Garden Center Family,
We’ve been on quite a journey these past seven months and we wanted to give you an update on where we are as an agency regarding the coronavirus.
We closed the Day Programs and sheltered in place starting March 13th. Soon afterward, the Illinois Department of Human Services mandated that all Community Day Programs be closed as of March 17th.
We were able to garner assistance in funding through the State and Federal government that helped us through the spring and summer. We experienced exceptionally high costs due to using a live-in staffing model that we adopted for most of our homes. This was the safest option as we were then able to stop the flow of staff going in and out of the homes for their shifts and this ensured increased safety for all involved.
Staff were paid to stay home and we successfully made it through the spring and summer with all our employees being paid their full wages.
While we had several staff test positive, none of these cases had resulted in exposures to our consumers. We successfully kept the virus out of the homes until September 8th. We had a staff member test positive and soon we had consumers at the house test positive as well. Since then we’ve seen the numbers across the state grow at an incredible rate. We’ve dealt with these same increases at Garden Center as we’ve had cases at two more of our homes.
After extensive work to mitigate risk as much as possible, we were able to re-open the Community Day Program on September 14th. We installed air purifiers, no touch faucets, soap and towel dispensers, ultra-violet air treatments through the HVAC system, in addition to hydrostatic sprayers used for disinfecting. We supported a small but mighty group of consumers until November 6th, at which point a staff member tested positive. We had already planned on closing after the Thanksgiving holidays, through December and January. With this positive test and the steady, strong growth of the virus numbers, we decided to close the program early. We thank the families that were able to attend during this time and we hope we will be able to see them again on Feb 11th.
In Illinois there have been 763 positive cases of COVID of people with disabilities living in CILAs. Thirty one of those people have passed. In long term care, which our 15 bed Intermediate Care Facility falls under, there have been 39,686 cases with 5,493 deaths.
Since the start of this journey on March 13th, we’ve had 9 positive staff and 8 positive consumers. While most had very minimal symptoms, one employee and one consumer did require hospitalization. Thankfully, all are healthy at this point.
We want to thank you for your dedication at this time. We know it’s been hard with the limited visitation at the homes and the added measures that need to be taken to see your loved one. We thank you for understanding and for supporting the organization. Many families have donated meals to the houses, activities of things to do, and have sent their love and care through phone calls and video chats. We installed Echo devices in each home in the hope of facilitating more individual/family communication.
We are moving forward into uncertain territory and we look forward to your support along the way. We are now able to do our own in-house testing for consumers and staff. This has added a great capability to make quick decisions when there are possible exposures, and to also pre-emptively test new staff before they work any shifts. As we move forward we’ll be doing some regular testing at some of the homes where we are serving more medically fragile individuals. We’ve also added Station MD apparatus to most of the homes. This allows a virtual doctors’ visit and access to a physician 24/7. These stations come equipped with a bluetooth stethoscope, high resolution camera, and data center. We’re hopeful these will help us eliminate some unnecessary emergency room visits and gain us medical assistance in a safe, expeditious way, especially on evenings and weekends. This advancement in technology is possible because of your donations at last year’s Gala during the paddle raise! Thank you for making this possible.
As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season, some families have chosen to have their loved ones home over the next month and a half. For everyone else we are still unable to provide in house visits or have consumers easily go back and forth from the group home to their family’s home. We have invested in patio heaters for many of the homes and have cleaned out garages to make them more functional meeting spaces. Additionally, we have prepared the State and Kedzie buildings for family visits as well. Please contact your QHSP if this is something you’re interesting in scheduling.
Please keep us in your thoughts as we move forward through this difficult holiday season and winter. Garden Center is on a list to get the vaccine in the early stages. The preliminary data for at least two vaccines looks promising and we’re very hopeful this will help us get to the place where we can easily see each other again and give as many hugs as we want to!
Thank you again for your support at this time – we’ll do another update soon.
Gerry and Cindy