Friends, families and supporters:
Over the past several weeks, we have been poring over peer-reviewed research, COVID-19 community data, consulting with members of our COVID-19 Medical Advisory Panel and other medical professionals, seeking guidance from the State of Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration and Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and soliciting guidance from the Montgomery County Department of Health. All of these analyses have been with an eye to considering changes to the visitation protocols. Revisions under consideration included the potential to allow indoor visits by family members at our group homes, and people we support visiting their families in their families' homes, particularly during the holiday season.
While it will surely be disappointing, the result of our review and research is that the exposure and COVID-19 infection risks associated with allowing visitors inside JFGH homes, and with allowing visits of people we support to family homes for the upcoming holidays are substantially greater than the benefits—as significant as those benefits would surely be. We are therefore not expanding our protocols at this time. Program managers and leadership staff will continue facilitating and supporting outdoor and virtual visits based on individual and family preferences. And, we will continue to provide additional behavioral health resources to people we support to help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness that are natural for all of us during these incredibly difficult times.
We wish circumstances were different—this is hardly the decision we want to make, knowing how much we all miss family and connection so much. We also know that the COVID-19 virus continues to be highly infectious and that the impact of the virus on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is substantially more severe than on others. We are also aware of significant surges in cases across the United States; and, in the DMV, as of 28 October, the data are concerning. We are monitoring Montgomery County, Fairfax County and Loudoun County data regularly. We are also keeping our eyes on statewide data for Maryland and Virginia, in both of which new daily cases of COVID-19 are trending upward. The Virginia Department of Health also presents Northern Virginia data, which can be found here.
The Board of Directors, staff leadership and all of us at JFGH believe that this decision is consistent with pandemic circumstances in the area and is in the best health interests of the people we support. We hope that by way of taking these difficult decisions now, we all remain safe and healthy and able to reach a point when restrictions can ease without grave threats to the health of people we support and their families.
We will continue to monitor very closely, and as circumstances evolve, we will evaluate opportunities for any changes and let you and our community know of them immediately.