COVID-19 Update
April 29, 2020

DQI Training on Update of COVID-19 Reporting and IRMA Input
The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has scheduled a "COVID-19 Reporting and IRMA Input" training this Friday, May 1 at 10:00 a.m. Registration information be found here.
 
Revised OPWDD Staffing Guidance and Advocacy Items
In response to concerns raised by Chapters, we advocated with OPWDD for clarification on a number of items within their "Staffing Guidance for Management of COVID-19." Yesterday, OPWDD published a revised document. The document corrects the previous error in section B that mandated quarantining of staff and individuals who worked in close proximity with a presumed infected staff member. The document now directs that the Local Health Department (LHD) should be contacted to determine if quarantine is warranted. 
 
The revisions also clarify that the staff health checks only apply to staff working in certified residential settings. Chapters may continue to institute health checks beyond those settings as they see fit.
 
We have been advised by OPWDD that they are in discussions with the Department of Health (DOH) about the N95 fit tests. They have shared that this testing is an OSHA requirement that OPWDD cannot waive. However, DOH may be able to discuss this issue with OSHA. 
 
Additionally, OPWDD is developing guidance on death investigations for individuals with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis who pass away in the hospital. OPWDD is looking to offer some flexibility in these investigations. However, such flexibility will require consent of the New York State Justice Center and the Governor's Office. 
 
Finally, OPWDD is working on draft guidance regarding fire safety inspections and fire drills. They anticipate this will be released shortly.
 
Mutual Staff Sharing Template Agreement 
Several Chapters have asked for a template agreement for situations in which Chapters may want to mutually share employees. A template for your use can be found  here.  
 
EEOC Guidance on COVID 
Many Chapters have asked if employer-mandated COVID-19 testing is allowable, assuming we could obtain accurate and reliable. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises that any mandatory testing must be both job-related and a business necessity, In the current situation, this means the employee may pose a direct threat to the health of others, and determining whether the employee has COVID before entering the workplace is necessary.  We recommend regularly referring to the U.S. EEOC website for COVID-specific guidance. 

OSHA Reporting 
COVID-19 is a recordable illness for Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) 300 logs, as long as the three criteria outlined here are met: 
  1. The case is confirmed
  2. The case is work-related (exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to the illness)
  3. The case involves one or more of the criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7 (including death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, or medical treatment beyond first aid)
In addition to logging illnesses under OSHA rules, if an employee passes away or is hospitalized due to a work-related incident, the occurrence must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours. The reporting number is 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742).  We recognize it may be difficult in some cases to determine whether an employee's case of COVID-19 is work-related or not. However, please keep this rule in mind and assess any staff hospitalizations or deaths on a case-by-case basis for compliance with this standard. More information can be found in  OSHA's Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID .  
 
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. 
 
DOH Guidance on COVID-19 Testing Protocols
On April 26, DOH updated its guidance on priority testing for COVID-19 to include individuals employed as heath care workers, first responders or any position in "other congregate care settings," including direct care providers. OPWDD has confirmed that our staff is covered under this expanded protocol. We hope this will expedite testing and results for our staff. 

New Executive Order Regarding Elective Procedures 
Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.25 today, which amends previous orders regarding birthing sites, and allows approved hospitals to perform elective outpatient surgeries and medical procedures, as long as criteria outlined in the order are met.
 
Aerosol Generating Procedures - Nebulizers, CPAP, BiPAP, etc.
Numerous authorities are suggesting increased infection potential with Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs), such as the use of nebulizers, CPAP/BiPAP, ventilation, or respirators. Simply stated, s ome procedures performed on patients are more likely to generate higher concentrations of infectious respiratory aerosols than coughing, sneezing, talking, or breathing. These AGPs potentially put healthcare personnel and others at an increased risk for pathogen exposure and infection. Experts recommend extreme care and diligence in infection control procedures for any individual who requires AGP treatments. While certain authorities recommend avoiding such treatment to the greatest extent possible with COVID positive individuals, this may not be medically appropriate or possible. To that extent, please closely follow the guidance contained in the links below for ongoing AGP treatment in our settings:
The Arc Online Coaching Service
The Arc of the United States is offering an Online Coaching Service to all Chapters. The service is a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing system that enables Chapter staff to serve people with I/DD remotely, using audio and video. Chapters are able to create their own unique space to match up staff with individuals served via video conference. More information can be found here, or by emailing coaching@thearc.org.

The Arc Census Webinar 
The 2020 Census deadlines have been extended due to COVID-19. The Arc of the United States is presenting a free webinar Tuesday, March 5 at 2 p.m. to discuss the importance of the census for the disability rights community, and what the deadline changes mean. Registration information can be found here. The webinar will also be recorded and posted to the TASC website at a later date. 

Extended Treatment Units Regulations Adopted
Today, OPWDD adopted amendments to section 681.1 of Title 14 NYCRR. These regulations authorize the creation of Extended Treatment Units (ETUs). Full text of the regulations is available here As of today, the only ETU that exists is  at Bernard Finesone and is a stepdown ETU operated by OPWDD, which is 12 beds and only accepts referrals from one particular hospital Mental Health unit in NYC.

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.

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

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