Agency Response to COVID-19: April 17, 2020


April 17, 2020

To Employees, Parents, Families, Caregivers and Directors of the Board

NEW: The Emergency order for the province of Ontario has been extended to May 12th. It is likely to be reextended. School closures remain until year end and the school boards will plan for September return, however that takes place.

As of April 17th, group home workers can have access to the 24/7 daycare, being recognized as essential workers supporting Ontario’s most vulnerable.

Please take the time to practice with your PPE, donning/doffing, with the personal equipment given to you. Please practice in a clean environment and refold your equipment for future active use.

Wearing your cloth mask. Some tips:
• Practice at home when you are relaxed
• Meditate and breathe slowly
• Dress comfortably when working, so that you do not overheat
• Take breaks for yourself, ensuring handwashing before and after and whenever you put on or take off your mask
• If you wear glasses, ensure the nose piece is secured as low as possible so that it does not ride up. Ensure the fabric is close to your cheeks, pulled nicely under your chin and the ties well adjusted. This will prevent fogging. Wash your glasses with anti fogger if you can.

Group homes have been designated PRIORITY for testing. Anyone tested should be fast tracked. DSP should also be fast tracked if being tested. This new process was implemented April 10th.

Please practice physical distancing and no new contacts when you are dealing with your personal life. Avoid new meetings, dates or play dates. It is very challenging but will help protect countless vulnerable individuals.

Remember to also practice physical distancing in the home with all STAFF and INDIVIDUALS. Reorganize furniture to distance between people, reschedule meals so that physical distancing is maintained- remember this is the one time of the day where droplets can contaminate areas.

Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Seniors can present COVID-19 atypical symptoms. These can range from:
• Unexplained fatigue/malaise
• Delirium (acutely altered mental status and inattention)
• Falls
• Acute functional decline
• Exacerbation of chronic conditions
• Chills
• Headaches
• Abdominal pain

Contact family physician or Telehealth if a person is showing health issues. We are even more diligent now since presentation is much broader than how it originally started.

Town halls will continue to occur every Thursday. We will alternate between 3:15 PM and 7:15 AM.

Portal to view test results-

Please review the PPE videos and ensure you record the viewing and understanding.



On April 4th, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services issued an emergency order.
• This emergency order is a temporary measure to provide flexibility to developmental services agencies to redirect their staffing and efforts to essential tasks. The authorities provided by the order will support our shared objective of:

    • Slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keep people from needing hospitalization.
    • Supporting critical services and use existing resources flexibly, as enabled in the March 24, 2020 memo that communicated key financial supports and flexibilities
    • Focusing on maintaining the health and safety of people and the staff who support them
    • Working collaboratively with employees and their bargaining representatives to achieve these objectives.
    • The full order can be found: Emergency Management Ontario website at

The After hours clinic has a new phone number 705-444-5885 where you can speak to a receptionist during office hours re. health concerns. They direct you to go onto website and click on ” Get on Waitlist”. A nurse then calls to get details of concerns and a Dr calls you back later.

Please record every individual’s temperatures morning and evening. This should be done in daily notes in Sharevision. If the person’s temperature is above the norm, please contact your manager. Normal temperature is 36.5 to 37.2 Celcius.

DSP specific training regarding COVID-19 can be found here: You can find handwashing, PPE and various other tutorials.

Continue to clean all boxes, products, packaging that enters in to the home following the specific outlined process. We know it is a time consuming process but the virus has been known to stay on some surfaces for 3 days.

Should you decide to go for a drive or a walk, in order to manage behavior, please carry your letter and ID card in case you are questioned. Outline your role and the reason that you are out walking or driving (to ensure behavior safety for individual and fellow group home residents). One to one are better than large groups.

Please be aware that several of the Facebook posts, that are reposted, do not have credible sources. There are no cures or vaccines for COVID 19. Please follow the resources at the bottom of this memo.

We want to thank all employees at all levels- Direct Support Professionals in the home and community, the administrative team organizing logistics, managers who are available and children and family services available to parents and caregivers during this challenging period of history.

Currently, Ontario has over 8, 700 cases and continues to rise in Canada. Please continue physical distancing practices and avoid interactions with new people. The global situation continues to evolve.

Remember that our EAP program has several tools for your and your family to support you during this period of time.

We have a more robust screening process that is implemented in all the homes. You will be required to answer a series of questions, take a temperature and sign at every shift.

We are connecting with each other several times daily with Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, and it would be a great way to continue after this situation has passed. It allows for up to date and timely connectivity.

Remember to avoid touching your face. Frequently touching one’s face results in the spread of cold and flu germs.

Individuals we support
• PLEASE INFORM MANAGEMENT SHOULD SOMEONE NOT BE WELL IN THE HOME. This is the normal practice at any other time as individuals will get sick. We need to ensure that they stay healthy.

• PLEASE DO NOT GO TO WORK SICK. Call your manager.
• PPE: We are following best practices from the government of Ontario and guidelines for health community services and long term care facilities. Hand washing frequently, enhanced cleaning of surfaces and self-screening of self and residents is best. The use of PPE during regular care should not be used. Routine practices during personal hygiene is advised. We do have processes we will put in place should isolation be required in a home. Remember that it is contact and NOT airborne.
• Please see Sharevision for a listing of special store hours for seniors and people with disabilities.
• Find resources online specifically for direct support professionals working during COVID-19 at

Children Services
• Virtual activities with EarlyON are on Facebook and through virtual classroom! You can also call the Centre.

Basic information
• Please wash hand with soap and water, 20 seconds, using a proven hand washing technique.
• Surfaces should be cleaned regularly according to protocol.
• Borders are closed. Do not travel.
• This guidance is also from our Health Unit as outlined below

    • All international should report to your local public health unit within 24 hours of arriving in Canada (in Simcoe Muskoka contact SMDHU at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520);
    • stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in your home, for a total of 14 days from the date that you left Canada; and
    • monitor your health for fever, cough and difficulty breathing and contact Telehealth 1866-797-0000, your health care provider, or your local public health department by phone (in Simcoe Muskoka contact SMDHU at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520), if you develop symptoms of COVID-19.
    • If you need further advice, please call Telehealth 1-866-797-0000, your health care provider, or your local public health unit (in Simcoe Muskoka call SMDHU at 705-7217520 or 1-877-721-7520)
    • If you are ill and must visit a hospital or health care professional, call ahead and tell them that you have a respiratory illness.

Our sources

• Non-essential visits are suspended
• If you are or someone you live with are exhibiting any flu like systems such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing; Please report to your physician’s office or the screening centre at Collingwood General & Marine Hospital

Practice Good Hygiene
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available;
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands with soap;
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hand;
• If you or a member of your family are sick, stay home. And please, do not visit our programs or residences to limit the chance those in our care from becoming ill.

Your Steering Committee:

Christine Vallis-Page Scott Kelly Peter Doner
Tracy Nancekivell Patricia Green Lori McKean
Heather Grasman Deborah Sauvé (JH&SC) Irene Currie(JH&SC)
Salvina Lutz (JH&SC) Kim Saunders Nancy MacDonald
Cindy Boyce Robin Galati Melanie Cathcart
Shannon Mathieson

We will continue to update you daily through memo, email and social media. Please send your questions or comments to the Steering Committee. We are raising awareness and plan to stay ahead of potential spread. Visit our website for all the memos under about us > news. Keep in mind that directions will change rapidly and will require fluidity. These are unusual times and we are thankful for your continued support. We thank you for your dedicated work and support to some of our most vulnerable Ontarians.

Best regards,

Christine Vallis-Page