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GSM Staff Updates

Posted on June 27th, 2022

6/27/22

Over the weekend, one employee and one resident have tested positive for Covid 19.  The resident is without symptoms and was identified through follow up testing.

We will continue to complete screening and follow up testing in accordance with current Illinois Department of Public Health guidance and communicate with you regarding changes in status.

Covid mitigation and response plans are in place and we are in ongoing communication with the local and state Health Departments.

At this time, there is no impact to visits, outings, or scheduled activities and Day Program is operating normally.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the mission of Good Shepherd Manor.

 

6/24/22

Since our last communication, one employee has tested positive for Covid 19.  The individual was not scheduled for several days prior to testing positive.   No additional resident positives have been identified through follow up testing.

We are also very pleased to share that we have reopened our two closed group homes and that seven new men from Brother James Court have moved in to GSM.  As we shared a few weeks ago, after 47 years in operation, that agency made the difficult decision to close their doors due to insurmountable staffing challenges.

Ahead of those admissions, the GSM men who chose to return to their original homes have done so.  We are so grateful to be able to offer help to these men and families with a shared history and connection.  The men of GSM, as always, have greeted their new peers with a warm welcome.

We continue to implement our Covid mitigation and response plans, screen and test men and personnel in accord with current guidance, and know that all staff remain vigilant in following all cleaning and sanitation practices.  We maintain frequent communication with the Kankakee County Health Department and participate in training offered by public health agencies.

Visits, outings, and activities continue to occur and Day Program is operating normally.

The amazing work of GSM personnel continues to sustain and encourage us as we navigate a number of changing circumstances.  We are grateful for your work and dedication, which allows us to serve the men of Good Shepherd Manor and to welcome new men

6/21/22

Today, one resident and one employee have tested positive.

Covid continues to present changing circumstances that we monitor closely.  We will communicate changes as they occur as we have throughout the pandemic.

Personnel are screened and tested in accord with current guidance and we communicate with the Kankakee County Health Department and report cases when they are identified.

Visits, outings, and activities continue to occur for homes and men without recent positives.  Personnel must continue to use face masks at all times in the workplace.

We appreciate your continued support.

6/20/22

Today, we were advised that an employee tested positive over the weekend.

Testing will continue in accordance with current guidance as well as GSM testing plans.

All but one group home returned to Day Program today and men are happy to be back to their normal routines.  The remaining group home will return once there have been no additional staff or resident positives identified via follow up testing.

Covid remains a changing issue and new cases may prompt the need to resume in-home day program, suspend activities, or make other adaptations.  We will continue to communicate as circumstances change.

Men and staff are screened and tested in accord with current guidance and we communicate with the Kankakee County Health Department and report cases when they are identified.

Home and on-site visits are not impacted at this time, nor are outings or other scheduled activities. We must continue to use face masks at all times in the workplace, including upon entry to any GSM building.

As always, we are deeply grateful for all you do to ensure the men are healthy, happy, and well cared for.

6/17/22

This afternoon, we were advised that an employee has tested positive.

As a reminder, individuals working in affected homes should be in full PPE.  PPE is available in the homes and can be provided at check-in as well.  If PPE supply runs low during a shift, please contact SOD immediately.  Prior to putting on PPE, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. After any close contact, PPE should be discarded, hands should be washed again or sanitized, and new PPE put on before contact with another resident. Hourly cleaning of high touch surfaces is to be completed as well as after restroom use.  If cleaning supplies are needed, please contact SOD.

All personnel are to enter buildings with a face covering fully covering nose and mouth.  Additional masks can be provided once in the building if needed.  Disposable medical masks must be worn when working with residents.

Testing will continue in accordance with current guidance.

We appreciate all you do to keep the men and one another safe and healthy.  We will keep you informed as circumstances change.

6/16/22

Today, a resident has tested positive for Covid-19.  He is doing well and will rest and isolate at his group home.

We continue to implement our testing plan and know that staff working in the group homes monitor men closely.

We anticipate reopening Day Program on Monday, 6/20/22.  Men residing in homes with active cases, or cases within the last 10 days will remain at home until follow up testing reveals no additional spread.

Personnel are screened and tested in accord with current guidance and we communicate with the Kankakee County Health Department and report cases when they are identified.

Home and on-site visits are not impacted at this time, nor are outings or other scheduled activities.  Personnel continue to use face masks at all times in the workplace.

We appreciate your support and will keep you informed as circumstances change.

6/10/22

Since yesterday’s communication, we have had four additional men test positive and two staff, bringing us to a total of 32 positive men and 8 positive staff since June 2, 2022. As the numbers are going up, please continue to follow all COVID protocols and mitigations for the safety of the men and each other.

At this time, it has been determined that Day Program will remain closed through next week.

Homes that are on full PPE now include Park street which leave only 13 and Leonard unaffected at this time. No men at Park have tested positive, but have been exposed to a positive individual. As such, those men should quarantine in their rooms until further notice.

Please continue to closely monitor all men and report any changes to nursing and SOD immediately.

As always, your commitment and dedication to the men of Good Shepherd Manor is greatly appreciated.

6/9/22

At this time, we have 27 COVID positive men; two currently at Momence Meadows and one in the hospital who is expected to return home today. The remaining positive men are on isolation in their rooms and experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. All other men in affected homes should be on quarantine in their rooms and encouraged to wear a mask (if it can be tolerated) any time they exit their room. In addition to the positive men, we have five positive staff, two of which are asymptomatic and doing well.

All staff working in affected homes should be in full PPE which should already be available in the individual homes, but can be provided at check-in as well. If PPE runs out during your shift, please contact SOD immediately.  Prior to putting on PPE, you should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. After working with a positive individual, PPE should be discarded, hands should be washed again or sanitized if unable to rewash them at that moment, and new PPE put on before entering a different individual’s room. Hourly cleaning of high touch surfaces should be occurring throughout the day and immediate cleaning of toilets and sinks after an individual uses the restroom. If cleaning supplies are needed, please contact SOD.

As of today, only Leonard, Park and 13 are unaffected. Men from those homes are not required to quarantine in their rooms at this time, but should also be encouraged to wear a mask when in common areas, if it can be tolerated.

In effort to further reduce the risk of spread, when entering the manor for check-in, please ensure to enter the building with a face covering fully covering nose and mouth. Additional masks can be provided once in the building if needed.

Routine testing will continue in accordance with current guidance.

We appreciate all you do to keep the men and one another safe and healthy.  We will keep you informed as circumstances change.

6/4/22

Friday, we were contacted by an agency very similar to GSM in central Illinois.  Sadly, after 47 years in operation, they have made the difficult decision to close their doors.  They have faced extreme difficulty recruiting and retaining enough qualified personnel to care for the men who live there.  They have exhausted all available resources to staff their facility.

Brother James Court is a mission of the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Cross who went to Springfield, IL in 1928 and began as a trade school for young men.  In 1975, after coming to visit and observe at Good Shepherd Manor, they built and opened Brother James Court for young men with developmental disabilities.  Today, Brother James Court is a 99 bed ICF for men with developmental disabilities.

Those men are now in immediate need of safe, stable, loving care.  While we have faced our own challenges with staffing, we are now in a much stronger position.  We have made the decision to rapidly reopen our two closed group homes.  Our own men will be able to return to their homes, and we will provide placement to some wonderful men experiencing a terrible circumstance.

I know that the GSM community will open homes and hearts to these men and welcome them into our care.  Today, I had the opportunity to spend a lovely day with these men at Brother James Court.  They are, understandably, devastated.  Always optimistic, they are excited about what lies ahead and are eager to visit and meet new friends.

As we welcome new residents, I am confident that they will come to know Good Shepherd Manor as their home.  I am just as confident that we will rise to this occasion, responding to help men in crisis with the strength and support that has been a source of awe since the day I first visited Good Shepherd Manor.

6/3/22

Following yesterday COVID update, two additional residents have tested positive today from the same home as the resident who tested positive yesterday.

We will continue our routine testing plan and ask that you continue to closely monitor men and notify nursing of any changes.

Given the additional positives, Day Program services will be provided in the group homes at least through, 6/7/22, in effort to slow or optimally eliminate the spread. Please continue to clean and sanitize high touch surfaces routinely.

Home and on-site visits are not impacted at this time, but we will refrain from taking men out in the community through 6/7/22, unless it is a medical emergency.  We must continue to use face masks at all times in the workplace and ask that you consider doing so outside of the workplace as COVID numbers are on the rise again.

As always, we appreciate all you do to keep the men and one another safe and healthy.

 

6/2/22

During routine weekly testing, an employee has tested positive for Covid-19.  Additionally, a resident who seemed out of sorts this morning was sent to the hospital for evaluation.  While at the hospital, he was diagnosed with both Covid and influenza.  The staff person and resident are not assigned to the same location and have not have overlap.

In response to these cases, we have implemented our testing plan.  It is important that we all monitor men closely while we are working and notify nursing of any changes.

Day Program services will be provided in the group homes tomorrow, 6/3/22, so that we can complete a deep cleaning of the Day Program.  High touch surfaces are cleaned and sanitized routinely by staff working throughout each day.

Personnel are screened and tested in accord with current guidance and we communicate with the Kankakee County Health Department and report cases when they are identified.

Home and on-site visits are not impacted at this time, nor are outings or other scheduled activities.  We must continue to use face masks at all times in the workplace.

We appreciate all you do to keep the men and one another safe and healthy.  We will keep you informed as circumstances change.

 

 

5/23/22

During routine testing, an employee has tested positive for Covid-19.  We are implementing our testing plan and no men or personnel are symptomatic at this time.

Community transmission for Kankakee and Will counties remains in the moderate range with hospitalization low.

We continue to monitor men closely and screen personnel prior to the start of each shift.  Men and personnel are tested in compliance with requirements and we communicate with the Health Department on an ongoing basis.

We do not anticipate the need to reinstate more stringent mitigations measures at this time.  Masks continue to be required at all times in the workplace.

We appreciate your support and will keep you informed as circumstances change.

 

5/13/22

An employee has reported testing positive for Covid-19.  We are implementing our testing plan and no men or personnel are symptomatic at this time.

Monitoring of men and personnel continues without change.  There are no changes to outings, visits, etc. at this time.

 

4/20/22

An employee has reported testing positive for Covid-19 via an at-home test.  We are awaiting results of confirmatory testing and are implementing our testing plan.  No men or additional personnel are symptomatic at this time.

This is the first new case in over two months.  Throughout Illinois and in Kankakee County, case positivity and hospitalization remains low.

Recently, in response to the ruling of a Federal judge, mask mandates have been lifted in many settings like airports, trains, and other public spaces.  We are all eager to get back to working without masks, however the mandate in Illinois has not yet been lifted for settings like GSM.  We continue to monitor developments and will respond as things continue to change.

In compliance with governmental rules, vaccination is mandatory for personnel who have not received an approved exemption with accommodations.

We continue to offer our vaccination incentive program.  If you have gotten a booster, please provide a copy of your card to HR to receive your Casey’s gift card.  People ages 50 and over and those with certain immune compromising conditions are now eligible for a second booster shot.

At this time, we do not anticipate any change to Day Program, community outings, home visits, etc.

Covid-19 remains a changing situation that we continue to monitor closely and respond to as needed.

We appreciate your support and will keep you informed as circumstances change.

 

4/13/22

For over 50 years, Good Shepherd Manor has carried out our mission of providing high quality, compassionate care to men with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When Good Shepherd Manor was founded, individuals with developmental disabilities were often placed in large institutions and were subjected to poor treatment and neglect.  With the work of their families, the Brothers, and the leadership and staff, GSM was able to offer a better life.   In the beginning, we provided sheltered care, living here in dormitories under the care of the Brothers.  Several years later, the ICFs, and later the CILAs, offered smaller homes and a more normal lifestyle for the men.  There is a great video about our history here that I encourage you to watch when you have some time https://youtu.be/eTR33b0ByeA

Today, the rules are changing.  Federal rules take effect in March, 2023 that will have a big impact on how we serve the men.  The new rules are commonly referred to as the “Settings Rule” and will impact the CILA homes and Day Program, now known as Community Day Service.  The Rule applies to all settings where people with disabilities live, work, or spend time and receive HCBS/Medicaid funding.  The requirements are designed to ensure that people with disabilities living in the community have the same kind of choice and control over their own lives as everyone else.

The Rule will require many of us to think and interact very differently than we are used to.  The Rule requires us to support the individual’s full access to the greater community, including opportunities to seek employment, work in competitive integrated settings, engage in community life, control personal resources, and receive services in the community.

Some examples of the big-picture requirements are that residents must have a lease, have privacy in their unit, including lockable doors, have the right to control their own schedule, including access to food at any time, have the right to visitors at any time, and have a setting that is physically accessible.

As we work through these changes, each of us will be held accountable for the expectations of the rule: 

  • Be compassionate and respectful to the men and their home and workplace
  • Promote choice and self determination
  • We work in the men’s homes and workplace; the space is theirs to control

Balancing rights and safety is a challenging task.  In the coming months, we will develop and implement policies and practices that are compliant with the new Rule.  You will receive training as policies and practices are developed.  We will continue to provide updates throughout the coming year.

This will be a learning experience for all of us and is an opportunity to become stronger advocates for the men.

 

2/16/22

During routine weekly testing, an employee has tested positive for COVID-19.  We continue testing under current guidelines.

This case represents the first new case at GSM in over two weeks.  Locally, case positivity in the community has dropped below 5% and hospital admissions continue to decline.

We have completed the first phase of implementation of the federal vaccination mandate and appreciate everyone’s cooperation to get that accomplished.  The next phase must be completed in the coming weeks.  By March 10, all personnel must have received their second dose of the vaccine unless they have been granted exemption.  The mandate applies to contract providers as well, including physicians, therapists, temporary staff, etc. and we have worked with those providers and verified their vaccination.

There has been much communication in the media regarding mask mandates and when they may be lifted in various settings.  Mask mandates will remain in long term care settings longer than they will in places like restaurants, theaters, and other public places.  We expect that masks will be required for staff and visitors for the foreseeable future.

Even though cases are decreasing, infection control remains the responsibility of each of us.  We must follow Covid mitigations while at work and be sure to keep surfaces in our workspace clean and disinfected.

Your work to keep men and one another safe and healthy is greatly appreciated.

 

2/1/22

Today, we learned that an employee tested positive for Covid-19.  The individual did not work in any GSM buildings for several days before becoming ill and testing continues at recommended intervals.

This case represents the first new case in over a week.  Similarly, in Kankakee County, case positivity continues to decline and is now approximately 11% as of the last date for which data is available.  Hospital admissions for the region are down and ICU bed availability is slowly increasing, now at about 13%

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a rule requiring providers, like Good Shepherd Manor, to ensure that all personnel are vaccinated against Covid-19.  This is a governmental rule, not a choice made by GSM.    There is a process for medical, religious, or disability related exemptions.  Exemptions, with accommodations, may be approved in some circumstances.

By February 10, 2022, all personnel must have a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or the first dose of the series with a COVID-19 vaccine, except for those who have been granted exemption or delay.  By March 10, 2022 all personnel must have completed the series for the vaccine unless they have been granted exemption or delay. Failure to meet either deadline, unless there is an approved exemption or temporary delay, may result in termination of employment.

We want to work with you regarding this matter and encourage you to contact Human Resources before February 10th if you believe you are eligible for an exemption.

We continue to offer our vaccination incentive program, in which you are eligible for up to $75 in Casey’s gift cards for vaccination and booster shots.

We appreciate your continued commitment to the men and will keep you informed as circumstances change.

 

1/27/22

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued an Interim Final Rule requiring covered providers, like Good Shepherd Manor, to ensure staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.  On January 18th, 2022 CMS issued guidance on its healthcare worker vaccine mandate, confirming enforcement.

This regulation applies to all personnel, regardless of position or interaction with residents.  The requirement includes healthcare providers like physicians, dentists, and temporary staff that we contract with.

Requests for medical or religious exemptions with accommodations may be approved, so long as they do not create an undue hardship for Good Shepherd Manor and/or do not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

By February 10, 2022, all personnel must have received, at a minimum, a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or the first dose of the primary vaccination series with a COVID-19 vaccine, except for those who have requested in writing and been granted exemption or a temporary delay.  By March 10, 2022 all personnel must have completed the primary series for the vaccine unless they have requested in writing and been granted exemption or temporary delay. Failure to meet either deadline, unless there is an approved exemption or temporary delay, may result in termination of employment.

If you believe that you are eligible for a medical or religious exemption, you must submit a written request to Human Resources by February 10, 2022 to begin an interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be provided.  Both forms are available at the check in desk for your convenience.

If you have already been vaccinated but have not yet turned in your verification, please do so no later than February 10, 2022.

We understand that this is unwelcome news for some personnel and want to work with you to meet your needs as well as our regulatory obligation.  If you would like to discuss your specific situation or have questions, please contact Bart Frazier, Human Resources Director at ext. 1350.

 

1/24/22

Over the weekend, two employees tested positive for Covid-19.  We continue to conduct routine testing as well as work to secure alternate sources for testing supplies and services, as those are running low regionally.

Over the last two weeks, the number and frequency of cases at GSM has decreased.  Internal observations are consistent with what is happening in the local community.  In Kankakee County, case positivity over the last two weeks has declined from 23% to 16% as of the last date for which data is available.

Similarly, hospital admissions related to Covid have dropped for Kankakee and Will Counties from 394 earlier this month to 330 inpatients currently.  ICU bed availability has increased as well from 4% a few weeks ago to 11% now.  These are encouraging indicators, but the region has yet to achieve desired thresholds.  Desired metrics established by the State of Illinois to monitor regional resurgence include case positivity remaining under 8% as well as greater than 20% ICU bed availability and consistently decreasing or stable hospital admissions.

We are cautiously optimistic about the decrease in positive cases among staff and men.  All personnel must continue to follow mitigation measures including PPE use as specified by location, hand washing, and frequently cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.  Men will continue to receive Day Program services in their group homes at least through the end of January.

We continue to strongly encourage all personnel to get vaccinated and to get your booster if eligible.  If you do get vaccinated or boosted, please share a copy of the vaccination record with HR to receive your Casey’s gift card.

We appreciate your support and cooperation and will continue to keep you informed as circumstances change.

1/19/22

Three additional employees have tested positive for Covid-19.  Testing continues to take place at required intervals, despite limited testing supplies in many communities.

Each household is now eligible to receive four test kits. The website to order is https://www.covidtests.gov/  

There is no charge for the test kits or shipping.  Ordering takes just a few minutes and only asks for a name and address. There is an option to provide an email address for electronic verification of the order. Tests are scheduled to begin shipping at the end of the month. This service is available to private citizens, not to facilities or providers.

As a reminder, if you test at home and have a positive result, we will complete a confirmatory test so that results are verified and properly reported.

Hospital capacity in many communities remains very limited. Today, it was announced that the federal government will send a 26-person team, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, paramedics, and other specialists to support UChicago Medicine Ingalls in Harvey, IL. Health authorities ask everyone to help lighten the load of hospital workers by getting vaccinated, boosted, and wearing a mask.

If you get vaccinated or boosted, please share a copy of the vaccination record with HR to receive your Casey’s gift card.

We appreciate the support and dedication of the GSM community and will continue to keep you informed.

1/13/22

This week, all men on campus and not diagnosed with Covid in the last 90 days were tested.  Today, we learned that two men were identified to be positive.  Both are without symptoms and isolating at this time.  So far this week, 94 employee tests have been conducted with no positives identified.

We continue to test at or above the recommended frequency.  The availability of testing supplies is low locally and across the state.  We have been able to continue active testing by working closely with the local health department, Riverside Medical Center, and IDPH approved vendors.  We continue to monitor our supply closely and work to identify additional testing resources.

Men and staff diagnosed with Covid recently are doing well.  Most have made full recoveries and those who experienced more significant illness are improving.  One resident who was diagnosed a month ago continues to experience complications and was readmitted to the hospital this afternoon.

Hospital capacity in Kankakee and Will counties remains very limited, with only single digit ICU bed availability between the two counties.  We continue to observe that men are discharged from the hospital, or not admitted at all, even while quite ill.

Vaccination remains an effective way to prevent serious illness from Covid and we encourage everyone to take advantage of our vaccination incentive program.

We appreciate your incredible dedication to the men and will continue to follow guidance and communicate when circumstances change.

1/7/22

A fully vaccinated resident tested positive upon return to GSM following a stay in a skilled facility.  The resident is without symptoms and is doing well.  All staff tests since the last communication have been negative.

CDC guidance regarding when to end isolation after testing positive for Covid can be confusing.  CDC guidance for healthcare workers and other specific groups or settings varies in some ways from the guidance for the general public.

For the general public, the guidance for people who test positive is summarized below.

  • You can end isolation 5 days after symptoms start and without fever for 24 hours.  If asymptomatic, the 5 day period begins on the day the positive test sample was collected.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others at home and in public for 5 additional days.
  • Do not travel during the 5-day isolation period. After isolation, avoid travel 10 days after the first day of symptoms or positive test.
  • Do not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask.
  • Avoid eating around others until a full 10 days after the positive test or first day of symptoms.

Vaccination remains an effective way to prevent serious illness from Covid and we encourage everyone to take advantage of our vaccination incentive program.

We appreciate the immense support, understanding, and dedication of the GSM community.  We will continue to follow the most up-to-date guidance and keep everyone informed as circumstances change.

 

1/6/22

Two residents and a staff member have tested positive.  Both men are without symptoms and were identified through ongoing surveillance and post exposure testing.

According to the newest numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state reported 32,279 confirmed and probable cases of the virus Wednesday, setting a new record for single-day COVID cases.  The positivity rate in Kankakee and Will counties continues to rise and is approaching 25%.

Several healthcare regions in the state are now reporting that they have single-digit ICU bed availability, including Region 7, which is comprised of Will and Kankakee counties.  As reported yesterday, local hospitals have few beds available and are facing serious staffing shortage.

Full vaccination with a booster dose is the best way to prevent serious illness from Covid.  Of the hospitalizations reported in the state during the pandemic, 6,087 have occurred among fully-vaccinated individuals. That number represents 0.079% of the vaccinated population of the state.  It is not too late to get vaccinated or boosted.  We encourage everyone to take advantage of our vaccination incentive program and share a copy of your card with HR if you get vaccinated or a booster shot.

If you have children who received the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA has approved a booster dose five months after vaccination for children who are 12-15 years old.   At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents aged 12-15.

All personnel are responsible for following infection control protocols, including the use of masks in all work locations as well as any heightened PPE instructions indicated within an assigned work area.

We continue to evaluate our responses as circumstances evolve, always with the intention of keeping staff and men safe and appreciate your cooperation and work.

 

1/5/22

Two fully vaccinated and boosted residents, as well four staff, have tested positive.  Local and state health departments have told us that test supplies are running low due to the ongoing surge.   We continue frequent testing and are working to identify alternate testing sources.

Throughout Illinois, Covid cases are rising.  In Kankakee and Will counties, cases are rising steeply, with nearly 2000 new cases within the last week.  The positivity rate locally is near 22%, which is one of the highest levels since the pandemic began.  IDPH reported 6,294 people were hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 as of Sunday, which is the highest rate since the pandemic.  According to the state, about 85 percent of those hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Hospitals have higher census and reduced staffing because of the steep increase in Covid cases in Kankakee and Will counties.  Skilled facilities are experiencing the same difficulties.  As a result, we are caring for men in their homes throughout their recovery periods.  It is critical that we follow all PPE and infection control protocols closely and monitor men carefully.

There are approximately 350 people hospitalized locally with Covid.  As of yesterday, there were only 3 ICU beds available between the two counties.  Vaccination is a tool available to all of us to help stop the spread of the virus and reduce our risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.  If you get vaccinated or get a booster shot, please share a copy of your vaccination card with Human Resources to receive your Casey’s gift card.

We appreciate your efforts to keep the GSM community safe, healthy, and functioning well for the men.

1/3/22

Four additional employees have tested positive since Saturday’s communication.   Post exposure and surveillance testing continue at recommended frequencies for personnel and men.

Today, the FDA announced that people can receive the Pfizer booster dose after just five months instead of six.  We encourage everyone to get vaccinated, and to get the booster shot if already vaccinated.  If you decide to get vaccinated, or get your booster shot, please share a copy of your vaccination card with Human Resources to receive your Casey’s gift card.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for all of us to avoid exposure to the virus in our day-to-day lives.  If you learn that you have been exposed over the holidays and would like a test, please contact the supervisor on duty to get tested.   Testing should be done no sooner than 2 days since your last exposure.   In the event an at-home test shows a positive result, we will complete a confirmatory rapid test so that results are properly reported.  When an individual is experiencing symptoms and has a negative rapid test, we will provide a referral for a PCR test to obtain a conclusive result.

The number of cases locally and around the country is rising and the increase is expected to continue in the weeks following the holidays and after children return to school.  In anticipation of the ongoing surge, our Day Program building will remain closed through January, with men receiving those services in their group homes.

Infection prevention and following mitigation measures remains the responsibility of each of us.  Proper mask wearing and the use of all PPE specified for the assigned work location and circumstance is critical to the safety of men and staff alike.

Your work to keep the men and one another safe and healthy is greatly appreciated.

 

1/1/22

Today, three fully vaccinated and boosted residents have tested positive for Covid-19.   Post exposure and surveillance testing continue at recommended frequencies for personnel and men.

If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to get vaccinated, now is a great time to do so.  There has been a steep rise in the number of cases over the last month locally and across the country.  In our region, case positivity is above 15%.  Locally, hospital admissions for Covid related illness are on the rise, with 284 patients hospitalized in Kankakee and Will counties.  ICU bed availability also remains low, with only 6% of those beds available.  Staffing in hospitals and other healthcare related settings further reduces the availability of services.

The CDC says that vaccination remains our best tool to reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.  We encourage everyone to get vaccinated, and to get the booster shot if already vaccinated.  If you decide to get vaccinated, or get your booster shot, please share a copy of your vaccination card with Human Resources to receive your Casey’s gift card.

Supervisors and personnel from other departments are providing direct care coverage to the extent possible, however all departments are impacted by Covid related absence.   We know that unexpected changes and disruption to routine are frustrating for personnel and men and ask for your patience and understanding.  These are very challenging circumstances and everyone is doing their best for the men.

Infection prevention and following mitigation measures remains the responsibility of each of us.  Proper mask wearing and the use of all PPE specified for the assigned work location and circumstance is critical to the safety of men and staff alike.

Your work to keep the men and your co-workers safe and healthy is greatly appreciated.

 

12/31/21

Two additional employees and one resident have tested positive for Covid-19.  We continue to conduct surveillance, symptom related, and post exposure testing of personnel and men at a high frequency.   Updated guidance indicates that close contacts should be tested no sooner two days after exposure.

This week, IDPH reported over 128,000 new cases in Illinois.  By comparison, during this same week in November, there were just over 28,000 new cases identified in Illinois.  Because of this steep increase, the Department of Human Services indicates that providers across the state are experiencing great difficulty maintaining staffing.  Like other providers, we are always working to maintain appropriate staffing levels and appreciate your understanding when adjustments need to be made.

Some businesses, events and organizations are opting to require proof of vaccination before entering.  New updates to the IDPH Vax Verify immunization portal now includes use of the SMART™ Health Card. The SMART™ Health Card, which allows users to easily confirm their Covid-19 vaccination status.  Vax Verify can be accessed at https://idphportal.illinois.gov.

Experts tell us that vaccination remains our best tool to reduce the spread of the virus as well as the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.  We encourage everyone to get vaccinated, and to get the booster shot if already vaccinated.  If you decide to get vaccinated, or get your booster shot, please share a copy of your vaccination card with Human Resources to receive your Casey’s gift card.

Infection prevention and following mitigation measures remains the responsibility of each of us.  Proper mask wearing and the use of all PPE specified for the assigned work location and circumstance is critical to the safety of men and staff alike.

We appreciate your work to keep the men safe.

Have a happy and healthy 2022!

 

12/30/21

Since yesterday’s communication, an employee and a resident have tested positive for Covid-19.  We continue to conduct surveillance, symptom related, and post exposure testing of personnel and men at a high frequency.

With the increasing duration of the pandemic and the rapid spread of the virus, some businesses, events and organizations are opting to require proof of vaccination before entering.  New updates to the IDPH Vax Verify immunization portal now includes use of the SMART™ Health Card. Vax Verify is an online system that allows Illinois residents 18 years and older to check their COVID-19 vaccination record. Vax Verify can be accessed at https://idphportal.illinois.gov.  The SMART™ Health Card allows users to download a QR code, which individuals can use to easily confirm their Covid-19 vaccination status at businesses, events, and other locations.

Earlier this week, we shared that CDC guidance for healthcare workers testing positive was revised to reduce or eliminate deferral from the workplace.  Similarly, guidance for the general public was revised to reduce isolation in the event of infection to five days, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus.

Infection prevention is the responsibility of each of us, and we must follow all mitigation measures when we are working.  All personnel must use the PPE specified for the assigned work location and circumstance.

We are working to ensure the safety of men and personnel while maintaining appropriate staffing levels and appreciate your understanding and support when adjustments need to be made.

We appreciate your work to keep the men safe and wish you health and happiness in the coming year.

12/29/21

Three additional employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since our last communication.  We continue to conduct surveillance, symptom related, and post exposure testing of personnel and men at a high frequency.

Last week, the CDC has issued new guidance to reduce staffing shortage in healthcare settings.  Under the updated guidance, personnel may return to the workplace shortly after testing positive and may not be deferred at all if asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic.  The guidelines for the general public have been updated by the CDC as well, reducing the recommended isolation time following a positive test to five days.

Kankakee County continues to experience a rapid increase in infections.   IDPH reports a positivity rate of over 14% for the region and hospital admissions are rising, with over 250 people receiving inpatient care and only 6% of ICU beds available.  Holiday-related travel and gatherings are expected to accelerate spread.   Vaccination, including the booster dose, provides the best protection against serious illness and hospitalization.  If you get either the vaccine or the booster, please share a copy of your card with HR to receive your Casey’s gift card/s.

Regardless of Covid status, all personnel must use the PPE specified for the assigned work location and circumstance.

We are working to ensure the safety of men and personnel while maintaining appropriate staffing levels.  It is a challenging situation and we appreciate your understanding and support as we work to respond.

As always, we are grateful for the prayers and support of the GSM community.

 

12/27/21

Over the Christmas holiday, one resident and two employees tested positive for Covid-19.  One of our co-workers is hospitalized at this time, your thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery are appreciated.  Men and personnel are tested at or above the frequency specified by IDPH guidance.

CDC has been working with state and local public health officials to monitor the spread of Omicron and has identified a rapid increase in infections.  Holiday-related travel and gatherings are expected to accelerate spread.

As you may have heard on the news, CDC has issued new guidance to reduce staffing shortage in healthcare settings.  The guidance shortens, and under some circumstances, may eliminate, removal from the workplace in the event of infection with the virus or high risk exposure.

Maintaining appropriate staffing is essential to providing a safe environment for men and personnel.  We are working to ensure that the group homes are staffed and the needs of the men are met and appreciate your cooperation when adjustments need to be made.

The CDC tells us that vaccination, including the booster dose, provides the best protection against serious illness and hospitalization.  If you haven’t yet done so, we encourage you to get vaccinated and to get your booster shot if you are vaccinated.  If you get either the vaccine or the booster, please share a copy of your card with HR to receive your Casey’s gift card/s.

Infection control is the responsibility of each of us and we must follow all workplace protocols, including the use of masks for source control, at all times.

We are grateful for your commitment to the men during this difficult time and look forward to brighter days in the coming year.

 

12/23/21

Since yesterday’s communication, four additional employees and one resident have tested positive for Covid-19.  We are continuing to test men and personnel.

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.  People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system may not be fully protected even if fully vaccinated and should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people.

Because most of the men have conditions or take medications, they are at increased risk.  We can do our best to protect them by ensuring that we are vaccinated and get our booster shots as soon as we are eligible.   We can also protect the men by taking appropriate precautions at work and in our day to day lives.  The men depend on us to keep them safe and healthy.

If, at any time, you would like to be tested in addition to scheduled testing, please contact the supervisor on duty, who will be able to complete that for you.

We appreciate all you do and wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

12/22/21

This morning, we were notified that an employee who has been out of the workplace for several days has tested positive for Covid-19.  We continue to complete testing for men and personnel.

According to the CDC, vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.   The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original virus.  CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.

If you decide to give yourself the gift of vaccination or a booster for the holidays, please provide a copy of your card to Human Resources to receive your Casey’s gift card.

The safety of the GSM community remains our highest priority and we appreciate your dedication to keeping the men and your co-workers healthy.  We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.

12/21/21

Today, a resident who is fully vaccinated, including the booster, tested positive for Covid -19.  We are completing surveillance testing on an ongoing basis for men and personnel.

Current information from health authorities suggests that, due to the Omicron variant of the virus, cases will continue to rise and are expected to peak in mid-January.  Because of this projection, Day Program services will continue to take place in the group homes throughout the month of January.   Non-essential off campus travel remains suspended at this time.

Home visits and on-site visits for the men are not affected at this time, as required by regulation.

This is not the news that any of us were hoping for this holiday season.   With holiday get-togethers right around the corner, we ask that you prioritize the safety of yourself, your family, and the men when deciding how to celebrate.

As always, we strongly encourage vaccination and booster shots to reduce the risk of contracting Covid -19 and the risk of serious illness if you do contract the virus.

Attached, please find some tips from the CDC about how to celebrate safely this holiday season.

The safety of the GSM community remains our highest priority and we appreciate your continued support.

12/20/21

Today, we were informed of four employees testing positive for Covid 19.  We continue to test on an ongoing basis for both vaccinated and unvaccinated personnel.

Covid cases continue to rise and we encourage you to take advantage of our vaccination and booster shot incentive program.  If you get vaccinated or get your booster dose, please bring a copy of your vaccination card to HR to receive your gift card.

When making your holiday plans, please consider the increase in Covid cases locally and across the country as you make decisions about travel and celebrations with family and friends.

Infection prevention is the responsibility of each of us, we must closely follow all established procedures to keep the men and each other safe and healthy.

The safety of the GSM community remains our highest priority and we appreciate your cooperation and support.

12/17/21

Today, a resident tested positive for Covid-19.  He is fully vaccinated and without symptoms at this time.   Close contacts have been notified and follow up testing is underway.  Routine testing continues on an ongoing basis.

Covid cases continue to rise and we encourage you to take advantage of our vaccination and booster shot incentive program.  If you get vaccinated or get your booster dose, please bring a copy of your vaccination card to HR to receive your gift card.

When making your holiday plans, please consider the increase in Covid cases locally and across the country as you make decisions about travel and celebrations with family and friends.

Infection prevention is the responsibility of each of us, we must closely follow all established procedures to keep the men and each other safe and healthy.

The safety of the GSM community remains our highest priority and we appreciate your cooperation and support.

 

12/16/21

Today, an employee and a resident tested positive for Covid-19.   Close contacts have been notified and follow up testing is underway.  Routine testing continues on an ongoing basis.

Effective immediately, we have discontinued non-essential travel both on and off campus to prevent gathering of individuals from different locations.  Men will receive Day Program services in their group homes for at least the next several days while we monitor developments and assess the safety of restoring typical activities.  This will not impact home or on site visits.

Despite an increase in cases of Covid, new Federal guidelines have reduced limitations on visits.  Because of this change, families will now be able to visit with men in their bedrooms and the number of visitors is not limited.  Staff will still need to verify that visitors have been screened before they may come in.

Covid cases continue to rise and we encourage you to take advantage of our vaccination and booster shot incentive program.  If you get vaccinated or get your booster dose, please bring a copy of your vaccination card to HR to receive your gift card.

Over the holidays, we encourage mindfulness regarding travel plans and gathering size.

We know that the strain of the pandemic and related impact is wearing on men, families, and personnel.   The safety of the GSM community remains our highest priority and we appreciate your cooperation and support.

 

12/14/21

Today, an employee tested positive for Covid-19.  Close contacts have been notified and we continue routine and follow up testing in keeping with IDPH directives.

Most men are fully vaccinated including booster doses.  As the holidays approach, we encourage everyone who has been vaccinated for at least 6 months to consider a booster shot.  Our vaccination incentive program has been expanded to include booster doses.

Despite recent increases in cases of Covid, CMS and IDPH have revised visitation guidance.  In response, we have updated our visit protocol.  Family members will now be permitted to visit residents in their bedrooms, however they may not visit with other men in the home, bring food for other men, or move about within the home.  The visit requirements have been relaxed, though we ask everyone to keep in mind that positivity rates remain high.

Unvaccinated staff continues to test as indicated by IDPH guidelines.  If at any time you would like an additional test, please see the supervisor on duty.

We appreciate your work to keep men and co-workers safe and will continue to keep you informed of changes as they occur.

 

12/12/21

Today, an employee tested positive for Covid-19.  Close contacts have been notified and we continue routine and follow up testing in keeping with IDPH directives.

The number of positive cases across the state and in Kankakee County continues to rise and we ask for everyone’s cooperation in adhering to mitigation measures.

If you have been vaccinated for at least 6 months, please consider a booster shot.  Our vaccination incentive program includes booster shots.  With the holidays and family gatherings just around the corner, it is an added layer of protection for you and any vulnerable family members.  If you have received a booster dose, please provide HR a copy of your vaccination card verifying the 3rd shot to redeem for a $25 Casey’s gift card.

Unvaccinated staff continues to test as indicated by IDPH guidelines.  If at any time you would like an additional test, please see the supervisor on duty.

All employees are eligible for up to $75 in Casey’s gift cards with verification of full vaccination and a booster dose.

We appreciate your work to keep men and co-workers safe and will continue to keep you informed of changes as they occur.

 

12/3/21

This week, three employees have tested positive for Covid-19.  An initial round of follow up testing has revealed no additional positive tests.  Our response plans have been implemented and the local health department has been notified as required.  Following notification of a positive result, testing of the men and personnel takes place in keeping with current IDPH guidance.

Most men are fully vaccinated and those for whom consent was provided have also received booster doses.  We strongly encourage everyone who has been vaccinated for at least 6 months to consider a booster shot.  We offer a vaccination incentive program to staff, which has been expanded to include booster shots as well.

Unvaccinated staff is required to test weekly and vaccination is strongly encouraged.

With the holidays and family gatherings approaching, we encourage unvaccinated individuals to consider vaccination.   Vaccination is available at many pharmacies; there are no out of pocket costs for vaccination.  As a reminder, employees are eligible for up to $75 in Casey’s gift cards with verification of full vaccination and a booster dose.

If you have been vaccinated, a booster shot is recommended at least 6 months after becoming fully vaccinated.  If you get a booster, please provide HR a copy of your vaccination card verifying the 3rd shot to redeem for a $25 Casey’s gift card.

Covid-19 remains a changing situation, as do the related mitigations and response plans.

We appreciate everyone’s commitment to keeping the men safe, happy, and healthy as we continue to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

 

11/11/21

VAX FOR GAS!

Vaccinated employees are eligible for up to $75 in Casey’s cards with for full vaccination including booster! See HR for more details.

 

6/11/21

Today, Illinois moves into Reopening Phase 5, which means reopening with some safety measures in place.  Things such as festivals and large events can take place again as well.  With that in mind, we hope to see everyone at our Employee Appreciation Event on June 24th and look forward to Fall Fest on Saturday, September 11th.

Vaccination is not mandatory, but providers are being asked how many personnel are vaccinated.  If you were vaccinated at a location other than GSM, please provide HR with a copy of your vaccination card in exchange for up to $50 in Casey’s gift cards ($25 each for each dose of Pfizer or Moderna or $50 for Janssen).  Personnel vaccinated at GSM received gift cards at the time of vaccination.

If you have not been vaccinated but would like to be, vaccination is available without cost at many retail pharmacies as well as at the Kankakee County Health Department.   Meijer Pharmacies are offering $10 gift cards for individuals who complete the series and are providing it to those who are already vaccinated, too.  Meijer allows for registration by text, by texting “COVID” to 75049.

Regardless of vaccination, masks are still required in group homes and day programs.  State requirements for places like group homes, hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices will take longer to return to normal than other settings.

We anticipate a return to normal Day Program operations within the next month.  We know that some things, like masks, will continue to be required, regardless of vaccination status.

Reduced staffing is an impact of the pandemic that we continue to experience.  Like other providers and employers across the state, we are facing significant difficulty hiring qualified personnel.  Since April, two of our homes have been closed due to the staffing shortage.  We expect the current staffing shortage will last into the fall and do not foresee reopening those homes through at least October.

I appreciate your continued work to keep the men happy, healthy, and engaged.  While we look ahead to fewer restrictions, we need to continue to follow the basics of infection prevention like masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, and cleaning and disinfection.

5/13/21

Today, follow up testing identified a positive test result in a resident for Covid-19.  Our response plans have been implemented and the local health department has been notified.  Follow up testing will continue.

Testing continues at recommended intervals.   Testing frequency can range from monthly testing to twice weekly testing, depending on regional positivity rates and internal developments.   Currently, local positivity rates indicate monthly testing.  Testing will occur more frequently in some situations.

If you are considering vaccination, Riverside now has 6 locations (Bradley Immediate Care, Riverside Health Care of Bourbonnais, Riverside Out Patient, Coal City, Frankfort, & Watseka) for Covid Vaccinations.  If interested, you can sign up through Riverside MyChart.  If you do not have a MyChart account, you can go to  https://www.riversidehealthcare.org/services/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine to create one.  These locations will not take walk in patients, you must register in advance.

The Kankakee County Health Department is conducting a vaccination clinic at 1000 North Entrance Avenue in Kankakee, Illinois on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, and Thursday, May 20, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily in the First Church of the Nazarene.  The registration link is available on their Facebook page and is linked here as well  https://events.juvare.com/IL-IDPH/7vbvl-97/

5/5/21

Today, we were notified that an employee has tested positive for Covid-19.  Our response plans have been implemented and the local health department has been notified.  Follow up testing has been initiated and no additional cases have been identified at this time.

Staff testing continues at recommended intervals.   Testing frequency can range from monthly testing to twice weekly testing, depending on regional positivity rates and internal developments.   Currently, monthly testing of personnel is underway.

Identification of a positive case internally, or an increase in regional positivity rates can impact things like outings, visits, day program attendance, or other mitigation measures.  Changes can impact all of GSM or specific homes or locations, depending on the circumstance prompting the change.  If modifications are necessary, that will be communicated promptly to impacted men, personnel, or locations.

Right now, there are no changes to any of our practices at GSM.  Men who attend KCTC will not attend for the next two weeks.

The Covid-19 crisis is stabilizing, but it is not over.   If you are considering vaccination, a list of sites is linked here: https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/statewide-vaccination-locations. If you would like assistance to locate or schedule vaccination, please let your supervisor know.

While continuing to move forward and lift restrictions, it is important that we don’t let our guard down.  We all need to keep following prevention measures like masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

We understand that changes in the Covid crisis and mitigations are stressful for men, families, and personnel.  We appreciate everyone’s support and flexibility while we continue to meet the evolving challenges of the pandemic.

 

4/30/21

With 94% of men and many of our personnel vaccinated, along with IDPH guidance, we have been able to relax many of the stringent mitigations implemented earlier in the pandemic. No new cases of the coronavirus have been identified among men in 12 weeks and only one among personnel.

This week, I am happy to share that many of the Covid protocols have been revised to reflect current IDPH guidance. Changes include streamlining many of the areas and removal of many of the extra tasks associated with mitigation. Notably, the procedures surrounding cleaning and disinfection tasks have been scaled back, as have meal procedures.

Also this week, men and their families will experience changes to our visit guidelines, including up to 4 visitors at one time for outdoor visits, children permitted for outdoor visits, some food items may be brought for residents (within specified parameters), and vaccinated men do not need to quarantine following any visit.

The changes we are able to implement at this time are due to revised IDPH guidance as more people get vaccinated.  If you were not initially vaccinated, but have now reconsidered, a list of vaccination sites is linked here: https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/statewide-vaccination-locations. If you would like assistance to locate or schedule vaccination, please let your supervisor know and we will be happy to help you.

The Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet and remains a changing situation.  We will continue to evaluate and adjust while moving forward.  It is too soon to stop prevention measures like masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

I know that there is still ground to cover on our return to normal, but am grateful for how far we have come.  I appreciate all that you do and your continued dedication to meeting the needs of the men in challenging circumstances.

 

4/8/21

This week, the men celebrated Easter with afternoon Mass as well as a visit from the Easter Bunny to the group homes.  The warm weather and some return to normal activities has been a welcome change for all of us, especially the men.  Many men were happy to be able to spend the holiday weekend with loved ones after long periods of separation.

Just to reiterate what was said in last week’s communication, COVID is not over. Unfortunately, an employee tested positive this week. While not a residential or day program direct care worker, COVID response plans were implemented immediately and we contacted the health department.  Following that positive test result, we have completed nearly 150 follow up tests of both men and personnel this week with no additional positive results.

We are grateful that we had early access to the vaccination which likely helped prevent an outbreak.  Moving forward, we will work with the health department and local retailers to secure vaccination for any men and personnel. If you did not want to be vaccinated earlier and have changed your mind, please let your supervisor know and we will help you find an appointment.

We are all eager to return to normal, get rid of the masks, and attend parties and events.  The ability to relax some mitigation measures is encouraging, but we cannot let our guard down just yet.   The rate of new infections and hospital admissions has been steadily increasing in recent weeks.  In Kankakee and Will counties, hospital admissions have increased by 60% in a few short weeks.

COVID  is still a changing situation and we continue to actively monitor developments, both internally and externally and then adjust accordingly.  While continuing to move forward, we all have to maintain prevention measures like masks, hand hygiene, social distancing, and frequent surface disinfection.

We are looking ahead with cautious optimism. We appreciate your continued patience and support. Change is often difficult and your perseverance in meeting this challenge has been truly remarkab

3/31/21

I hope this letter finds you in good health and good spirits.  The men are enjoying the return to some of the things they enjoyed before the onset of the pandemic, such as home visits, day program, outings, and weekly mass.  I appreciate your work to make these things happen!  No new cases have been identified among men or staff in nearly two months, due in part to vaccination and compliance with prevention measures.

This week, a fully vaccinated resident who previously had Covid was hospitalized for an unrelated medical condition.  Testing at the hospital is standard procedure and a positive result was noted, which is an expected outcome for up to 90 days.  We contacted the health department for guidance and implemented our Covid response plan while awaiting reply.   The health department confirmed that this positive test result is not reflective of a new infection. Therefore, measures such as serial testing of men and staff, isolation, quarantine, or use of full PPE do not need to be implemented.

As the circumstances and guidance related to Covid continue to evolve we maintain regular contact with health authorities.  We participate in weekly training by the Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure that our practices remain current and in compliance with requirements.  We are fortunate to have a good working relationship with the Kankakee County Health Department; they are responsive and helpful when specific questions arise.

Hopefully we are nearing the conclusion of the acute phase of the pandemic, but we know it is not over yet.  The health and safety of residents, staff, and visitors remains our utmost priority.  Men and personnel are screened on each shift daily and testing plans are implemented in accordance with IDPH guidelines. We continue to keep up with the basics of prevention, including the use of masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.  Please be assured that we continue to monitor the COVID situation daily, both internally and at state and regional levels. We have response plans in place to address changes as they occur.

I wish you and your families a happy and healthy Easter and encourage everyone to celebrate safely.  As always, we appreciate your unwavering support throughout this evolving situation.

3/19/21

Despite the blustery weather, we have had another good week with no new cases. Decreasing positivity rates in the community, along with the apparent effectiveness of vaccination, are allowing us to continue to move forward.  Thank you to everyone for your continued work to keep GSM safe for all of us.

We are proceeding to Phase 3 of reopening, restoring in-person Day Program and some off-site outings for men who live in ICFs. The men who work at KCTC are scheduled to return to their jobs on Monday.

Men have eagerly awaited restoration of home visits and same day outings with family and friends and I am happy to let you know that we are making significant progress in that area.

Fully vaccinated men who live in CILA homes may go on home visits or same day outings with family or friends.  Men who live in ICF homes and unvaccinated men who live in CILA homes may go on same-day outings with family members with proper screening and mask use. Men who live in the ICFs will still need to quarantine after overnight home visits.

Families or friends who take men on overnight or on same day outings will have procedures to follow to ensure the safety of residents and staff.  When picking up or returning men, visitors will need to be screened first. Men will be screened upon return. Family or friends may not enter homes when picking up or dropping off men, unless a supervisor has been advised that there is a scheduled indoor visit.

All visit guidelines are available in the Covid binders in the group homes, as well as on the employee portal of our website. It is password protected, so if you do not have the password or have forgotten it, please reach out to your supervisor or email info@goodshepherdmanor.org.

I appreciate your patience as we continue to work through the reopening process.  We are committed to moving forward safely. We will continue to adjust and adapt as guidance from health authorities changes.

3/12/21

It has now been a full year since Covid required us to close the homes and campus to visitors, discontinue all non-essential trips, and discontinue in-person Day Program.  While beginning to reopen is a welcome change, I know that it presents new challenges in your daily work life and I appreciate your efforts for the sake of the men.

Your help in remaining flexible when changes occur will be essential. We will need your help in identifying and sharing ways to resolve challenges, communicating clearly and calmly with the men, and helping them manage emotions and expectations.   If we manage our own emotions and choices, as well as communicate effectively, it will be easier for the men to do so as well.

Day Program is operating on a modified schedule, outings are being planned, and we are working with KCTC to plan for the men who work there to return to their jobs as soon as possible.  Beginning on March 28th, weekly Sunday Mass will resume with services to be held in the afternoon.  Group homes will have designated areas to sit in the chapel.

In preparation for our Virtual Brunch Auction next month, the Chorus and Signers group is safely practicing for their performance.  We look forward to this special event, marking Good Shepherd Manor’s 50th year of service for the men behind our mission.

We have had no new cases in over a month and county positivity remains low.  We will now move to monthly testing for staff.   New hires are tested on their first day of employment.

This week, we had our final vaccination clinic date provided through the Pharmacy Partnership program.  If you or a family member is seeking vaccination, here is a link to help identify a location near you:  https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/vaccination-location

You have all been incredibly resilient throughout a most difficult year.  Your support and patience is greatly appreciated.  I am confident that together, we will move forward safely.  When the pandemic ends, things will look different than they did before, but I know that they will be great.

3/5/21

Spring is a season of new beginnings and we have had many to be grateful for this week.  On Wednesday, under bright sun and mild temperatures, the men returned to Day Program.  It was a wonderful sight to see men and staff back at the Manor!  Everyone did a wonderful job of following the Covid modifications and adapting to different procedures.

Later this month, we anticipate a return to a full Day Program schedule, including men who live in the ICFs.  We have met with KCTC leadership to begin planning for men who work there to return to their jobs later this month.  Staff and men have begun to plan secure community outings and are very excited to be able to do so again.  In coming weeks, we also expect to restore weekly Mass services – another welcome return to normal.

Indoor visits have been restored and have guidelines in place to ensure the safety of men, staff, and visitors. Until more is known about the ability of vaccines to prevent transmission, as well as the impact of emerging strains of the virus there is no change to home visit or on site visit procedures, regardless of vaccination status.

There have been no new cases identified within the last month among staff or men.  While progressing through reopening steps, we monitor State and County level metrics daily and will continue to test as indicated by positivity rates in the community.  We will have our third vaccination clinic date next week, March 8th, to finish the series for men and staff needing their second dose.  If you decide later that you would like to be vaccinated, appointments are available through the Kankakee County Health Department for healthcare workers.  Registration is linked here:  https://bit.ly/3hTUFYJ

Your perseverance and commitment to the men and the Manor throughout the last year has been nothing short of remarkable.  I am so happy to finally be able to announce some loosening of the restrictions that have impacted all of us for the last year.  We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and move forward slowly and safely.

Your unwavering support while we continue to navigate this evolving situation is deeply appreciated.

 

2/26/21

There is much good news to share this week!  Nearly a year has passed since Covid related restrictions were implemented and we are finally able to loosen some of those restrictions. State, Regional and internal criteria have been met to restore indoor visits for the men.

In addition to the restoration of indoor visits, men who live in CILA homes will return to Day Program next week and community outings are being gradually and safely restored as well.  We are not yet able to restore in-person Day Program or off-site outings for the ICFs.

There have been no new cases at GSM in 3 weeks and County positivity has dropped low enough to allow us to reduce testing frequency.  For now, we will test every other week.  If positivity rates remain low, we will move to monthly testing.  Any men or staff displaying symptoms will still be tested.

Pre-shift screening will continue, but we are now able to discontinue mid-shift screening.  Men will continue to be monitored and vitals collected on each shift.  Mitigations like hand hygiene, mask use, social distancing, and surface disinfection will continue.

State, Regional, and internal metrics are monitored daily. Negative trends at any of those levels could necessitate regression to increased restrictions. A regression in reopening steps could impact the entire campus or be limited to specific homes.

In the event you have not been vaccinated and would like to be, please contact any supervisor.   You are still able to receive the first injection on March 8th. The second injection will not be available here, but I will contact the health department to assist with locating a second dose.  Vaccination is recommended even for those who have had Covid

We are all eager to move past the pandemic, the extra work it generates, and return to normal life.  Vaccination and decreasing positivity rates are beginning to make that possible.

We appreciate your continued work and care for the men as we work to safely begin lifting restrictions.

 

2/19/21

On Monday, we had our second of three Covid-19 vaccination clinic dates.  We are pleased to share that 90 men along with 67 direct and contract personnel received either their first or second injection, making our community safer.

If you got your first dose Monday, you will receive an appointment time for the second dose on March 8th.  If you have not vaccinated, it is not too late.  You can still get your first dose on March 8th.   We cannot guarantee a second dose, but will contact the health department to assist with seeking a second injection.

Vaccination is recommended even for those who have had Covid

Men and personnel vaccinated this week did well, some experienced expected side effects including sore arms, fever, chills, tiredness, and headache.  These are normal signs that your body is building immunity and go away quickly.

The CDC continues to study the vaccines and has a program called V-Safe to check in with people who have been vaccinated.  Participants receive personalized text check-ins for about a week after each injection and then weekly text check-ins for 6 weeks.  Link located here:  https://vsafe.cdc.gov/

There have been no new cases identified among men or staff in 2 weeks.  Positivity rates continue to drop, but we will continue current measures and testing to prevent resurgence.

We will return to Day Program, following Covid reopening plans, in the first week of March and are looking for ways to safely restore some community access.  At first, this will be places that can be privately booked or outings that do not require public interaction.

Your patience and support as we begin to move forward is greatly appreciated.  We recognize and appreciate your work in continuing to follow mitigation measures.

 

2/12/21

This week, the CDC provided updated guidance about the use of masks to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.  The basics remain the same:  masks should fit snugly, completely cover the mouth and nose, and be handled only by the ear loops, straps, or cords.  The optional use of two masks has newly been added.  The CDC advises that if you choose to wear 2 masks, you should use a cloth mask over a medical mask, NOT two medical masks.  There are a number of excellent tips and examples from the CDC.

Medical masks must be discarded after each shift.  If you choose to layer with a cloth mask, that must be washed after each shift.  We have a good supply of PPE.  A new mask is to be worn for each shift and must be changed if soiled or damaged.  We are also able to provide an N95 if you prefer, please ask the supervisor on duty at check-in.

As the coronavirus evolves, it is important that we continue to use masks and other PPE properly and pay careful attention to hand hygiene, social distancing, and cleaning/disinfection.  As CDC guidance changes, we will continue to adapt our practices.

New, more infectious and more dangerous strains of the virus are emerging and re-infections may soon become more common.   Three of our co-workers have already experienced re-infections.   In Illinois, new strains of the virus have now been identified.  22 cases of the U.K. variant and one case of the South African variant have been detected so far.  Early information from the CDC suggests that these strains spread more easily than the initial virus.

Again, you are encouraged to consider adding vaccination to your personal defense against the coronavirus.  If you want to get vaccinated, it is not too late, just contact the supervisor on duty.  Anyone receiving their first dose on Monday will receive their second dose at our final vaccination clinic on March 8th We will not have access to vaccination after that date.

2/11/21

Thank you to everyone who has committed to vaccination.  If you would like to start the vaccination series on Monday, February 15th and have not yet registered, please let any supervisor know by Friday morning.

If this will be your second dose, please bring the vaccination card you received at your first dose with you so that both doses are recorded on one card.  You should retain your vaccination card, it may be necessary in the future for travel or entry to events or venues.

Everyone who has registered already has received an appointment time.  Please arrive as close to your scheduled appointment time as possible to avoid crowding.  You may enter through the infirmary door or door near the Assembly Hall and go directly to the Assembly Hall.  Immunizers will be temp screening, so you do not need to stop at the lobby desk.  After your appointment is complete, please depart promptly to ensure parking availability and social distancing.

If you need to attend to other business in the building, please move your vehicle to the front entrance and get screened in the lobby.

If your appointment time is scheduled during your working hours, please let the supervisor on duty know first thing in the morning so that coverage can be arranged.

If you are undecided about vaccination, please take a few minutes to watch this video.  In the video, shared by the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, a DSP of 25 years shares her thoughts and experiences related to vaccination.  

We are happy to report that there have been no new cases identified among men or staff this week, but this does not mean that we can let our guard down.  Following the Covid mitigations for the last year has required extra work from all of us, and we appreciate everyone’s continued diligence.  Vaccination, combined with the things we are already doing, will bring us one step closer to the end of the pandemic.

Whatever your choice, thank you for your work and dedication.

 

2/5/21

Many people believe that if they have already had Covid-19, they have immunity and cannot get it again.  In recent weeks, there have been three re-infections diagnosed.   As new strains of the virus emerge, and re-infections become more common, we encourage everyone to consider vaccination.

This week, two personnel and five men have tested positive and one re-infection has been diagnosed.  There is no virus in the vaccine and it cannot infect a person with Covid-19 or cause a positive test result.   If an individual is exposed to Covid-19 prior to vaccination, or before full immunity is achieved, they may develop and test positive for Covid-19.

To get vaccinated, all you need to do is let any supervisor know and we will get you registered.  Appointments will automatically be scheduled for anyone who received their first dose on January 25th.  Whether February 15th will be your 1st or 2nd dose, you will receive your scheduled appointment time at the end of next week.

If you are considering vaccination and have questions or concerns about your specific situation, please reach out to Kristen or any supervisor.  There are resources available from many credible health agencies and we are often able to provide condition-specific information.  A quick call to your doctor is also a good idea if you have questions or concerns related to your specific situation.

Here is a brief video presented by the American Healthcare Association about the impact of vaccines in long term care settings.

We know that everyone works hard to keep GSM safe by following all of the mitigations in place including masks and other PPE, hand hygiene, extra cleaning & disinfection, and social distancing.  Please consider adding vaccination to your personal toolkit in the fight against this virus.

Whatever decision you make, your work and your dedication to the men is greatly appreciated!

 

2/1/21

The next Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic date is Monday, February 15th!

If the 15th will be your second vaccination date, you will automatically be provided an appointment time for the next clinic.  All you need to do is fill out a new form and turn it in to Bart or Kristen.

If the 15th will be your first vaccination date, please fill out the form and turn it in to Bart or Kristen.

Appointment times will be distributed during the week before the clinic dates.

Any supervisor can give out the form and they are available at the check in desk in the lobby as well.  It is 2 pages, so be sure to get both pages when you pick them up.

The CDC advises vaccination even if you had Covid previously.

For answers to this, and other frequently asked questions, be sure to check out the latest on the CDC website!

 

1/29/21

On Monday, we had our first Covid-19 vaccination clinic date.  The event was a success!  Thank you to everyone who chose to be vaccinated, for your commitment to protecting the health of the GSM community.

We are pleased to share that 87 men along with 45 direct and contract personnel received their first of two vaccine doses.  Be sure to look for photos on our Facebook page!

The vaccines are known to prevent symptomatic infection with Covid-19.  Until more is known about their ability to prevent transmission of infection, we need to continue doing all the things that we do now while we are at work.  I encourage everyone to at least consider being vaccinated. Vaccination is recommended even for those who have had a previous Covid infection.

Men and personnel vaccinated this Monday did very well.  Expected side effects of the vaccine can include things like pain at the injection site, swelling, fever, chills, tiredness, and headache.  These go away quickly and are normal signs that your body is building immunity.  Discomfort can be managed with over the counter medication if necessary.

The Pharmacy Partnership program provides us only three clinic dates. The next date is February 15. Access to vaccine for those who choose to delay beginning the series beyond the February 15th clinic date is unknown.

Anyone who received their first dose Monday will receive an appointment time for the second dose on February 15th.  If you were unsure initially and have reconsidered, please contact any supervisor by February 12th for the form to register.

Last week, we had one new case identified among personnel and two among residents.  There have been no new cases identified this week.  We conduct about 100 tests per week.  I appreciate your continued adherence to the mitigation measures in place like PPE use, hand hygiene, surface disinfection, and social distancing.  I recognize the extra work this takes.

The last year has been difficult for all of us and your perseverance has been inspirational.  There is now light at the end of the tunnel.  After the second vaccine dose for men, we plan to return to Day Program, with modifications to meet regulatory guidelines.  Together, by getting vaccinated and encouraging others to do so, we are another step closer to opening our community safely.

 

1/20/21

Our first vaccine clinic will take place on Monday, January 25th.  The clinic will begin at 10am and will be completed by 4pm.

To be vaccinated on 1/25/21, we must have consent forms and insurance card copies no later than Wednesday, 1/20/21.  We cannot process registrations for the 1/25/21 clinic after Wednesday, 1/20/21. 

If you have turned in consent forms and insurance card copies, please contact your supervisor for the link to register for an appointment time.

For personnel who are undecided at this time or prefer to wait, you have the option to begin vaccination at the next scheduled clinic.  The follow up dates have not been assigned yet. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine doses are administered about 3 weeks apart, which might help you in thinking things over.

Together, we have been on the front lines of supporting people with disabilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccines are now here to help in the fight against this virus.  For many, this is good news.  We understand there can be some confusion and concern about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.  We hope that after this first vaccination clinic, we can maintain an open dialog and share our experiences with the vaccine and the process.

Vaccination is one tool to help bring an end to the pandemic and will be most effective when combined with the use of masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene. The vaccine provides a step in the right direction on the path back to normal operations; although it will take time to get back to “normal.” For the foreseeable future, all other mitigation measures will continue until health authorities advise otherwise.

If you have any questions, would like consent forms, or would like more information about the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, please contact your immediate supervisor.

1/20/21

While the availability of vaccines is important in the fight against this deadly virus, we understand there may still be concerns. Here is a link to a video that talks about the safety of these vaccines and how they were able to be developed quickly in response to a global pandemic.

You will still have time to change your mind if you aren’t sure yet.   Vaccine doses are administered about 3 weeks apart, so you will have about 3 weeks to think about it and talk to co-workers about their experiences with getting the vaccine.

Click here for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) from the CDC about the vaccine.

It is not often that we get things first in this line of work.  Right now, we have a valuable opportunity to access vaccine several months before we would otherwise be able to. We are very happy to be able to offer this, and encourage you to consider taking advantage of the opportunity.