COVID-19 Update
December 10, 2020

The Arc New York Letter to the Governor on Vaccine Prioritization 
President Jack Kowalzyk submitted a letter to the Governor and other state leaders calling for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) served in New York's residential programs, and the Direct Support Professionals who support them, to be included in Phase 1 of New York's COVID-19 vaccination plan. The letter emphasized the disproportionate risk COVID-19 poses for people with I/DD, and states it is essential that New York classify people with I/DD living in residential programs as residing in a long-term care facility, and that DSPs be considered health care workers for the purpose of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. 

To date, advocates from The Arc New York family have sent nearly 3,000 letters to state leaders through our online advocacy campaign on vaccine prioritization for the I/DD community. If you have not yet taken action to send letters to your elected officials on this important issue, you can do so here

Syracuse University Letter to Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
The Syracuse University Aging Studies Institute issued an advocacy letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The letter calls for prioritization of people with I/DD in the allocation of the COVID-19-vaccine. The letter draws upon studies published by Associate Professor Scott Landes, developed in partnership with The Arc New York and New York Disability Advocates (NYDA), and based upon the weekly COVID-19 data collected from Chapters. 
The letter acknowledges the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommendation that people with I/DD residing in congregate settings and staff providing their care, should receive priority in the vaccination strategy and calls for the ACIP to consider expanding this recommendation to prioritize all people with I/DD, regardless of setting. The authors also issued the letter's content as a Learner Center brief this morning. 
This letter represents the impact of our weekly efforts to gather meaningful COVID-19 data that supports our advocacy efforts. Thank you to everyone who continues to provide us with this valuable data.

NYS DOH Telehealth Provider Experience Survey
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is requesting feedback from all providers using telehealth during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. NYSDOH intends to use the results of the survey to inform post-pandemic telehealth policy development. The information gathered from this survey will be shared with the Reimagine New York Commission to help inform their work. 

The survey can be found here, and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. All clinicians are encouraged to respond as soon as possible. NYSDOH is interested in gathering perspectives from multiple clinicians from the same organization, especially if clinicians have different perspectives. However, please limit responses to one survey per individual clinician. The survey will close on December 15, 2020.

While this survey will be of particular interest to Chapters who operate clinics, as telehealth has been an important strategy for service delivery during the public health emergency, we encourage all Chapters who have used the modality to submit a response.

OPWDD COVID-19 Reporting and IRMA Entry Training
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is offering a webinar on COVID-19 reporting and entry into the Incident Report and Management Application (IRMA) On Friday, December 18, at 10:00 am.
Registration for this webinar can be completed here.

Once you register, you may receive an approval email with a link to "Join event" and information for the audio portion. If you do not receive the email after registering, you can use the registration link on the day of the meeting.

Event Number (access code):  178 245 5380
Event Password: welcome1

Visitation Restrictions Update
We reached out to OPWDD's General Counsel in response to questions from Chapters pertaining to OPWDD's position on visitation to certified residential facilities while COVID-19 case numbers increase. At this time, OPWDD is following the lead of NYS DOH in terms of restrictions on visitation in congregate settings. The Interim Visitation Guidance uploaded to files from June 18 remains unchanged and can be followed in circumstances where a Chapter operates in a cluster zone. As a reminder, that guidance allows providers to end visitation access upon notice to OPWDD. 

Reminder of Guidance on Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirator Use
As COVID-19 case rates continue to increase, we are hearing that Chapters are again relying on the use of particulate filtering facepiece respirators, particularly the N95 version. 

As a reminder, the use of N95 respirators requires the completion of fit testing. We provided the following guidance in our April 20 COVID-19 Update

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is exercising enforcement discretion concerning the annual fit testing requirements. Initial fit testing remains a requirement. OSHA is allowing healthcare employers to change the method of fit testing from a destructive method (i.e., quantitative) to a non-destructive method (i.e., qualitative). Information on completing a qualitative fit test can be viewed in OSHA's instructional video. Instruction on qualitative fit tests starts at 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Chapters should make their best effort to comply with the fit testing requirements. Where it is not possible, a seal test should be implemented by the user at minimum. Seal tests are discussed at the 2 minute and 55 second mark.

OSHA also released an April 16 memo titled "Discretion in Enforcement when Considering an Employer's Good Faith Efforts During the COVID-19 Pandemic," which clarifies that OSHA is currently assessing an employer's good faith effort to comply with OSHA requirements, recognizing that compliance with training, inspections, testing, and other matters may not be possible at this time. We provided guidance on this in our April 29 COVID-19 Update.

Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirator Decontamination System
In March, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System to decontaminate certain respirators, recognizing that availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an integral part of routine patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EUA was revised and reissued in June and can be viewed here
We are sharing this as an option for Chapters to consider as case rates increase and PPE supply may become further limited. Battelle published a "Getting Started" brochure that provides a good overview of the steps in the decontamination program. Please be advised that not all models of particulate filtering facepiece respirators are eligible for decontamination. Battelle has supplied a helpful FAQ that addresses the types of N95 respirators that can be decontaminated. 
Enrollment in the Battelle decontamination program is required and described within the FAQ. The FAQ also includes several helpful information and instruction guides for use with the Battelle Decontamination System. 
We thank the Herkimer County Chapter for sharing this option.

COVID-19 Vaccine Potential Side Effects
As the Pfizer vaccine is now being administered across the United Kingdom, there have been a few reports of temporary side effects. A few recipients have experienced allergic reactions to the injection, which has resulted in a recommendation by the U.K.'s Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that people with a history of significant allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food shouldn't receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be discussing this during their meeting to consider emergency use authorization of the vaccine. The Wall Street Journal published a story yesterday on the U.K.'s initial experience with the vaccine. 

It is important to note that clinical tests and studies identified that minor side effects are common with vaccines and not severe. 

The CDC ACIP raised the concern about side effects and recommended that healthcare facilities stagger the administration of vaccines for staff if at all possible, because people may need to be out sick for a day or two given they will likely present COVID symptoms after receiving the vaccine that would typically preclude them from being able to come in to the office.

We will continue to monitor the developments with the COVID-19 vaccine and share additional information as it becomes available. 

This and all related updates will be cataloged on The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information. 

Josh Christiana, Associate Executive Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations

This email was sent to:
  • President Jack Kowalczyk 
  • Board of Governors 
  • Chapter Presidents
  • Executive Directors 
  • Chief Operating Officers
  • Chief Financial Officers  
  • HR Directors 
  • PR Directors 
  • Quality & Compliance Staff 
  • Joint Committee on Quality & Compliance 
  • Guardianship Coordinators 
  • State Office Staff