A Message from our CEO on the Coronavirus

I’m sure that if you are like me in anyway, you are probably thinking…”What and how am I going to protect myself and still be able to manage my life as a person with a disability with all this heightened alertness regarding the Coronavirus?

Well, let me share with you some things we at WNYIL are doing, and things that you can do to minimize exposure to yourself and the people around you:

  1. Many of the services that WNYIL has can be accomplished over the telephone, internet, or through email. Give it a thought and instead of fighting public transportation and/or traffic, finding someone to give you a ride, or spend your own gas money, call your service provider at one of the WNYIL “Family of Agencies” and make an electronic appointment, and communicate via phone, skype, facetime or any other medium of choice. We have access to many of them and we can work with you in the comfort of your home.
     
  2. WNYIL is expanding its sick-time policy. Staff will be able to stay out longer if sick without having to seek a doctor’s note, and if necessary can borrow time from the future so not to come to work ill and possibly spread whatever they are currently dealing with.
     
  3. If a visitor comes to the one of the agencies and appears to be sick, we will ask them to leave and make an appointment at a later date. This way visitors, volunteers, and staff will not be interacting with any person who appears to be ill.
     
  4. WNYIL has instituted a practice to wipe down all public areas (door handles, elevators, grab bars, sinks, public phones etc.) twice a day to maximize our efforts to stop the spread of the virus through touch. We have also added additional maintenance personnel to further clean and sanitize our facilities.
     
  5. WNYIL is installing public use sanitizers in all our lobby areas, and we are asking for any person coming into our facilities to please sanitize their hands before going any further into the office.
     
  6. WNYIL has put together a plan of service continuity, by identifying and providing staff that can work from home in the event that we are forced to close the offices.
     
  7. While we have cancelled a couple upcoming events like the annual Policymakers’ Breakfasts, and postponed our annual Night for Independence Gala until later in the year, other events are being planned with the assumption, The Show Must Go On, such as Disability Pride in July and Summit on Aging in September.
     
  8. You can help yourself keep healthy by practicing proper handwashing techniques (20 seconds with soap and water), using hand sanitizer, keeping hard surfaces in your residence clean, and throwing out used tissues.
     
  9. Our website: www.wnyil.org has resources, links and tips on what you can do and where to find up to date information about the spread of the Coronavirus. Please feel free to start there when you are seeking to find out what is happening locally, Statewide, nationally and internationally.

These are just a few of the activities that our Board and staff have put together to keep all of us as safe as possible as you continue to work with WNYIL, and exercise your rights to live in our communities. WNYIL pledges to do all it can do to make sure that as our communities move forward in combating this virus that the needs of people with disabilities are heard and incorporated into the planning.

Until my next message, be safe, and we will all get through this together.

Doug

COVID-19 Fact Sheet

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Info for CDPAS Consumers, PAs

Precautions for the eventual coming of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019), or other infectious diseases, particularly for those who use CDPAS

Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that Americans should prepare for the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 in communities across the country. It is flu season, and many people are getting sick with this and other respiratory illnesses. The Western New York Independent Living, Inc. Family of Agencies [WNYIL, Independent Living of Niagara County (ILNC), Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR), Taking Control Consumer-Directed Personal Assistance Services (TC-CDPAS)] and our CDPAS partners, Maximizing Independent Living Choices (MILC) and the Southwestern Independent Living Center, Inc. (SWILC) encourage everyone to take the steps necessary to protect themselves.  

The same steps you take to protect yourself from the flu are used to protect yourself from the Coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  In the event that soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

This may not be enough for Taking Control Consumer-Directed Personal Assistance Services (TC-CDPAS) consumers who rely on Personal Assistants for home care. WNYIL is encouraging attendant service users to take steps and build habits now that will protect yourself and your workers from the flu and other communicable diseases like the Coronavirus. Here are some things you should do:

  1. Ensure you have sufficient back up attendants in case your regular attendants cannot work; your attendants may not be able to work, either because they get sick, or they need to take care of a family member who is. You will still need assistance, so make sure you have someone who can provide it. You may need to identify an attendant who may only intend to work with you in an exceptional situation like this. Get them enrolled now, before you need them, so they can get paid.  We understand that it is difficult to find attendants, so if you need help identifying possible resources for emergency coverage, talk to a Taking Control staff member at the Independent Living Center (ILC) serving your county from the list below.  There may also be people who cannot be paid to be your attendant but are willing to help you; identify these people now so you have the resources when you need them. 
  • In Erie County please contact a Taking Control staff person at (716) 836-0822, either Ashley at extension 191 or Kara at extension 194.
  • In Niagara County call Joe at Independent Living of Niagara County at (716) 284-4131, extension 215
  • In Genesee, Orleans or Wyoming Counties call Amie at Independent Living of the Genesee Region at (585) 815-8501, extension 403
  • In Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin, or St. Lawrence Counties, call Jennifer at Maximizing Independent Living Choices, at (315) 764-9442, extension 208, or toll-free at 1-877-397-9613
  • In Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegheny Counties call Jim at the Southwestern Independent Living Center, Inc. (716) 661-3010
  1. Ensure that you have the ability to get assistance if an attendant does not show up for work.  They may not be able to get to you and you need to make sure your needs are able to be met.
  2. Have at least a week of non-perishable food in your home at any given time; (if possible, have two-weeks’ supply) and identify people who can assist with shopping. If this is not financially feasible, you may need to seek out assistance from local organizations or food banks. If you need assistance finding local resources:
  • In Erie County please contact an Independent Living Specialist with the Independent Living Center in Buffalo at (716) 836-0822
  • In Niagara County call Brittany at Independent Living of Niagara County at (716) 284-4131, extension 214
  • In Genesee, Orleans or Wyoming Counties call Cathy at Independent Living of the Genesee Region at (585) 815-8501, extension 400
  • In Jefferson, Lewis, Franklin or St. Lawrence Counties, call Jackie at Maximizing Independent Living Choices, at (315) 764-9442, extension 101, or toll-free at 1-877-397-9613
  • In Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegheny Counties call Jim at the Southwestern Independent Living Center, Inc. (716) 661-3010
  1. Stock up on other important supplies.  There may be shortages of other supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hygiene products and such. You don’t need to hoard these, but plan to keep a supply in your home.

  2. Identify a way to make sure you can get your medications in a timely manner. This may mean having friends or family assist you or using a pharmacy that offers prescription delivery.

  3. Plan for your pets.  There may be difficulties in getting pet food or your pets may need someone to take care of them if you are hospitalized. If you have pets, make sure you have planned for their needs, too.

  4. Have your attendants wash their hands and use hand sanitizer when they arrive at your home and each time prior to touching or feeding you.  Repeated handwashing can become rough on an attendant’s hands. Using a hand sanitizer can be a way to protect you and their skin.

  5. Regularly clean, sanitize and disinfect the surfaces that are touched in your home to prevent the spread of infection.  If possible, get into the habit of having your attendants do this each time, immediately when they arrive at your home. 

  6. Use disinfecting wipes on items that are frequently touched. These include your telephone, doorknobs, your refrigerator handle, your wheelchair controls, lifting device controls and remote controls. Make this convenient by having wipes near the items that should be regularly cleaned. 

  7. Have your attendant take extra steps to avoid possibly infecting you by wearing a surgical mask if someone close to your attendant – like a member of their household – becomes sick. They should be extra vigilant about not touching their face or yours.

  8. If your attendant becomes sick, urge them to seek medical care and utilize your backup attendants.  Please remember that attendants accrue sick leave and can utilize this.

  9. Take immediate steps to avoid infecting your attendants if you, one of your attendants, or a member of your household begins to feel sick. Protecting their health supports your own independence. Tell all of your attendants if you, one of your attendants, or someone in your household is not feeling well. Ensure everyone washes their hands and uses hand sanitizer regularly. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Individuals should cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. As a person with a disability, it may be difficult for you to cover a cough or sneeze, so we encourage you to wear a surgical mask if you are sneezing or coughing.  It is important to use a surgical mask correctly.  The following link explains how to properly use one. https://www.sfcdcp.org/communicable-disease/healthy-habits/how-to-put-on-and-remove-a-face-mask/  You may not have access to surgical masks as an individual. You should contact your medical provider, your Department of Social Services, or your managed care organization for assistance with this.

  10. If someone in your household becomes sick, take steps to avoid infecting other people.  If possible, have them stay in a separate room of your home to get well. Regularly clean, sanitize and disinfect shared spaces, particularly the bathroom, to avoid spreading the infection. 
  11. If you become sick, seek medical care immediately. As people with disabilities we are at greater risk from illnesses like these. 
  12. If you cannot be supported at home, contact your doctor and notify Taking Control CDPAS so we can make sure you are able to get back home when your situation is resolved. Many of us know people with disabilities who have been institutionalized when they sought medical care, so some people are reluctant to seek medical support. You do not have to put your health and life at risk to preserve your freedom. Taking Control is here to help.

Additional Resources

What you need to know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf

 

Coronavirus Information

WNY Independent Living, Inc. will be posting information and resources on the Coronavirus so as to educate our consumers, volunteers, staff, and stakeholders on best-practices and alerts as it relates to the virus.

The Novel Coronavirus Hotline operated by the NYS Department of Health (1-888-364-3065) has the most accurate and updated information on the Coronavirus for New York residents. 

https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

https://acl.gov/COVID-19

Download:  What to do and where to get accurate up-to-date information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

New York Association on Independent Living

What to do and where to get accurate up-to-date information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Carry and use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, to protect yourself, co-workers and others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you experience flu-like symptoms and have traveled to areas of concern or have been in contact with somebody who has, call ahead to your health care provider before going in to get instructions on how to proceed.
  • Keep your immune system strong by getting enough sleep, eating well and taking medications as prescribed.
  • It is not too late to get a flu shot.

How it is Transmitted

  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person by coughing or sneezing.
  • It may be possible for a person to become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Contact with fecal matter from an infected person may also transmit the virus.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

Resources

Link to County Websites  https://www.health.ny.gov/contact/contact_information/

NY State Information  https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

USA  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.htm

NYC Specific  https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page

https://primecareny.org/

Important Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and NYAIL Programs