April 2: Coronavirus Update from the CEO
April 2nd, 2021
Dear Members of The Arc Family:
Spring has arrived. The clocks have jumped ahead. Although in NJ we have seen an uptick in COVID activity, the feeling in the air is positive. Maybe it’s because we can finally spend time outdoors where there is a greater sense of freedom or because there are greater opportunities for vaccines and more people are being vaccinated. No matter the reason, we will take hold of the good feelings and make the best of them!
Vaccine eligibility has expanded for our community to include all adults with an intellectual or developmental disability. Vaccine distribution sites have increased, including a location at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) run by FEMA and a special Essex County set-aside for teachers and school personnel at the West Orange K-Mart site. The Arc family continues to experience a steady increase in vaccinations and a low incidence of COVID positivity.
Recently, DDD has begun adjusting the COVID policies, procedures, and protocols in partnership with the Department of Health and in tandem with the updated CDC guidance. These changes include loosening restrictions to the residential visitation policy and eliminating the quarantining requirement for vaccinated residents upon return from an out-of-residence visit. Additionally, DDD has identified a metric to be used as guidance for the re-opening of congregate day programs, which could begin as of March 29. Published each Thursday, this metric, the COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/covid is a public, statewide report of the weekly COVID activity based on a rolling 7-day average. In the report, the state is divided into 6 regions. Each region is assigned 1 of 4 levels depending on the activity in that region; the levels are: very high, high, moderate and low. DDD has determined that congregate day programs may open only in those regions that are designated low or moderate. For the week ending March 27, 2021, the entire state of NJ, including Essex County is designated in the High level.
Although disappointed that we can’t progress more quickly to open our congregate day services, we continue to make plans and expand opportunities in all other areas. We remain hopeful that state COVID restrictions will continue to relax which will then have a positive impact on our capacity to move forward. We are determined to provide timely and relevant information about services, resources and opportunities for staff, consumers, and families. Although information changes frequently, The Arc is focused on staying on top of the most recent guidance from all state and federal partners so as to implement the best strategies, provide and expand needed services, all while mitigating risk and protecting health and safety for all.
The health, safety, and happiness are of the utmost importance and the primary focus of The Arc of Essex County. Our efforts to sustain this focus continue with full force are attributable to the hard work and dedication of our staff and the entire Arc Essex family. We are thankful and appreciative for all and will strive to continue our commitment to all opportunities that support our Arc family, now and in the future.
Thank you, all. Stay safe and be well.
Linda C. Lucas
Chief Executive Officer
- Congregate adult day programs may open as per the CALI report as of March 29, 2021.
- Community Based Supports and HAP continue and expand with in-person services supporting individuals (CBS) and families (HAP) to engage in community activities.
- Camp Hope general registration for summer 2021 continues with limited week availability; ESY at Camp Hope option available.
- DDD supplemental funding for day and residential program continues through June; DDD $3/hour residential COVID stipend funding ends March 31.
Current Status of Programs and Services:
- Shapiro Center for Early Intervention: In-person and telehealth services continue
- Stepping Stones School: In-person classes continue; 100% remote option continues
- Stepping Stones Early Intervention: Virtual sessions continue into spring
- Children Group Respite and Recreation Programs: In-person activities authorized to resume with restrictions; plans remain in development
- Arc Essex congregate day programs: Remain closed due to CALI report designation; virtual activities continue
- Community Based Supports and Individual Respite: Limited options currently available
- Virtual activities calendars continue to increase and expand for at-home and residential home consumers on www.arcessex.org; virtual billing continues