COVID-19 Update
July 13, 2020

OPWDD Reopening Guidance Documents and Monday Call Summary
On Friday, The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) released four interim guidance documents outlining policies on the following: 
We distributed these guidance documents to Chapters on Friday and requested feedback and questions be submitted to us. We received numerous responses, and several of the questions and comments were shared with OPWDD during a call with the Provider Association this morning. Below are some highlights of the information OPWDD shared during the call:
  • All the guidance documents are interim and subject to change based on stakeholder feedback and changes in COVID-19 data (e.g., increases in infection rates).
  • Programs are not obligated to reopen as of July 15. Reopening will be an individual provider decision.
  • Safety plans must be submitted to OPWDD prior to the reopening of day programs. OPWDD intends to develop a template safety plan document for providers to use. In the meantime, providers should continue to reference the NY Forward Safety Plan Template and the reopening of day services interim guidance.
  • Particularly high-risk individuals can opt out of returning to site-based day services and remain home. Providers may conduct individual assessments to determine the appropriateness of an individual's return to programming, but assessments are not being mandated by OPWDD.
  • OPWDD policy is not intended to close day programs if a region returns to a previous NY Forward phase after being approved to enter Phase 4.
  • Providers in regions that are in NY Forward phases other than Phase 4 should continue to follow the OPWDD guidance that was in effect prior to the release of the four guidance documents. OPWDD's intention was to allow flexibility for providers. They expressed a commitment to working with us in developing safety plans.
  • The 50% reduction in transportation capacity applies to all transportation, regardless of the individual's living arrangement.
  • The 50% limit when transporting individuals that do not live together assumes all safety measures are being taken and complied with, including: windows open for added ventilation, face masks worn at all times, etc. Where these measures cannot be met, Chapters should consider more restrictive transportation limits, which the guidance allows.
  • Both providers and families may facilitate home visit transportation. Providers are expected to adhere to the transportation requirements, but not expected to enforce any such requirements on families. 

  • OPWDD acknowledges the existence of large, open areas that typically accommodate many more individuals (e.g., the production floor in a site-based prevocational facility), and indicated that providers should identify ways to achieve separation in their safety plan (such as taping off areas on the floor, adding temporary partitions or curtains, etc.). The guidance provides the flexibility to do so.
  • OPWDD has scheduled a second meeting with the Provider Association tomorrow to discuss service delivery options and the sunsetting of the day services retainer program. OPWDD is considering development of additional guidance on the delivery and billing of services with the reopening of day programs.
  • The blocks of service provision referenced on page 5 of the interim guidance regarding reopening of day services are examples only. OPWDD will review the existing mealtime exclusion requirements set forth within the various day service ADMs and provide additional guidance.
We will provide further updates as we continue our discussions with OPWDD and learn additional information. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or comments regarding the interim guidance documents. 

School Reopening Guidance 
Governor Cuomo announced today that schools in regions cleared for Phase 4 reopening will be permitted to open in the fall, as long as the infection rate in the region is below 5 percent over a 14-day average as of August 1. If the infection rate in the region climbs above 9 percent over a 7-day average at any time, schools will be required to close again until the rate drops. All students and staff will be required to wear masks. Comprehensive school reopening plans, including social distancing measures, health checks, disinfecting procedures and other requirements must be submitted for review by July 31.  The reopening framework and guidelines from The New York State Education Department (NYSED) can be found here . Full guidance is expected Wednesday, July 15. 

Media Coverage of COVID-19 in the I/DD Field 
Media coverage continues surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on people with I/DD and the providers who support them. The following stories were released since Friday: 
  • The New York Post ran an opinion piece criticizing Governor Cuomo and OPWDD for confining people with I/DD during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Disability Scoop covered the Syracuse University study The Arc New York and New York Disability Advocates (NYDA) collaborated on, which reveals increased risk from COVID-19 for people with I/DD. The full article can be found here
  • The Arc New York Executive Director Mark van Voorst was interviewed for and quoted in a National Journal story about proposed national and state funding cuts to home- and community-based services in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The National Journal is a government relations and policy-focused publication based out of Washington D.C.  
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

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