as required” basis. This does mean that stockpiling is not an option. I have been asked to let you know that if you require supplies you should contact your local CLBC Analyst and identify what you need and the quantity. CLBC will escalate these requests through Health. Again, this should be a basic request for a 2 week supply; not an unlimited quantity. At this point it is unclear whether Health will be able to respond and we will continue to look into other supplier options.
This morning (March 17th) we held a single-item Board call to review the need for a more coordinated approach to the crisis. We are aware that some of our members have already closed Community Inclusion services and are re-deploying staff to ensure that individuals are receiving the support they need. Others are in the process of finalizing plans for closures and moving to essential service levels. Everyone is planning with the intention of keeping everyone as safe as possible and minimizing the risks of further spread of COVID-19. This is a daily evolving situation and we recognize the pressure you are all feeling.
Each of you will need to make decisions for your organization that are best for those you serve, your employees and your community. There will be variation from agency to agency about what is considered an essential service. At this point we are encouraging you to consider the following as you plan:
• Ensure that you are planning within your agency’s capacity.
• Coordinate with other agencies in your community where possible. You may be able to assist each other with sharing resources where that makes sense.
• Communicate with families and caregivers to determine what support they may require if you close services and deploy staff as is possible to ensure these circumstances are addressed.
• Continue to advise your CLBC Analyst of your plans.
• Ensure you have succession plans for all important positions within your agency (i.e. payroll will need to be met).
|TEL||1 (250) 832 3885|
|FAX||1 (250) 832 1076|
371 Hudson Avenue NE
Suite 100 (PEP), Suite 103 (HWLS) & Suite 301 (CES & Admin)
PO Box 153, Salmon Arm, B.C. V1E 4N3
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250-832-3885 Ext. 1100
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