COVID-19 Update
October 29, 2020

NYS Travel Advisory Update
On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced the addition of California to the travel advisory. No states were removed from the list. New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania continue to meet criteria to be added; however, non-essential travel to those states should be avoided. Chapters should continue to review the list and advise employees of the current designated states. The current list can be found here.
OPWDD Interim Guidance on Visitation to Supportive Residential Facilities
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) released
Interim Visitation Guidance for Supportive Residential Facilities. This is a follow-up to their June 18 guidance that we detailed in our June 18 and June 23 COVID-19 Updates. We raised some concerns to OPWDD that the guidance did not account for the differences between Supervised and Supportive IRA living arrangements, especially individual independence. OPWDD agreed to revisit the guidance. 
The new guidance creates a shared responsibility between the individuals supported and the residential staff. Please note that the guidance is superseded by any visitation restrictions placed on certified residential facilities in designated cluster zones.

Legality of Mandatory COVID-19 Testing 
For Chapters considering mandatory COVID testing, we wanted to provide some information to support the legality of this requirement, should employees have questions. Mandatory medical testing is typically precluded by the ADA, except where the testing is "job related and consistent with business necessity." Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an employer can argue that it is necessary to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19, because a positive individual will pose a threat to the health and safety of others. Testing may be required before initially permitting an employee to enter the workplace, and on a periodic basis, so long as it is consistent with current CDC guidance.

COVID Advocacy Talking Points 
In response to Chapter requests, The Arc New York drafted general talking points regarding our organizational challenges, response and needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on individuals with I/DD being at higher risk than the general population. This document aims to support Chapters in delivering a consistent and effective statewide message to legislators and media. It is intended to supplement, not supplant your own local advocacy efforts.

SUNY Mandates COVID-19 Testing for On-Campus Students
The SUNY system issued a policy requiring all students taking at least one class on campus, utilizing campus services, or working on campus to receive a COVID-19 test within 10-days prior to the campus closing on-campus instruction and services at the end of the fall semester. Any residential student who tests positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to COVID-19 within 14-days before the fall closing must follow the local county health department for isolation/quarantine on campus. Chapters who employ SUNY students should be aware of the potential impact this policy may have on their workforce.

Advocacy Surrounding COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization and Implementation 
As a member of The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), The Arc US has released their COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Principles. Over the past two months, CCD has advocated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the topic of vaccination protocol and implementation including: 
Along with its recommendations, The Arc of the United States and CCD is advocating to:
  • Include all residents of congregate facilities in Phase 1 of allocation
  • Protect the civil rights of people with disabilities in allocation decisions
  • Ensure that the physical distribution and administration of the vaccine is accessible to people with disabilities.
Simultaneously, The Arc of New York, along with New York Disability Advocates (NYDA) is seeking clarification from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Department of Health (DOH), and Governor Cuomo's office of the phased distribution categories and definitions found within New York's COVID-19 Vaccine Program. In particular, we are advocating for the Phase 1 inclusion of all residents and Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who live and work in congregate settings. This is consistent with our successful advocacy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to classify our DSP workface as essential healthcare professionals.

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 
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