COVID-19 VACCINE – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What priority group is The Arc in for vaccines?
At this point, we understand that our team members and people we support fall into Phase 1A, 1B or 1C of Maryland’s distribution plan.
Phase 1A- Social Workers (such as in our Foster Care Program) and Certified Medication Technicians (CMT) are eligible RIGHT NOW for the vaccine. Most of our Direct Support Professionals in Community Living, and some who worked in our day programs are licensed CMT’s. This group has begun receiving the vaccine through our local health department.
Phase 1B- All people with developmental disabilities fall within this group. The initial focus was on people who live in “congregate settings” like group homes, but we now know that all the people we support will fall in this category. We are working with CVS and Walgreens (see below) to facilitate this.
Phase 1C-All other Direct Support Staff (non CMT’s) will fall under this category. At this point, we are unclear if other staff members will be included or not at this time.
- Will everyone supported in programs in The Arc be able to get vaccinated?
Yes! We are working with CVS and Walgreens as part of the Pharmacy Partnership through Operation Warp Speed on how to set up distribution clinics to facilitate this. It may be at individual homes, day centers or our main office. We don’t know yet.
In preparation for that time, which we believe to be sometime between the end of January and March, our staff are working to educate people we support, families, and guardians regarding the vaccine, assessing risk factors, and supporting informed decision making. When appropriate, we are consulting with primary care physicians and our nursing partner, Dimensional Health Services, as well.
- Will the vaccine be mandated for staff who are in direct contact with people The Arc supports?
At this time, we are not mandating the vaccine. We are however, strongly encouraging all staff to receive the vaccine by providing information on what is known about the vaccine and the risks of not getting it. We understand there are fears about vaccines and are urging staff to keep an open mind and learn what they can, from reliable sources. We are currently drafting a policy with counsel from our attorneys.
We recommend that staff consult with their trusted primary care physicians to discuss their unique health situations and concerns about receiving the vaccine.
- How does the vaccine work?
Both the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines consist of two injections. For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the two injections are 21 days apart; and, for the Moderna vaccine, the two are 28 days apart. Neither vaccine contain a live virus.
- The vaccine was developed very quickly compared to usual processes. How can we know if it’s safe?
Clearly our government stimulated a massive response to remove barriers, provide needed funding, and speed up the process, however, the normal research and testing were performed with rigor and to all needed specifications. No steps were skipped. In addition the worldwide community of scientists and pharmaceutical companies shared research and collaborated in a way that was truly unprecedented.
- What about side effects?
Like any vaccination, there may be side effects, but the majority are mild and temporary. This may include pain or swelling at the injection site, fever, fatigue, and headache. This usually occurs within the first hours after receiving the vaccination – and are signs that the vaccination is doing its work.
Pharmacies and other providers of the vaccinations are keeping people on-site for at least 15 minutes to monitor any reactions.
We are all at greater risk from complications and long term effects of having COVID than from the side effect from the vaccine.
- If I get the vaccine, can I finally stop wear my mask, social distancing and other safety measures?
No, at this time, we are advised to continue all health/safety precautions as the vaccine does protect the person receiving it, but that individual may still have the potential to transmit the virus. Continue to wear your mask, wash your hands and keep social distancing.
- What if people want to wait to learn more and see what happens with the vaccine?
The sooner we all get the vaccine, the better. It is very important that the majority of the population gets the vaccination. If this does not occur, the pandemic will continue to control our lives. We encourage you to educate yourself and use reliable and trusted sources of information.
The sooner we all get the vaccine, the sooner we get back to normal life.
A SOCIAL STORY ABOUT THE GETTING THE COVID-19 VACCINE
Created by The Center for Dignity Healthcare for People with Disabilities
Click to view vaccine infographics
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINE
COVID-19 Increases in Maryland, December Holidays, and Vaccines Update (12/16/20)
While the recent surge in COVID cases in Maryland and across our country is not sparing The Arc Baltimore and we’ve had more of our staff and people we support test positive, we are battling, cleansing, masking, isolating, and doing everything possible to keep the virus at bay. The Health Department and our Dimensional Nurses continue to advise us on quarantining and isolating, we are deploying all the PPE that is needed, and anyone exposed is quickly tested. We are doing our very best to keep everyone safe.
We also continue to ask all our staff and the people we support to avoid gatherings outside of their immediate household over the holidays. Any staff travel outside of Maryland must be reported to our HR. In Community Living, any visits outside the person’s home must go through the division vice-president.
Lastly, stay tuned for information about the new vaccine to combat the virus. We are advocating to Governor Hogan to have people we support and our DSP staff on the priority list as it becomes available. It’s not yet clear what will be recommended or required for the population we serve and our staff. We will keep you updated as we learn more.
COVID-19 – OPERATIONAL UPDATES (As of 11/17/20)
In light of the rising rates of COVID in Maryland and across the country, and Governor Hogan’s recent announcements and cautions, The Arc Baltimore is taking measures to respond and continue our efforts to keep people we support and our staff safe from the virus. We recognize that we are entering a period of high risk, and that we need to double our efforts to stay the course.
First, we want to encourage EVERYONE to maintain the most basic safety practices. Wear your mask. Wash hands frequently and sanitize your home and work areas. Maintain social distance of 6 ft. whenever and wherever possible. It is critical that these fundamentals continue. It is up to each of us to do so.
While each program area has varying practices for safe operations, we are reinforcing these basics with everyone and we ask every staff member to do the same with co-workers and people we support. In addition, as difficult as it will be, we are discouraging our staff and those we support from gathering with family and friends over the holidays (beyond their immediate household). This is going to be hard on everyone, but the risk is too great that gatherings at Thanksgiving and over the December holidays will lead to more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. At this time, family/casual gatherings are a lead cause of the spread of the virus.
In addition, any staff or person supported who travels outside of Maryland to a state that is considered a COVID hotspot (over a 10% positivity rate) must quarantine for two weeks and be tested before returning to work or their program site. Staff must report travel to HR; staff must report travel of supported individuals to their division or department head.
As mentioned, each program and area of operation is looking at what additionally is needed to ensure safety. The following is a sampling. Please refer to the division head or director in each program area for further guidance.
- We are still unable to allow family members to visit inside our Community Living homes.
- Porch/outside visits remain an option for visits with family, but all must wear face masks and maintain social distance.
- Visits by individuals to their family homes is discouraged at this time, but can be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require approval by Kim McGuire, Vice President of Community and Family Living.
- It will be doubly important over the holidays for our staff to help individuals connect remotely with family and friends by phone, Facetime, zoom, or other means.
- According to recent guidance from DDA, we are now providing all direct support professionals with surgical masks to wear at all times in the home. These will be available on an ongoing basis.
Please continue to be vigilant and follow the outlined protocols at all times to ensure the ongoing health and safety of those we support, our incredible staff team, and all their families. The Arc Baltimore will stay on top of new information and will update and disseminate new procedures as appropriate. Any questions about this policy may be directed to the relevant Program Coordinator or Program Director, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAY PROGRAMS (Virtual classes and porch visits)
- Remote classes for learning, seeing friends, physical activity, and other enjoyment remain our primary outreach for people in our day programs.
- Participants are having a lot of fun with daily chat groups, computer classes, musical theater, art classes, job training, and other offerings.
- To see the current list of what’s available: www.thearcbaltimore.org/virtualday
- Porch visits can continue; in-home visits will have restrictions.
- Supports continue for all who continue their jobs in essential businesses including hospitals and grocery stores, and we are reaching out to supported workers who may now be able to return to other businesses that are reopening. We are actively seeking new job opportunities as more businesses reopen.
- Caseworkers and other employment staff remain in contact with those furloughed from independent employment to verify each person’s circumstances and current needs.
- Protocols for PPE, social distancing, vehicle use, and on-site requirements must be followed.
- Any further return of supported workers is on hold
- While recent classes of Project SEARCH have celebrated virtual graduations, participants continue to meet and prepare for job opportunities. This also applies to participants in Career Catalyst.
OUTREACH, CLINICAL, AND FAMILY SERVICES
- Staff team members remain available for inquiries about program services and other resource needs. Call 410-296-2272 ext. 5310.
- Supports to people in their families’ homes continue, for some remotely and where physical support is needed, in-person.
- Moms and Dads and other caregivers continue to meet online in peer support groups and have been finding great joy and relief in connecting with one another. Schedules for these meetings are on our website.
- Social workers continue support to our Foster Care parents who have the added challenges of parenting their kids who are not able to attend camps or ESY.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) AND FUNDING
The Arc Baltimore continues to acquire personal protective equipment including surgical masks, cloth masks, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields. We continue hazard pay for our frontline employees in instances where COVID tests are pending or confirmed.
Significant questions remain on our State reimbursement rates in the new budget set for July 1. Hard-fought gains in the General Assembly to win the minimally needed 4% increase to keep direct support wages ahead of the minimum wage are at great risk. Added costs to acquire PPE and lost fundraising revenue are causing a significant funding gap for The Arc. If you can, please contribute today to our Coronavirus Response Fund.
MAIN OFFICE AND SETON EMPLOYMENT CENTER
Our offices on York Road and at Seton remain closed to visitors. The majority of administrative staff continue to work remotely, but are available by their normal email and telephone extensions. Any team member needed on-site must wear a mask and maintain social distance. Personnel in offices are limited to 25% capacity and with staggered schedules to ensure 6 ft. social distancing. All training is being conducted online.
Let’s stay together. Thank you.
TWO WAYS TO HELP!
We continue to respond to the Coronavirus threat and have taken many steps to keep people we support and our staff safe. At this time, we are turning to our community for support. If you want to help, we’ve provided two easy ways to do so!
WHAT IS COVID-19 AND WHAT CAN I DO?
The Arc Maryland and the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council partnered to create a COVID-19 resource guide that is written in plain language. Check out the information on symptoms, hygiene protocols, and suggestions for how to spend your time indoors. The last page has a list of additional resources.
Dial 2-1-1 for help. The answers you’re looking for are just three digits away. Information, community resources, and referrals on a variety of health and human service issues are available with one easy call. A trusted and caring call specialist is there to answer the helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline provides individuals and families one easy-to-remember hot line for assistance.
Watch for additional notifications from The Arc. Staff should contact their managers for further information. Families and other agencies should also use their normal contacts with questions as needed. This will also help us identify new information that we can distribute. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, email email@example.com.