COVID-19 (coronavirus) UPDATES

December 23, 2021 — Update on the Status of In-Person Services and Further Re-Opening Plans

As 2021 comes to an end, we continue to watch the COVID-19 pandemic evolve both locally and globally. We again find ourselves in a situation where new cases are on the rise, as a result of the new Omicron variant. .

In the Fall, we took our first steps towards reopening many of our in-person services that had been suspended for well over a year. Facilitated by our new vaccination policy, the easing of the single employer rule, which allowed us to welcome back colleagues that had been on leave, and regaining access to select city-owned community centres, we were able resume operations of our Community Participation and Children’s Day Respite Programs at reduced capacities.

Since our last update, a number of additional programs and services also came back: Our On The Go program started accepting bookings for small group outings that took place this Fall, with more planned for the new year. The Drop ‘n’ Shop Thrift Store began taking donations and is now open for customers during limited hours at 50% capacity. Our Employment Access centre also re-opened for pre-arranged client visits.

As we have seen time and time again, the COVID-19 situation at the local and provincial level is tenuous and can rapidly change. Due to the concern presented by Omicron, the City of Hamilton has closed community centres. In an effort to combat the spread of the new variant, the Government of Ontario has also announced new directives requiring asymptomatic testing for employees of developmental services agencies. Rapid Antigen Test kits have been ordered from the Ministry and this new requirement will be initiated as soon as a sufficient supply of tests have been received.

We are planning for the very real possibility that we will see positive cases among our staff, which will negatively impact the number of staff available to work. In anticipation of this possibility, as well as the closure of city-operated facilities, we have decided to extend the holiday break for certain in-person programs until further notice.

As we work to get these programs back online, there will be no further expansion of our program offerings until later in 2022. We are taking an extremely cautious approach to expansion beyond Phase 1 in the hopes that all progress to date and in the future can be sustained without the need to scale back service levels. More information about specific programs is available below

Group Living

Group Living residents who have received two doses of the vaccine will continue to go on outings pending a risk assessment which includes the ability to wear a facemask and social distance. Family visits will also continue to be permitted pending a risk assessment. These policies may change at any point due to the evolving situation and Public Health guidelines. Staff, clients and families will be notified of any additional changes or updates.

Community Participation

As of December 21, all City of Hamilton community centres and recreation facilities have been closed to the public due to the concerns surrounding the Omicron variant. As a result, Community Participation programs at Eastmount, Huntington and Winona have shut down earlier than planned for the holiday break. We will be extending the holiday shut down for an additional two weeks with a tentative plan to resume programs later in January, unless City community centres and recreation facilities remain closed. Please be advised that this plan may change at any point as a result of the evolving situation and Public Health guidelines. We will contact all Community Participation staff, clients and families in January to confirm restart dates.

Children’s Respite

The Children’s Day Respite program will be temporarily suspended after the holiday break due to the concerns surrounding the Omicron variant. Additional details on when this service will resume will be shared with families at a later date.

With renovations ongoing at Leeming, the Children’s Day Respite program will continue operating out of the Charlton site once service resumes. Further expansion of this service beyond morning and afternoon spots on Saturdays and Sundays is not planned at this time.

Once renovations are complete, the Children’s Day Respite program will transition back to Leeming, which may allow for increased capacity and allow the Children’s Overnight Respite program to resume, as soon as allowed by Ministry guidelines and Hamilton Public Heath directives. .

On the Go

We are currently accepting bookings by double vaccinated clients for group outings to take place in the New Year. It is our intention to honour all current and future bookings, however, this may change as a result of the evolving situation and Public Health guidelines. In the event that scheduled outings are cancelled or postponed we will contact all participants to notify them of necessary changes and offer refunds as necessary.

Employment Access

Our office at 255 King William, which is home to Employment Access and staff from other programs, will remain open for pre-arranged client visits. To reduce contacts between individuals and allow for social distancing, capacity limits at the site are now capped at 7 people maximum, of which up to 5 may be staff members.

Supported Independent Living

Supported Independent Living staff may continue to meet with clients in the community, with meetings to take place outdoors wherever possible.

Drop ‘n’ Shop Thrift Store

Our Drop ‘n’ Shop Thrift Store will remain open to customers at 50% capacity as required by current government restrictions and Public Health guidelines. Store hours for both retail shopping and donations are Wednesday-Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Planning for the re-opening of all other non-essential in-person programs and services has been temporarily halted. Updates will be provided in coming months.

 

Once again, we wish to reiterate that as an agency, we strongly believe in the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines and third booster doses. With the emergence of the new Omicron variant, the Ontario government has accelerated the roll-out of 3rd booster doses for individuals aged 18 and over and we encourage all who are eligible to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. It is vitally important to get the vaccine and the booster dose to blunt the further spread of COVID-19 and to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

The faster people get vaccinated, the faster we will see the rate of new infections in our community again begin to drop, which will allow us to resume our phased reopening.

We will keep you informed of any program changes that may need to occur because of a concern or incidence of COVID-19 in our programs.

Keeping everyone safe involves working together as a team and you are a vital part of that effort.

To limit the potential for transmission of the virus following the return from the holiday break, we remind you that the following health and safety measures must be followed:

  • Family members/caregivers are expected to follow all Public Health guidelines.
  • Family members/caregivers are required to monitor for symptoms of illness and report any symptoms to program staff – Do not attend program until further direction is given.
  • If clients have any symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, the following must occur before in-person service can resume, including attendance at an on-site program:
    • Symptoms are resolved for at least 48 hours and a negative COVID-19 test result.
    • If COVID-19 test is positive, client must remain absent for a minimum of 10 days after the onset of symptoms and must be cleared by Public Health before returning.
    • If a client starts experiencing symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 while they are at an on-site program, they will be isolated from others and will need to be picked up as soon as possible. Please be prepared to pick-up your family member on short notice if needed, or have alternate arrangements in place. Please provide a contact number for the designated pick-up person should any COVID-19 symptoms present (complete attached form).
    • If a client suffers from a known illness (for example, allergies) please notify staff.
  • We ask everyone to wear a facemask and to follow basic Public Heath Guidelines, such as hand washing and social distancing, during their time at program. We understand that this may be challenging for some clients. Facemasks will be provided upon request.

Upon arrival to the program location, clients must wait for a staff member to escort them inside for screening. No other family members will be permitted inside the program site.

Day program clients day program are to bring a lunch that does not require re-heating or refrigeration and a re-useable water bottle as fountains will not be available.

We acknowledge the additional effort needed to follow these measures. Thank you for being part of our team and helping us keep our sites a safe place for all.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!