Dear Search Team, Family Members, Guardians, and Stakeholders:

You are probably aware that on Tuesday, March 31, Governor Pritzker extended the shelter-at-home order for Illinois until April 30th. This news was anticipated, but no less unsettling. All indications are that we here in Illinois and states across the nation are going to be managing this pandemic for the foreseeable future. Given that we are in this for the long haul, I will be sending out a weekly email on Fridays to keep everyone informed about Search’s response and to provide updates on important issues to our team and family members.

During this time when so many of us are physically distanced from each other, it is all the more important to find ways to stay connected with one another. So, check your inbox on Fridays for the latest updates from the Search Team.

Agency-Wide Updates

Search is supporting over 170 individuals at 30 CILA homes to shelter-at-home. As of April 3rd, Search has had six staff and four residents test positive for COVID-19 for a total of ten cases, affecting three CILA homes. This week we were disheartened to receive word that a fourth resident has tested positive, and that a third home has been impacted. 

We are making every effort to support our COVID-19 positive residents in their home, and are closely monitoring residents for symptoms, including routine temperature checks and symptom management.

As you know, we made the decision to convert our CILA homes to extended-shift (live-in) models wherever possible. This is the absolute safest mode of operating for our staff and residents. As of April 3rd, 18 homes are operating under this model. We anticipate moving other homes to this model within the next week or so.

It’s a scary, uncertain time. But it’s important to face the facts to make sure that we are best prepared. And given the statistics coming out of some parts of the US, it’s important to share our experience during this pandemic. Our staff members are stepping up to care for our residents and each other with humor, compassion and grace. Our Search team is doing everything they can to help.

It’s also important to clear up what we are not seeing in our residences. We are NOT seeing widespread fevers or symptoms among our participants or staff. Among those who have tested positive for COVID-19, we are not seeing serious complications and we hope this continues to be the case. We continue to stay connected with our residents in the hospital while they receive top notch care from medical professionals.

Even though we have had positive cases, we feel confident in the actions we took in early March to limit exposure at our homes, and because of the dedication and competency of our team, Search has so far, avoided the worst effects of this virus. Though we cannot rule out the prospect of more positive cases at Search, one thing is certain. Everyone is doing everything they can do to limit the risk, and we are so thankful.   

Staying Connected

Beyond the social isolation and health monitoring measures we’ve taken, we are doing everything we can to help the individuals we serve to adapt to “the new normal”, which we understand is anything but normal. Like all of us, the lives of our residents have been uprooted. Events and activities they were counting on participating in, like the Special Olympics, have been canceled. Individuals with jobs are out of work. In short, they are experiencing what many people across the state and the nation are experiencing.

One thing that helps, even though we are isolated from each other, is finding ways we can stay connected. All 30 of our CILA homes have access to Wi-Fi, personal devices, and Chromebooks. Residents have been taking part in daily “town hall” video conferences at home using Zoom, a video communications web app. We’re also working to facilitate telemedicine capabilities, so that residents can remotely access their primary care physicians, and other professional supports such as psychiatry, counseling and therapy. Individuals are using e-mail, social media, and messaging to stay in contact with friends and family. This week even brought our first e-dates for residents that want to stay connected with their best friends and partners!

We are excited to announce that in order to add to our arsenal of technology solutions, Search has invested in purchasing Facebook Portal devices which are being distributed at homes so that residents and staff can make video calls. We have also purchased a Facebook portal device for our nursing team, in order to allow face to face video consultations for those who may be ill or may just be in need of some medical advice. These devices will be used by our residents and staff to stay connected to friends, family, healthcare providers and more. Search will continue to expand the use of web-based, video conferencing and chat technology solutions to support our residents and staff while everyone is housebound.
Shine a Light for Our Search Heroes

We are inviting everyone in our Search community to join us Saturday night (April 4 at 7pm) to shine a light on our heroes - our frontline staff members who are providing love and care to our residents during this pandemic. Let’s honor and lift them up this Saturday!

Saturday at 7pm, set your candle out on the porch or in the window of your home. Please take a couple of pictures so we can share the support on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You can email your pictures directly to sdurr@keystonealliance.org , or share to the Team Search Facebook group or message the Search Facebook page with your photos here .

Our houses will be participating in this activity, so keep an eye on our social media pages and don't forget to share your pictures so we can see you shine. Tag any pictures of your lights with the hashtag: #burnbrightforSearch

Human Resources Updates

Expanded Search Sick Time:  If a staff member is experiencing symptoms or have had a firsthand/secondhand exposure to COVID-19, you must self-isolate until you are cleared to return. If you run out of Sick or PTO time during your absence, Search will extend your sick time benefits so you are paid until you are able to safely return. We are following CDC guidelines for when employees can safely return – you must meet the following three criteria:

1. You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers), AND

2. Any other symptoms have completely disappeared (for example, you had a cough or shortness of breath , which is now gone), AND

3. At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

PTO Policy Clarifications: PTO Rollover: If you are unable to use your PTO this fiscal year due to COVID-19 related reasons, we will allow you to roll unused balances forward into FY 2021 (7/1/20 to 6/30/21). 

Finally and most importantly, thank you to our entire front line team!

Our transition to the extended shift (live-in) model would not have been possible without our volunteers to take on this immense responsibility. Every day and in every way, they are redefining what it means to “go above and beyond” because of their selfless service in this time of national crisis. There are no words that can adequately describe my gratitude for all that they are doing to care for our residents and each other, even as they cope with the personal impacts of this pandemic on themselves, their families, and their loved ones.

Let’s continue to stay Search Strong through these hard times.

We hope that these weekly newsletters will help the Search community stay connected and informed as we navigate this crisis together. To keep up to date about Search’s response, and to view or download PDFs of our latest notifications please visit our website here for the latest information and notifications .

All the best!

Cory Gumm
CEO
Search Inc.