October 2: Coronavirus Update from the CEO

October 2nd, 2020

Dear Members of The Arc Family:

The State of NJ has moved quickly in recent weeks, advancing new phases of its reopening plan, especially as it relates to the Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities. This pace has allowed The Arc of Essex County to also move more quickly, albeit deliberatively and consistently, to develop and implement plans for programs and services to re-open or to be reinvented. Although always ready to pivot as changes to guidelines from federal and state authorities come out each week, we are working hard and pushing ahead. As I have stated many times, The Arc of Essex County is focused on ensuring that every plan fundamentally addresses the health and safety guidelines and protocols to mitigate and manage the health risk this pandemic presents for all staff and program participants.

We remain committed to moving forward and taking steps to create opportunities to support our children and adults and their families. We continue to implement our comprehensive COVID-19 service and operations response and prevention plan and develop new plans as we address the many strategies for re-opening, re-imagining and reinventing programs, services and supports.


  • Adult Day Programs will begin opening on October 5th using a limited capacity, phased-in plan starting with consumers living in their own homes.
  • Stepping Stones School opened the school year with 24 students in-person and 5 students 100% remote
  • The Arc Essex Board of Directors continue their outreach and support of Residential consumers and staff with an October delivery of Philly Pretzels just in time for Thursday night football

Current Status of Programs and Services:

  • Shapiro Center for Early Intervention: Teleservices continue; small center-based service option and limited in-home service option began in September
  • Stepping Stones School: In-person classes began for the school year on 9/8/2020; 100% remote option continues
  • Stepping Stones Early Intervention: Virtual sessions continue through October
  • Children and Adult Group Respite and Recreation Programs: In-person activities suspended for consumers until DDD/DCF authorize return; virtual activities continue and expand
  • Adult Day Programs: DDD authorized re-opening with COVID health and safety protocols and capacity limits; virtual activities continue
  • Community Based Supports and Individual Respite: Limited options available

Ongoing Activities:

  • iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks and other technology equipment distributed to consumers and programs for multiple remote uses continues and expands
  • Expanded use of telemedicine and at-home medical services with Station MD, the DDC and other medical providers
  • Residential Services: Family outside and inside visits occurring; approved community activities for staff and residential consumers in a cohort
  • Administrative Support: The main office is open 9am-4:30pm with staggered and remote staffing; only expected and scheduled visitors are permitted
  • Continued Health/Exposure screening, including temperature checks, for everyone entering any Arc location
  • Program Administration: Staff deployed to Arc locations to support residential services, conduct virtual activities and manage changing administrative functions
  • Containment scheduling continues which assigns staff to work in specific programs and with assigned groups to minimize the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19, including Stepping Stones School and re-opened Adult Day Programs
  • Universal masking is required for all staff at all times in program and when engaged in community activities
  • Increased use of video and audio teleservices to assist with social isolation, engagement with families and other Stay-At-Home challenges
  • Supplies of PPE are secured, inventoried and deployed regularly, as needed
  • COVID-19 stipends applied for staff working in residential continue and extended to in-person day program staff
  • New and continuing opportunities to spread awareness and appreciation of our DSP’s through news articles, social media, lawn signs and branded masks
  • Virtual activities calendars continue to increase and expand for at-home and residential home consumers on www.arcessex.org; virtual billing continues

Fall has arrived full of plans for re-opening programs and services and The Arc of Essex County family members are thrilled! What a difference a few weeks make! As our communities begin slowly but surely opening their doors, The Arc has been busy with plans and strategies to get right on board, starting with day programs. While we were all staying home, The Arc figured out how to stay connected and engaged while remaining safe and well. Now, we are figuring out how to safely re-connect and re-engage in-person. We kept a positive outlook then and looked forward to each day and that positivity got us all to this point – ready to go back out into the new world, hopeful, happy and safe.

The Arc of Essex County could not imagine a successful future without the amazing work of our  staff and enduring support of our friends and families.

Thank you, all.

Stay safe and be well.

Linda's Signature.jpg

Linda C. Lucas
Chief Executive Officer
The Arc of Essex County