Friends, families and supporters:
First, I hope you’ll forgive me the passage of time since my last e-Blast. Sheila, Daniel and I spent a couple weeks traversing the country and in the Colorado mountains during and after Thanksgiving​. ​While I’m never fully away from JFGH and our community, I confess I tried very hard to be in those moments fully…and avoid Sheila giving me what-for if I wasn’t!
For this update, I’ll return to some data that has become a staple in these communications, update you on some policy and protocols that are specific to COVID-19, and address some emerging and, frankly, exciting vaccination news.
As of this morning, we have had 23 of our JFGH staff test positive for COVID-19. While we are happy to report that these 23 have experienced only mild symptoms, we are also aware that for these 23, a positive test result is very scary. We stand with them and offer our support, both psychological and otherwise, as they fight through their recoveries—most all are long back to work, stronger for the experience. Among people we support, thank G-d, we remain CO​VID-19 free. We also remain incredibly vigilant so that we stay to the 12 of our folks who, since our first positive result in early April, have tested positive for this wretched virus. Updates on infections and case fatalities in Maryland and Virginia are shown below (data are as of 18 December).
We’ve had some questions on a couple of our protocols. First, we’ve been asked whether or not folks we support are staying current on their medical and dental appointments. The quick answer is ‘yes’, but there’s more to it than that. When the pandemic first broadsided our community, doctors’ offices, dental offices and clinics shut down. During those first several months, tele-medicine was the primary platform for routine healthcare. Emergencies were treated as they ordinarily would be, but actual visits to doc​tors and dentists were replaced by telehealth. As we moved into ​summer months, we began seeing more in-person medical appointments, and JFGH created a testing-based staff accompaniment model to support those in-person appointments. The steps are listed below.
Who knew something as seemingly simple as a medical appointment could get so detailed?!
Another protocol—and frankly one with which we struggled—was this year’s flu shot. What a story! In August, we arranged with our pharmacy the purchase of this year's influenza vaccine, along with all of the supplies required to administer the vaccine by our nurses. They are qualified to administer, and this allowed us to avoid what we believed to be unnecessary exposure risks that come with going to a doctor’s office for the flu shot or attending a pharmacy clinic for the shot.
By November, because of what turned out to be colossal supply chain problems (which, in hindsight, we should absolutely have predicted given the emphasis on the need this year, of all years, for everyone to get the flu vaccine—lesson learned), we were still without vaccine in suitable supply to vaccinate everyone.
The good news was that folks were all still living and staying in their homes. Our staff had all been vaccinated, including the live-in staff of our group homes (and lemme tell ya, necessity is indeed the mother of invention—imagine our amazing DSPs getting their flu shots on front porches or back yard decks all across the region!), so the exposure risk for influenza was dramatically lower than it might have ordinarily been. The bad news was we were speeding toward December and didn’t have enough vaccine.
I might have predicted it, based on my first 18 months here at JFGH, but an early Chanukah miracle appeared in the form of a mom. Concerned like we were about making sure not just her loved one got vaccinated for influenza, but about all folks receiving JFGH supports getting vaccinated for influenza, she sprang ​into astonishingly effective action. Two weeks later, JFGH received all the supplies necessary to assure that everyone who needed a flu shot ​got one.
That mom, our colleagues with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, and our nurses and staff combined to, in very short order, after months of waiting, seal the proverbial deal. The original protocol? Immaculate in its conception, but as reality struck, we had to react and adapt. The lesson? As we continue to develop protocols to respond to the evolving COVID-19 environment, flexibility, quick thinking, resilience, adaptability, patience, creativity and so much more combine to be JFGH’s key assets among our leadership, our community and the people we support and their families.
And, lastly, I want to let you know that we are already working on, and have been for several weeks, our COVID-19 vaccination protocols. This is very detailed work and relies on information from a host of sources. There are already a raft of questions being asked of us—are we in Phase 1, when should we expect our folks will be vaccinated, is the vaccine safe, how long will we stay-at-home after being vaccinated, and so on. To answer those and other questions, we are working on a Q&A format that we will publish separately from these e-blasts. When we do so, we will let everyone know on virtually every communications platform so that you can access the information and be kept​ updated as circumstances on the ground evolve.
I will tell you this: I have read literally all of the Food and Drug Administration analyses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, as well as the related, peer-reviewed research on both. If you are feeling optimistic about the vaccines, you have very good reason to. We will include much greater detail, but for today, I’ll leave you with this: The effectiveness of both vaccines is 94% or better; and, serious side effects, while worthy of our attention, are minimal. For whatever it’s worth, I would not hesitate an iota from being vaccinated, not even for a nanosecond.
Forgive the length of today’s message​—I had a little catching up to do. For those of you for whom Chanukah is just ending, I hope your 8 nights were magical and miraculous. For those of you for whom Christmas is but 7 short days away, I wish you a very merry Christmas and hope for you a season of meaning and joy. For those of you who, beginning on 26 December, will celebrate Kwanzaa, I wish for you the joy of togetherness and the miracle of unity. And to all of us, I wish you peace.


David Ervin, JFGH CEO,