Guardian Update January 14, 2021
Information about the Moderna vaccine and Informed Consent Form
The first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will become available to residents of ACR Homes who are 18 years old or older starting most likely in February. A second dose will be offered 28 days later. This vaccine is being provided at no charge.
Geritom Pharmacy, working under an agreement from the CDC, will be the vaccination provider working in conjunction with ACR Homes. Geritom will be arranging clinics to administer the vaccine. Geritom will also monitor vaccine recipients for a period of time following receipt of the vaccine in case of allergic reaction, and will administer epinephrine if needed should an individual have a reaction. ACR will convey information about these clinics as it becomes available. Residents may pursue other options for receiving the vaccine if they prefer; it is important to communicate with ACR if that is your plan.
In order to receive the vaccine, all vaccine recipients or their guardians must sign an “informed consent” form stating that they have read and understand information provided about the vaccine. In order to give all vaccine recipients time to read the information and consider any related concerns, a copy of Geritom’s Consent Form and the Moderna Fact Sheet will be mailed to guardians. This information may also be found online here:
Please read this information and discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your health care provider. If you wish to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a Geritom clinic please return the signed consent form to your Residential Supervisor in advance of the clinic.
Guardian Update December 30, 2020
More details released on vaccine plans for Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced that it will now be updating its COVID-19 vaccination numbers every weekday at 11:00 AM. It was reported that as of Dec 26, 38,014 people have been vaccinated so far in the state.
Minnesota officials expect the number of available doses to increase in the coming weeks, especially now that the Moderna vaccine is becoming available in addition to the Pfizer vaccine. The two words expressed by the Governor, MDH Commissioner and Kris Ehresmann were “hope” and “patience”: “hope” because the vaccine is here and “patience” because it will take some time for enough vaccine to get to Minnesota for everyone’s “turn” to get a vaccine.
About the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
On 12/28/20, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) hosted a discussion about the vaccines. Here are a few key takeaways from their session:
- Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are nearly identical with a few exceptions.
- Time between first and second dose: 21 days for Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna
- Age approved: Pfizer ages 16 and older; Moderna 18 and older
- Storage: Pfizer needs the ultra-cold storage and Moderna does not which is why Moderna has been “reserved” for long-term care in Minnesota
- Most of Minnesota nursing facilities will start receiving the vaccine beginning in January.
- No changes should be made to infection prevention control practices after vaccination including masking, maintaining social distance, and wearing PPE, for several reasons: not everyone in the facility will be covered; it is a two-dose vaccine and takes two weeks after the second dose to get immunity; and there is uncertainty whether the vaccine could still leave someone infectious.
There is no new information regarding when the vaccines will be available for ACR residents and staff. As we noted on 12/17/20, the plan for administering COVID-19 vaccines in Minnesota is that it will be offered first to hospital staff and residents of skilled nursing facilities, then to residents and staff at assisted living facilities. The residents and staff of licensed homes like ACR are the third priority to be able to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. The first dose of the vaccine will likely become available to ACR residents and staff sometime between January and March, and a second dose of the same vaccine will be scheduled to follow. Details about administration of the vaccine are limited at this time. We will be communicating regularly as we learn more.
CDC updated materials on their vaccination website pages
On December 20, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted updated materials:
identifying which vaccines have been authorized and recommended for use in the U.S. and which vaccines are in phase three clinical trials.
Guardian Update December 17, 2020
Governor’s Order, Limiting In-Person Visits over the Holidays, and Vaccine Update
Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-103 issued on December 16 extends and modifies the previous Executive Order 20-99 that was issued before Thanksgiving. Executive Order 20-103 states, “Even as declining case rates and the prospect of widespread vaccination bring us hope, we need to maintain some difficult measures of the current dial back into January.”
While the governor’s new order will permit two households to get together, it is the recommendation of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to continue to refrain from taking your loved one home or making in-person visits in licensed group homes. We ask that you follow this DHS recommendation. DHS has urged group home residents to exercise their right to visitation through virtual means such as Skype and Facetime, and ACR strongly encourages and will help facilitate such virtual visits.
ACR is making plans to create festive holiday celebrations in each of our homes and to facilitate connecting residents with their families online or by phone. We request that residents refrain from social gatherings outside of ACR such as going to the home of family members for a meal or a visit. We encourage families, friends and staff to create memorable outdoor moments instead of indoor gatherings, such as drive-by parades and holiday celebrations. Many ACR homes are also making plans to enjoy outdoor displays and light shows. If you have special holiday traditions that your loved one might enjoy at ACR over the holidays, please let the house supervisor know!
Vaccines may become available between January and March for ACR residents and staff
This has been a challenging year with the COVID-19 pandemic, and our priority at ACR is to focus on the well-being of the people we serve and of our staff. We are continually monitoring all information available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and we are taking steps to ensure that our residents and staff can access vaccines when they become available.
We are pleased to hear the good news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found one COVID-19 vaccine to be safe and effective, with more approvals possible in the near future. The plan for administering COVID-19 vaccines in Minnesota is that it will be offered first to hospital staff and residents of skilled nursing facilities, then to residents and staff at assisted living facilities. The residents and staff of licensed homes like ACR are the third priority to be able to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. The first dose of the vaccine will likely become available to ACR residents and staff sometime between January and March, and a second dose of the same vaccine will be scheduled to follow. Details about administration of the vaccine are limited at this time. We will be communicating regularly as we learn more.
We encourage residents and staff to get vaccinated
We encourage the people we serve and our staff to consider being vaccinated after carefully reviewing information about the side effects and contraindications of the particular vaccine that becomes available to them. It is important to get information from reliable sources; see the links below for general information about coronavirus vaccines. The more residents and staff that get vaccinated, the better we can protect our community against potential outbreaks.
For Information about the vaccines
Here are some links to general vaccine information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH):
CDC Information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
MDH Information: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/vaccine.html
In addition, each COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), is required to provide vaccine recipients or their caregivers with certain vaccine-specific EUA information to help make an informed decision about vaccination. Look to those EUA fact sheets for specific details including side-effects and contraindications relating to the particular vaccine that is being offered to you.
Will we still need to wear PPE and continue other precautions?
Yes, we will continue to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our residents and staff after vaccines start becoming available, including wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, screening all staff and others in our group homes and office, and continued testing. We will also work with public health officials to determine how and when to adjust these policies as well as our policies for visitation and social activities. We will keep you updated regarding any changes.
We are grateful for all the sacrifices that are being made to protect the residents of ACR. We are doing everything we can to support their health and emotional well-being. We appreciate your support, and we wish you a happy and safe holiday season
Guardian Update: December 12, 2020
View a photo gallery of 2020 events HERE.
Guardian Update: December 3, 2020
Further Restrictions on In-Person Visitors; Executive Order Likely to be Extended through Christmas and Year-End Holidays
The surge in COVID cases continues, with Minnesota having among the highest rates per capita. Within that context, we received an update yesterday from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) recommending that group homes further restrict in-person visitors. DHS cited Governor Walz’s most recent Executive Order 20.99 to limit social gatherings to people from just one household, noting that a group home constitutes a “household”. DHS urges group home residents to exercise their right to visitation through virtual means such as Skype and Facetime.
In keeping with this update from DHS and for the duration of the current Executive Order, in-person visits from family and friends will not be allowed in ACR’s licensed group homes. ACR strongly encourages and will help facilitate virtual visits.
We are also receiving word that the current Executive Order will likely continue through the Christmas and year-end holidays. ACR is making plans to create festive holiday celebrations in each of our homes and to facilitate connecting residents with their families online or by phone. In keeping with the Executive Order, we request that residents refrain from social gatherings outside of ACR such as going to the home of family members for a meal or a visit. We encourage families, friends and staff to create memorable outdoor moments instead of indoor gatherings, such as drive-by parades for birthday and holiday celebrations. Many ACR homes are also making plans to enjoy outdoor displays and light shows. If you have special holiday traditions that your loved one might enjoy at ACR over the holidays, please let the house supervisor know!
On a related note, we are hearing that COVID vaccines will likely be offered beginning later this month and that certain residents of ACR may be among the first who can receive it. The order of who receives the immunization will be determined by each state and it is expected to take about six months for it to be offered to all. Guardians should start thinking now about whether they want to consent to their individual receiving the vaccine. To aid in decision-making, here are two links to FAQs from the CDC about COVID vaccines:
We are grateful for all the sacrifices that are being made to protect the residents of ACR. We are doing everything we can to support their health and emotional well-being. We appreciate your support and we look forward to brighter days ahead!
Guardian Update: November 19, 2020
Governor’s Announcement and Thanksgiving Plans
Since we wrote to guardians on November 9, Minnesota has been experiencing a surge of COVID which has led to a 36% increase in hospitalizations in the past week alone. This surge is driven by community spread which has adversely affected ACR’s staffing in a major way. We have averaged over 30 staff being held out from direct everyday over the last two weeks. As of today, we have 35 staff being held out from direct care and another 29 who are at risk of being held by the Minnesota Department of Health. We have also had two homes where the vast majority of staff and residents have tested positive. As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult and stressful situation for all involved.
And we are not alone, as you can see in the article below. The Mayo Clinic has had 900 staff test positive in just the last two weeks! Health care providers across the board are facing severe and unprecedented staffing shortages.
In response to this surge, last night (November 18) Governor Walz announced a further “dial back” in Minnesota with the temporary closure of restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues for the next four weeks in order to limit community spread. He also limited social gatherings to immediate family only and recommended avoiding bringing other households into your home for meals. Executive Order 20.99 gives further details relating to this dial back on in-person social activity. The order notes that programs licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) must continue to follow applicable state and federal guidance, including guidance related to visitation, and individuals are strongly encouraged to visit with loved ones virtually.
In response to the Governor’s order, MDH and DHS are advising families to not bring their family member home for Thanksgiving. We will do everything possible to create a festive Thanksgiving celebration in each of our homes and to facilitate connecting residents with their families online or by phone.
To help keep these restrictions from being extended, here’s what we can all do:
- Wear masks consistently when out in public.
- Maintain social distancing as much as possible – especially when eating and drinking.
- Implement the Governor’s advice to not participate in in-person socializing with anyone outside your household for the next 4 weeks.
None of this is easy. We know major sacrifices are being made to protect the people we support. ACR is committed to helping the people we support to make informed decisions about visits that take into account the risks and benefits to themselves as well as others with whom they interact at their home, work, or community. We strongly encourage limiting visits in ACR’s homes to those that are essential for the health and emotional well-being of our residents. We are grateful for your support. Brighter days are ahead!
Visitation Update – 10.19.2020
Balancing COVID-19 safety and the well-being of the individuals to whom we provide services continues to be a critical priority. Utilizing current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the MN Department of Health (MDH), and the Department of Human Services (DHS), ACR recommends limiting visitors to those that are essential for health and emotional well-being. ACR is committed to help persons who use services make informed decisions about visits that take into account the risks and benefits to the person who uses services and to others with whom they interact at their home, work, or community.
We urge each person/guardian to keep in mind the needs and vulnerability of everyone in the home, and to consider the safest options to visit their loved ones which continue to be video visits, phone calls, window visits, and socially-distanced outdoor visits.
It continues to be ACR’s strong preference that visits happen outdoors, offsite, or via technology. However, we recognize that residents of ACR have the right to visitors. If a guardian feels that they must visit with their person inside the ACR home, ACR has the following requirements and preferences.
Requirements for visitors:
- Visitors will not be allowed in if they have been directed by their physician or MDH to self-isolate due to exposure or symptoms.
- All visitors must be screened and will be turned away if they are ill.
• Visitors must wash or sanitize their hands and must wear a mask in accordance with the governor’s mandate.
• Limit interactions to the person you are visiting. Visitors may not interact with other residents in the home unless that person’s guardian has given consent.
Preferences for visitors:
- Please call the home prior to the visit so staff are prepared to screen and can prepare a space for the visit.
- Consider which friends or family might be most essential in preserving the physical or mental health of the person receiving services and limit visiting to that person or persons.
- Please strive to maintain social distance of 6 feet and refrain from hugs or close face to face communication.
- If the guardian determines a visit must take place inside the home, we would strongly prefer that the visit happen in their person’s bedroom or in a space that can be closed off from the rest of the house (such as the office or other common room with a door that closes.)
• If any residents in the home are in isolation due to COVID exposure or a COVID positive test, we will recommend that visitors postpone their visit to the home.
• Following an indoor visit from anybody, staff will disinfect any room(s) that they were in.
• If desired, all of the families in a house can a arrange meeting to set up house rules that they all agree on.
With regard to visits off-site, upon return to the ACR home, we would ask the person receiving services to wash their hands and remove their used mask for infection control purposes. Social distancing and mask use by the person receiving services (if able and willing) in common areas of the home will be encouraged. If there are heightened concerns about vulnerability to possible infection in the home, residents can self-quarantine to protect their housemates or themselves.
Guardian Update: July 20, 2020
COVID-19 Training for Residents of ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care
As required by the Minnesota Dept. of Health, we have prepared training for residents of ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care that addresses the following areas:
- What Is COVID-19?
- How does COVID-19 spread?
- How to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Highlights from the ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care Emergency Preparedness Plan
- Screening and policies for persons receiving services exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- Social distancing
- Food preparation and meals
If you would like this training for yourself (for those who are self-guardians living at ACR or Arthurs) or for the person for whom you are the guardian, please notify your program director and we will have a staff person give the information to the resident and/or explain it as needed.
Guardian Update: July 13, 2020.
Turning the dial on day services for adults with disabilities
On Sunday, July 12, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) sent out a press release announcing the decision to “turn the dial” to allow day programs to begin reopening to provide day services for adults with disabilities. To open they must conform to guidelines limiting capacity and duration and requiring clients to participate in screening, wearing masks, increased hand-washing, and other measures to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19.
Within these guidelines, we expect that the return to day program will be a gradual transition, perhaps over several months. The feedback we have received so far from guardians indicates that many will hold off on returning to day program for a while longer. Therefore at ACR Homes we expect to keep our staffing levels steady in the upcoming weeks and months as this transition takes place.
In keeping with DHS directives, the decision whether or not to return to day program will require a team discussion. To that end, ACR’s program directors will be reaching out to facilitate those discussions in coming weeks. For persons who choose to return to day program, the discussion will include how to mitigate risk. Day programs must also work out transportation plans, and establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
You may recall that ACR has also developed a COVID Preparedness Plan which was outlined in the Guardian Update from June 30; a full copy of ACR’s plan is available to you upon request.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your ACR Program Director.
Guardian Update: June 30, 2020
ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care COVID-19 Preparedness Plan–6/29/2020
As required by the Minnesota Dept. of Health ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care have a formal COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that summarizes our policies and procedures relating to COVID-19 in the following areas:
- Hygiene and source control
- Cleaning and disinfecting
- Screening and policies for staff exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- Screening and policies for residents exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- Social distancing
- Food preparation and meals
- Communication and training about the plan
If you’d like a copy of the plan please notify your program director.
Guardian Update: June 16, 2020
Informed Consent relating to COVID-19 Risks and Community Outings: As you know, the most recent interim guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).” ACR continues to support this guidance in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our homes. At the same time, DHS has urged that providers provide clear communication regarding risks and ways to support the health and safety we support, while balancing a person’s freedom of choice.
To that end, we are asking all self-guardians and guardians of residents of ACR Homes to review and sign a Notice of Informed Consent, COVID-19 Risks to Self and Others from Interacting with the Community acknowledging the potential risks related to community outings, ACR’s efforts to mitigate those risks, and authorizing whether the person receiving services may or may not go into the community at this time. This Notice of Informed Consent will be emailed/ mailed to all guardians.
Guardian Update: June 4, 2020
Day programs: DHS is not yet allowing day programs to open their site-based services for people who live in congregate care settings in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are hearing that they are beginning to offer limited in-community day program services. If your loved one/ward receives a proposal for in-community day program services, we would urge the person’s team to weigh the benefit of participation with the individual’s vulnerability as well as the potential impact on and vulnerability of housemates. Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS recommends that persons who choose to participate in day program services be encouraged to implement steps to reduce the risk of disease transmission such as wearing a mask while at day program, showering and changing clothes immediately upon return to the home, practicing social distancing and thorough handwashing both at day program and at home, and wearing a mask in common areas of the home.
Visiting: The most recent interim guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).” ACR continues to support this guidance in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our homes. At the same time, DHS urges that providers need to support health and safety, while balancing a person’s freedom of choice, including being able to see who they want to see. We expect regulatory authorities will continue to change these guidelines.
We would urge each resident’s family/guardian to keep in mind the needs and vulnerability of everyone in the home, and to consider their safest options to visit their loved ones which continue to be video visits, phone calls, and window visits. If in-person visits are insisted upon, some safer alternatives would include having all visitors wear masks (and residents, too, if possible) and meeting outside on the patio or deck, or going for a walk in the neighborhood or at a nearby park while maintaining at least 6 feet apart. Another alternative option would be for ACR staff to coordinate driving the person to see friends or family but staying within the vehicle. We would urge that visits be limited to only non-overnight stays and with limited numbers of people and only with those who are able to maintain social distance; for example it may be difficult for young children to remember social distancing rules.
After a visit off-site, upon return to the group home, we would ask the person receiving services to help ensure other residents and staff remain safe by immediately showering and changing clothes, and also practicing social distancing and handwashing for infection control in the home and wearing a mask in common areas of the home when possible. If there are heightened concerns about vulnerability to possible infection in the home, residents can self-quarantine to protect their housemates or themselves.
We would like to limit visitors to the home to only essential visits. All visitors would be required to complete COVID screening assessments, wear masks, wash hands, and limit themselves to a designated visiting area such as the person’s room. Any visitors who fail the COVID screening will not be admitted to the home. Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health continues to point out that the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 is when anyone leaves and then returns to a facility. Obviously, if a resident or household member is in isolation or quarantine because of a known infection or exposure, visitation to the home should be postponed until individuals have been cleared of infection or have completed their quarantine period.
Guardian Update: May 21, 2020, 4:30pm
Enhanced PPE use starting this week
You’ll see that staff are now wearing surgical masks (with a cloth mask over the surgical mask when possible) as well as goggles. This heightened PPE is in response to changes and recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in order to help avoid having large numbers of staff, who are otherwise well, being quarantined due to unprotected exposure.
Guidance from MDH indicates that whenever a staff or a resident tests positive for COVID-19, we must complete risk assessments of all staff who worked with that person starting 48 hours prior to the start of that person’s symptoms/testing to determine whether there was a low, medium or high risk of exposure to the virus. If a resident ends up testing positive and staff have worked with them without wearing surgical masks and goggles, they are automatically going to be placed in the medium or high risk exposure category. That means they will likely be unable to work for 14 days even if they don’t have symptoms and even if they test negative. Therefore, if 10 different staff worked in the home in a two day time period (2 AM staff, 2 PM staff, and an AW staff each day), we could potentially lose 10 staff for 14 days, which would obviously be difficult for everyone. We need to keep familiar staff able to work with our residents. Staff who are wearing a surgical mask and goggles are in a low risk category due to this extra protection, and can therefore continue to work. Since we need staff to continue providing care for our residents, having staff wear masks and goggles helps us ensure that residents will have familiar house staff working in all of our homes.
Additional measures we’ve already taken to protect residents and staff
You already know about many of the changes we’ve implemented at ACR and Arthur’s homes in recent months to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We thought it would be reassuring to see an actual list of what we’ve been doing to support the health and well-being of everyone in our homes:
- A team of administrative staff have been working on sourcing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment including masks, goggles, isolation gowns and gloves) since February to ensure that our staff have what they need. Volunteers rallied to sew over 1300 cloth masks for staff as well as isolation gowns. We continue to work to ensure a strong supply of PPE for each of our homes.
- Beginning in March, shortly after community spread was announced in Minnesota, we implemented enhanced handwashing and disinfection/cleaning procedures.
- A screening app and written instructions were implemented in March and all staff began doing temperature and symptom screenings prior to every shift.
- When day programs closed in March, we also restricted all non-essential resident outings and all visitors, non-essential staff and contractors in the home in order to limit potential exposure. At the same time we revved up our creativity to provide interesting and fun ideas for residents to stay active and connected.
- Cloth masks for source control were provided in late March and staff were directed to wear them on shift.
- ACR has provided several training videos for staff including a general training on COVID 19 and PPE use, a more specific training on using PPE in the home, training on laundering guidelines for washable PPE, and training on N95 use for homes with aerosolizing procedures.
- Instructions on these procedures have been conveyed to all staff in the home beginning in March in written Sharepoint announcements, posters, video trainings, staff meetings, and direct instruction from case manager nurses and program directors. We continue to update our instructions and training as guidelines are revised.
- Staff with symptoms have been prohibited from working and encouraged to be tested, and they have not been allowed to work until either they have negative test results or until at least 10 days following first symptoms AND 3 days after fever is resolved without medication and respiratory symptoms have improved, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and MDH.
- If residents have shown symptoms or tested positive, we have immediately implemented the use of full PPE, including surgical masks, goggles, isolation gowns and gloves, as well as N95 masks in homes with aerosolizing procedures as directed by MDH.
- When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have conducted risk assessments for any staff who had contact with the COVID positive individual. Based on those assessments, we have followed MDH guidelines for proper response to minimize risk including asking staff to self-quarantine.
- When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have provided information and opportunities for the rest of the staff to get tested.
- When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have had all residents in the home tested.
- When a resident has shown symptoms, we have immediately worked to get them and the rest of the residents tested.
There will no doubt continue to be adjustments to our procedures as new data regarding COVID-19 infections results in changes in guidelines from the CDC and MDH. We’ll continue to do everything we can to stay on top of recommendations for best practices.
A Fun Story about Deb Nygaard, ACR’s Director of Development
Many of you have worked with Deb Nygaard over the years. We thought you’d enjoy this recent blog that does a fabulous job of capturing Deb’s experience at ACR! https://acrhomes.com/30-years-of-building-acr-homes-not-a-day-goes-by-im-not-filled-with-gratitude/
Guardian Update: May 20, 2020, 5:30pm
DHS puts day program plans on hold
Commissioner Jodi Harpstead of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today DHS and the Minnesota Department of Health have identified two important health and safety considerations they have not been able to mitigate in order to open day services for people with disabilities. As a result, day programs will not be opening at this time.
Their first and greatest concern is the recent number of positive COVID-19 cases in group homes for people with disabilities. Commissioner Harpstead writes, “While we are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in group homes, it would be a mistake to bring people together into day centers every day and send them back to their homes potentially exposed to the virus.”
A secondary concern is the increased risk of COVID-19 when individuals have more, closer and longer exposures to people who are COVID-19 positive. Commissioner Harstead explained, “We are just beginning to understand that another risk factor in contracting COVID-19 is the length of time we are exposed to people who are positive…Day services facilities have people interacting with each other for 6 hours a day. If anyone shares a cohort with a COVID-19 positive colleague, their risk of contracting the virus is greater.“
Commissioner Harpstead concluded, “based on the best health advice we have…it would be too risky to re-open day centers at this time. While we understand the many challenges this creates for you and the people you serve, protecting the health and safety of vulnerable Minnesotans is our first priority.”
Guardian Update: May 18, 2020, 10am
Holding off on return to day program, family gatherings
In light of the fact that testing availability has improved but is still far from being easily available, we are asking all guardians of ACR residents to hold off on sending their loved one/ward to a day program setting even if the day program is indicating that is an option for that person. Even if your person is not deemed in the “highly vulnerable” category, there’s a very good chance that their housemates are.
We know that the vulnerable people we support at ACR are eager to get back to their day program environments and to see people that they miss, but we have seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests among our staff as well as for a resident. Fortunately none of them are seriously ill at this point, but the increase has definitely caught our attention and we feel the need to continue to be extremely careful until testing is readily available and test results are received much more quickly.
For the same reason, even though Gov. Walz’s latest “Stay Safe” order will allow gatherings of 10 people or fewer beginning May 18, we are asking that you hold off on including your loved-one/ward in such gatherings.
Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health continues to point out that the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 is when anyone leaves and then returns to a facility. The most recent interim guidance specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).”
Guardian Update: May 14, 2020, 5 PM
Visitor Restrictions Continue
Last night, Minnesota’s Governor Walz revised the “Stay at Home” order to a “Stay Safe” order. Under the Stay Safe order certain restrictions will ease a bit starting Monday, May 18, but restrictions relating to congregate care settings will be continuing for some time. Federal and state guidelines from the CDC, the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS continue to recommend restricting all visitors and non-essential healthcare personnel in congregate care settings including group homes in an effort to protect residents and limit the spread of COVID-19 to those who are the most vulnerable. As a result, restrictions on visitors will remain in place for ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care; visitors are not allowed in ACR or Arthur’s homes other than those visits that are medically necessary.
We recognize how challenging this is for both the residents of ACR and Arthur’s homes and for their loved ones. At the same time, we are hearing strong support from many guardians and family members for our efforts to protect everyone by restricting visitors. We continue to receive feedback from many families that they trust us to keep their loved ones as safe and happy as possible in view of the potential impact of COVID-19 on the people we support. “Social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to protect those who are most vulnerable. Thank you for all of your creative efforts to continue to stay in touch with your loved ones from a distance. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR.
We are unclear if the new Stay Safe order will allow day programs to open or not. At a minimum, day programs seem inconsistent with the Stay Safe order which only allows groups of 10 or less to gather. Even if they are allowed to open, we have serious health and safety concerns about the people we serve attending those types of environments at this stage of the pandemic. We hope that there will be official guidance very soon and we will update this page again as soon as possible.
Creative activities for residents while staying at home
Staff are working hard to keep everyone happy, entertained and connected even as we stay at home and take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our team of employees has gone above and beyond to maintain the usual routines while creating fun diversions. In that spirit, here’s a fun overview of some of the entertainment they’ve helped stage so far.
Guardian Update: April 30, 2020, 4:30PM
Visitor Restrictions Continuing
We are all eager for things to get back to “normal”, but it is clear that our present restrictions will be continuing for some time. Governor Walz announced today that he is extending a statewide stay-at-home order to at least May 18, with incremental opening of curbside retail business. Federal and state government guidelines restricting visitors to licensed residential care facilities remain unchanged in order to protect residents and limit the spread of COVID-19 to those who are most vulnerable. This means that restrictions on visitors will remain in place for ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care; visitors are not allowed in ACR or Arthur’s homes other than those visits that are medically necessary.
We realize this is challenging for both the residents of ACR and Arthur’s homes and for their loved ones. At the same time, we are aware of other providers who have had multiple infections in their homes. “Social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to protect those who are most vulnerable and limit the spread of COVID-19. We are hearing feedback from many families that they trust us to keep their loved ones as safe and happy as possible. We are so grateful to see ACR and Arthur’s staff continue to work hard every day to do just that.
We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR. Thank you for all of your creative efforts to continue to stay in touch from a distance and let your loved ones know that you are thinking of them!
Update: April 8, 2020, 4PM
Visitor Restrictions Continue
Governor Walz announced today that he is extending a statewide stay-at-home order to May 4 as part of an effort to reduce or delay the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota. Current federal and state government guidelines to restrict visitors to long-term care facilities remain in effect in order to protect residents in those facilities and limit the spread of COVID-19. This means that restrictions on visitors will remain in place for ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care; visitors are not allowed in ACR or Arthur’s homes other than those that are medically necessary.
We understand how difficult this ongoing restriction on visitors is for both you and your loved one. At the same time, we know that “social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to protect those who are most vulnerable and limit the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR. Thank you for all of your creative efforts to continue to stay in touch from a distance and let your loved ones know that you are thinking of them!
Update: April 6, 2020, 4PM
Practices in Place to Reduce Infection at ACR
As soon as Minnesota was declared to have community transmission of COVID-19, ACR Homes began implementing a number of additional infection control measures to help protect your loved ones and ACR staff. One key measure is that residents are staying home and visitors have been restricted. In addition, all staff entering the home are screened before each shift, and they have been implementing enhanced disinfection procedures and wearing washable masks while on shift to help prevent transmission of the virus. We have also adjusted staffing patterns to limit the possible spread of the virus between staff and residents and between homes, and staff are not leaving the home for in-store shopping and then returning to shift. Residents are being closely monitored for any symptoms or changes in health. We are carefully following guidelines from the Minnesota Dept. of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to do everything we can to limit the spread of the virus.
What to Expect: Respiratory Symptoms and Suspected and Positive COVID-19 Notifications
Should ACR residents or staff show symptoms of COVID-19, the MDH has directed that providers like ACR will have first priority for testing. With that in mind, we also know that the people we support are more prone to respiratory and other illnesses that often look similar to COVID-19. Since individuals in congregate care are top priority for COVID testing according to the MDH, we assume it will be frequent that the people we support will be tested. In those circumstances we will be escalating our already significant infection control procedures with increased PPE (Personal Protective Equipment such as masks, gowns, goggles and gloves) and sanitation procedures and will be isolating the individual involved if they are still at the home. In such cases we expect that often hospitalization will have already occurred. All staff and residents will continue to be screened for symptoms. Staff showing symptoms will follow MDH guidelines for when they can work/return to work. If a person we support is being tested his/her guardian will be notified of the testing and other guardians will be notified as soon as possible upon a positive test result of housemates or staff. The MDH will also be notified and will assign an MDH professional to follow up directly with that home to guide best practices. Please direct any questions or concerns related to this process to the Program Director of your loved one’s home.
Washable Masks Recommended for Personal Use
We are also recommending to staff that they wear their own washable masks outside of work to further slow the transmission of the virus per CDC recommendations. We hope you are doing the same. To that end, here are some do-it-yourself tips from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/
Over 60 volunteers have been sewing washable masks and isolation gowns to help keep the people we support and our staff safe. So far, volunteers have sewn almost 1200 washable masks and a few hundred washable gowns, with more on the way. Research has shown that wearing a washable mask can contain droplets, and also keep a person from touching their face which will help reduce the spread of the virus. Staff began wearing masks before the CDC recommendation was published, and there is definitely a feeling of camaraderie amongst the staff as they adjust to this change. The people we support are adjusting to seeing their staff behind masks too, sometimes with really great responses! Staff feel supported and encouraged by the time and commitment that volunteers are investing to sew washable PPE. We are so grateful! If you would like to volunteer to sew, contact Deb Nygaard at email@example.com
Meanwhile, life goes on at ACR Homes
We hope you’ve been receiving updates of all the activities going on in our homes since residents have been staying home. Last week’s live online bingo was a huge hit, and residents and staff are looking forward to a live online talent show this week. Staff are also starting up virtual visits by some friendly ACR dogs who will be making online appearances to brighten the days of our residents.
Update: March 27, 2020, 10AM
Further Restrictions on ACR’s visitor policy in light of Exec. Order 20-20:
In light of the Governor’s Executive Order 20-20 directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movements outside of their home beyond essential needs, ACR, in consultation with its attorney, has been advised that it must comply with the Governor’s order by further limiting ACR‘s policy on visitors.
Therefore, as of today, March 27, our policy will be that we will not allow any visitors to the home other than those that are medically necessary. Those guardians who had been taking their loved ones home for extended periods of time will no longer be able to move their loved one back and forth between their family home and ACR. Families and guardians will have the choice to do virtual visits or to take their family member home for the duration of the shelter at home order. If you choose to take your family member home for the duration of the shelter at home order you must pick him/her up by 9 p.m. tonight. We are implementing this policy change in order to protect the vulnerable people we support.
We understand how difficult this can be for you to keep a distance from your loved one at such a time as this when your natural tendency is to move towards them rather than to stay away. But we are hearing over and over that “social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help keep those who are most vulnerable safe. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR.
Update: March 25, 2020, 4PM
New “Stay At Home” directive from Governor Walz: Gov. Tim Walz issued an new executive order on 3/25/20 asking Minnesotans to stay in their homes unless necessary. This is to allow additional time for the state to build additional ICU and ventilator capacity should it be needed. Essential workers will still need to work including healthcare workers, first responders and certain other essential employees. Not much will need to change at ACR Homes. Our employees are all considered essential healthcare workers who will continue to support residents of ACR. Additionally, everyone can still get out for health and safety needs as well as necessary supplies and services.
Can you help sew washable surgical masks? If you have a sewing machine, we would welcome your help in sewing washable surgical masks. Our idea is to give each ACR staff a cloth mask to add a layer of protection for both staff and residents while also conserving N95 masks for higher risk situations. If you want to join the email group for instructions on how to do it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Continue to raise awareness with your legislators: ACR joins ARRM in urging everyone to continue to raise awareness with your state legislators regarding the urgent need for funding and flexibility to support services for people with disabilities during this current crisis. In addition, many of the efforts to support health care do not specifically take into account the needs of people in group homes. DHS is working to ensure that the need for PPE (personal protective equipment) in group homes does not get overlooked. Please also raise awareness with your legislators around this lack of PPE for ACR’s homes.
“Snail Mail” Encouraged! You know how much your loved one enjoys receiving mail in the mail box. Do your part to give residents and staff something to look forward when the postman arrives!
Our incredible ACR direct care staff and supervisors are working hard to keep ACR’s residents cared for, celebrated, and safe. Please continue to stay home and support them in their efforts!
Please check back-we will continue to provide updates here once or twice a week as needed. Thank you for your ongoing support for the residents at ACR!
Update: March 23, 2020, 2PM
We want to send a huge thank you to guardians and family members of ACR’s residents for your understanding and support for the “no visitors” policy that was implemented last week in response to the MDH directive to restrict visitors in long term care facilities.
We are mindful of how hard it can be for you to keep a distance from your loved ones at such a time as this when your natural tendency may be to move towards them rather than to stay away. But we are hearing over and over that “social distancing” is a key strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19. It is the one thing we can all do to help keep those who are most vulnerable safe. So thank you again for your understanding and cooperation!
Here are some additional strategies we have implemented to protect our residents and staff:
- Our staff are working in small teams to limit possible spread between staff and between homes
- We are using virtual meetings and appointments as much as possible
- Disinfection strategies are going strong in every home and we have heightened training on infection control for staff
- We have teams of people ensuring that each home is stock up on supplies of all kinds
A sewing brigade of friends and family of ACR are making washable surgical masks, with the goal of giving every ACR staff a mask to help prevent spread of the virus between staff and residents
ACR’s “fun department” is also launching all kinds of creative ideas and interactive activities through ACR’s Facebook groups. We hope you are able to stay in touch with your loved one electronically and are receiving updates and photos of what he/she has been up to in the past week. Among the fun do-it-from-home activities was a Facebook post yesterday in which 12 residents and their staff submitted photos to spell out the message, “All human life is intrinsically valuable. Please stay home! ~ACR” It was a huge hit and has been shared more than 80 times.
Our incredible ACR direct care staff and supervisors are working hard to keep ACR’s residents cared for, celebrated, and safe. Please continue to stay home and support them in their efforts!
Please check back-we will continue to provide updates here once or twice a week as needed. Thank you for your ongoing support for the residents at ACR!
Update: March 17, 2020, 3:45pm
We are closely monitoring the changing situation and complying with public health guidance regarding the current status of COVID-19 in Minnesota. We are so grateful for the way our employees are rising to the occasion to ensure that our residents are continuing to receive the care they need!
We want to reassure you that ACR’s homes are likely to have lower risk than most anywhere else due to our sanitation and universal precautions practices. We are working hard to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread to those among us who may be more vulnerable, including the residents of ACR Homes, so that our healthcare system can keep up with the needs of those few who require hospital level care. Hospitals are already very busy with patients who have the seasonal flu and related illnesses at this time of year and their capacity is limited.
To that end we are making to following changes in all ACR homes, effective immediately under otherwise noted:
- Visitors restricted beginning at 7AM, Wednesday, March 18. ACR’s homes will no longer allow visitors in our homes including guardians unless they are coming to work on a planned basis in place of staff or to take their loved one home for an extended period of time. This restriction includes therapists, contractors, and non-essential ACR staff. We recommend that family and friends stay in touch with their loved ones by phone, Skype, Facetime and social media—we have asked our staff to do their best to assist with communication. This restriction on visitors also applies to live-in staff with the exception of childcare. Exceptions will be made for symptom-free individuals in end of life situations.
- Temp checks and screening questions: All persons entering ACR’s homes must do a temp check upon arrival on shift and answer a list of screening questions.
- All out-of-home activities are cancelled or severely restricted. Staff will assist residents in enjoying leisure activities in the home and stay connected!
- Non-essential appointments: The house RS has conferred with the RN and will be talking to you about cancelling all non-essential appointments.
- Staff are disinfecting commonly touched areas at least twice a day in our homes, assisting residents with social distancing of six feet, and minimizing closer interactions as much as possible. ACR’s main office is also disinfecting commonly touched areas daily and following social distance recommendations.
- Workplace flexibility: As staffing needs require it, staff who are students will be allowed to do homework or online classes on shift, and staff who are working long shifts and have a dog from an approved breed may be allowed to bring their dog (and a crate) to shift as well. In addition, ACR administrative and maintenance staff, nurses and program directors are preparing to assist with direct care staffing as needed.
- HIPAA and the ADA: To protect privacy and confidentiality of both residents and staff, it is ACR’s policy that staff should not respond to inquiries about residents or staff from people outside the Company, unless staff have been directed to do so. For questions about your own family member/loved one you may communicate with staff or supervisor as you normally would.
- We are telling staff to continue to be diligent about sanitation/handwashing and universal precautions in their personal life to prevent the spread of viruses. These are the same practices we are already using right now in our homes during cold and flu season which are known to reduce to spread of respiratory viruses.
- If you receive positive test results let the house supervisor know right away if you have visited the house in the previous two weeks.
We will continue to provide updates here as needed. Thank you for your ongoing support for the residents at ACR!