Q & A on Search’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Search is committed to maintaining transparency on our evolving protocols during the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the rapidly changing nature of this outbreak, we understand that there may be confusion surrounding the specific precautions that Search is taking to minimize the spread of viruses and germs. To clarify any potential questions, we created the following list of “frequently asked questions”. We thank you for doing your part in remaining informed on Search’s protocols during this unprecedented time.
Q: What precautions is Search taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
A: As of March 16, 2020, all six of Search’s Adult Learning program sites were closed. Also, as of March 16th, all of our Supported Living Program participants began sheltering-in-place at 29 CILA home locations. All community integration activities were also suspended at this time.
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Search’s homes, we are adhering to a strict “no visitors” policy. This includes, friends, family and staff members who are not specifically assigned to a home.
Our direct care staff are limited to working in one CILA home. These staff members will be responsible for maintaining 24-hour coverage and support at their assigned site. Each CILA home has a staff member who is responsible for handling logistics for their assigned site, including making regular calls to the home to check on needs, and transporting medications, inter-organizational mail, groceries and other supplies. Logistics team members will be making regular, no contact drop-offs to their assigned home.
By limiting the number of people coming in and out of our homes each day we can limit the risk of exposure across sites should anyone contract the illness. Our intention is to lift these restrictions as soon as we can ensure it is safe to do so.
Q: Why are Search employees still working during the Shelter-in-Place order?
A: Per the Illinois Department of Human Services guidance of March 20, 2020, our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), and other front line staff are deemed essential workers caring for people with disabilities and supporting the disability services provided by Search Inc.
This designation allows them to move freely about for the purpose of fulfilling their essential work-related duties during Governor Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order (Executive Order 2010-10), which took effect at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st. During this emergency, our staff may need to utilize private vehicles, taxis/Uber/Lyft, and public transport to commute to and from home and Search Inc. sites. As part of their essential job functions, they may also need to travel to and from other locations such as grocery stores, pharmacies, food service establishments, or other locations.
Search DSPs and front line staff provide essential services and supports to individuals with I/DD on an around the clock basis, even during a shelter-in-place order. They cannot stay home, because for our residents, Search IS home. We are so thankful for their competent, compassionate, and supremely dedicated service in this time of extraordinary challenge.
Q: What is being done to support the individuals in Search’s Residential program who are sheltering in place at their CILA sites?
A: Beyond the social isolation and health monitoring measures we’ve taken, we are doing everything we can to help the individuals we serve to adapt to “the new normal”, which we understand is anything but normal. Like all of us, the lives of the people we serve have been uprooted. Events and activities they were counting on participating in, like the Special Olympics, have been canceled. Individuals with jobs are out of work. In short, they are experiencing what many people across the state are experiencing.
One thing that helps, even though we are isolated from each other, is finding ways we can stay connected. All 29 of our CILA homes have access to Wifi, personal devices, and Chromebooks. Residents have been taking part in daily “town hall” video conferences at home using Zoom, a video communications web app. We’re also working to facilitate telemedicine capabilities, so that residents can remotely access their primary care physicians, and other professional supports such as counseling and therapy. Individuals are also using e-mail, social media, and messaging to stay in contact with friends and family.
Search has also been posting an original video series on our Facebook page that you can find at this link to educate the individuals we serve and our staff about our COVID-19 response. Click here to visit our COVID-19 playlist.
Search will continue to expand the use of web-based, video conferencing and chat technology solutions to support our residents and staff while everyone is housebound.
Q: What happens if a Search staff or resident is experiencing symptoms?
A: All Search staff members are required to perform a self-health screen before arriving on site for their shift, which includes checking for any symptoms and taking their temperature. We are also performing temperature and health checks of all of the individuals served at all of Search’s CILA homes. Temperature checks are performed twice per day at 8 am and 3 pm. Staff are also responsible for checking their own temperatures upon arrival for each shift. Symptoms we are keeping an eye out for include fever (confirmed with thermometer), cough, shortness of breath and fatigue.
If a staff member has a fever of or is experiencing symptoms before they arrive for their shift, we are requiring them to stay home and notify their immediate supervisor.
If anyone, including staff or a program participant, is experiencing any symptoms while on site, they will be given a protective mask to wear and be isolated from others immediately. If a fever is detected (100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), Search’s Nursing staff will be notified immediately. The physician of the person experiencing symptoms will be contacted as soon as possible for next steps. Search Nursing staff will do this for our program participants.
The person will be kept from having contact with others until directions are received from their physician. Staff members may be asked to transport an individual to the hospital. PPE equipment will be provided to staff drivers if transportation is required.
Q: Has anyone tested positive for COVID-19? What happens if someone tests positive for the virus?
A: Three of Search’s staff members, and three residents have tested positive for COVID-19, affecting two sites at this time.
In order to ensure that the virus does not spread, staff members who test positive will self-isolate in their homes for at least 14 days. For each day that staff self-isolate, they are required to monitor and record their temperature and symptoms for Search management’s reference. At the end of the 14 day quarantine or whenever the staff member does not experience symptoms anymore, they are required to obtain a signed doctor’s note for proof that they are healthy and no longer present the risk of spreading the virus.
In the situation where a resident tests positive for COVID-19, we have plans in place for two likely contingencies. First, if an individual is admitted to the hospital for treatment, Search staff will work with the admitting hospital’s care team to support the person in that setting. Second, if the individual is released by the physician to self-isolate “at home”, we will make every effort to support the individual in their home, unless it is deemed safest to support the person at an off-site location as they recover. Individuals who have tested positive, regardless of the setting will have access to Search Nursing staff who will closely coordinate care with the person’s physician. Direct care staff will be available 24 hours a day to support the individual.
If a resident or staff member has been potentially exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, Search executes its exposure control plan which was prepared for this specific scenario. When an exposure incident occurs, we immediately obtain guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), which makes a determination of risk for individuals based on their level of exposure. An example of a “low risk” situation would be if an individual has had less than 5 minutes of contact at a distance of 6 feet or more with an infected person.
Any resident who has been exposed, will remain sheltered-in-place at their home will be closely monitored for symptoms, including routine, daily temperature checks. Staff members who come into direct contact with a positive case will be required to self isolate at home for a minimum of 14 days.
In the case of any potential exposure, we will be relying on our IDPH, and Division of Developmental Disabilities partners to guide our response.
Q: Is Search hiring right now?
Q: What can I do to help Search at this time?
A: Thank you for your interest in supporting Search in this unprecedented moment. There are a few ways that you can help us right now:
Support our signature fundraising event, Trailblazers 2020: The Virtual Experience by making a donation to Search. Your support of Search is more important than ever during this crisis. Search serves a population that is vulnerable to COVID-19, with more than 40% of our residents aged 60+ years and with over 70% of our residents having medical conditions that increase their risk of serious complications should they become ill. Having closed our adult learning programs for everyone’s safety, we are now facing the financial challenges of a significant loss of revenue while experiencing increased expenses related to our contingency plans. We are hoping to offset this financial challenge with the help of your continued support.
Although we won’t be gathering in person this year, Search is offering four ways you can support our goal of raising funds for Trailblazers and join in on the fun from wherever you are. We believe that with your help, we can lessen the impact of COVID-19 on our mission. Thank you for your support during this challenging time for our organization and our community as a whole!
Share our Facebook post notifying your network that we are hiring. The more people we can share the job posting with the better!
Some Final Thoughts
We know this is a scary and challenging time for everyone, but we’re going to get through this together. Search Inc. has been serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families for over 50 years, and we will continue to do just that regardless of the challenges that come our way.
You should know that even though things moving fast, Search is responding to this unfolding crisis using the most up to date recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our state partners at the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities, as well as our own healthcare professionals.
Remember, social distancing is still the best action we can take at this time to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please think about all of the vulnerable individuals we serve, and our selfless front line workers, and stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Please know that the safety and well-being of our entire Search family is guiding our response. Thank you for your understanding as we navigate these extremely challenging times.
To keep up to date about Search’s response, and to view or download PDFs of our latest notifications please visit our website here for the latest information and notifications.