Good Friday afternoon, friends, families and supporters!
First, all of us at JFGH send along our warmest wishes. We hope you are safe and healthy, and are keeping yourselves from being too stir crazy! The longer this crisis drags on, the more we become aware that humans aren’t wired for isolation. We are social organisms, us homo sapiens, and we need human contact. The pandemic is not only challenging us to stay healthy physically, but is also challenging us to look after our emotional and psychological health. Please make sure you are all practicing good self-care.
Secondly for today, a couple updates.
Late last week, we had a 13th member of our staff test positive for COVID-19. The staff person was not actively working, having last worked with people we support in June. So, the good news is that there wasn’t a risk to anyone we support; but, the bad news is that COVID-19 remains an active threat and people remain vulnerable to contracting the virus. Through this morning, we’ve run 176 nasopharyngeal COVID-19 diagnostic tests, with 13 positive results (7.4%) since early April. By way of comparison, the State of Maryland testing data overall (source: Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center), at this writing, shows a testing positivity rate of 8.01%. I’m happy and relieved to tell you that our 13th staff person is experiencing no symptoms and is on the road to recovery to full health. I know you’ll join me in keeping this person in your thoughts.
We remain virus-free among people JFGH support. Across Maryland, as of last Thursday (9/03), 565 Marylanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) were reported as having tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That is 16.5% higher than the number of positive cases as of 6 August—so, the number of positive cases grew in the month between 6 August and 3 September. As I’ve reported previously, the mortality rate among people with IDD across Maryland who have tested positive for the virus, as of 3 September, is 6.73%, just a bit less than twice the mortality rate among Marylanders generally (3.43%).
We continue to get perfectly reasonable questions about JFGH’s plans to re-open and return to whatever our new normal may be. The answer continues to be frustrating: We just don’t know. Currently, while the State of Maryland is on Phase 3 of its Roadmap to Recovery, Montgomery County remains on Phase 2. In Virginia, the Commonwealth is on Stage 3 of its re-opening, while in the jurisdictions that comprise Northern Virginia, things are much less clear. There are no day programs that operate in NoVA that have or are planning to re-open anytime soon. Major school districts in NoVA have re-opened to virtual learning only, at this point, although there appears to be plans to move toward a hybrid model of virtual and in-person learning. We are watching these districts closely; and, we continue to monitor pertinent COVID-19 data (for example, Fairfax County is available here) to inform our decisions.
In the meantime, we continue to evaluate opportunities to evolve our Safe Return to Work (SWARM) plan to ease restrictions where we can do so safely. We will announce any such changes publicly, of course; and, we will continuously update our SWARM posted to our website, as appropriate. Please feel free to review the SWARM, and as ever, let us know of any questions or ideas or thoughts you might have.
Okay, time for the BFT section of today’s e-blast:
  1. Wow, did we have some fun this week with Rebbitzin Devorah Buxbaum from the Lev Experience, who taught a whole bunch of us to bake challah from scratch. What a blast we had, and there’s just no way for me to thank her enough. And this evening? Yep, homemade challot for many of us.
  2. Also this week, we were so pleased to celebrate with our friends at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington 2020 Celebration. Did you know that JCRC has helped JFGH access free (yep, you read that right) PPE as we’ve navigated this pandemic over the last six months? Well, you do now. How lovely to celebrate with them this week.
  3. September 13-18 is National Direct Support Professional Appreciation Week. For us, we’re planning a week (and more!) of celebration, fun and special—and richly deserved—recognition of our DSPs. In my (profoundly and irrevocably biased) opinion, JFGH has the industry’s finest DSPs, bar none. Learn about our events here, and join us in thanking our DSP Superheroes for everything they do in our community.
And, lest we forget, BFT to all of you. These have been six extraordinary months, fraught with unimaginable challenges for which no experience could have prepared us. There’s really no way we could possibly capture our gratitude in words, but continuing to simply say Thank You, I hope, will be enough. Simply put, there’s just no way to imagine us getting through this without your unwavering support and encouragement.
Oh, and wondering what BFT means? Big Fat Thanks!
Finally, today is September 11th. It’s hard to believe that it was 19 years ago that our lives changed forever over several hours of an otherwise nondescript day. We remember the 3000 lives lost, and we honor the law enforcement officers, fire and rescue personnel, and others whose heroism in a dark moment in history is the legacy of that day. Today we pause to once more pay homage to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and those who saved countless others. We will not forget.
From all of us at JFGH, we wish you well. Stay healthy and safe. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Stay physically distant. Look after yourselves. And, know that we’re here, at your service if and whenever you need us. See you Thursday, September 17, at 11am on Facebook for our next live update!
Shabbat Shalom.

David Ervin, JFGH CEO,