Well, we’re now in our third month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and things are starting to shift. While the virus is still impacting people across the world, we are seeing some changes in the data. COVID-19 is proving fatal for seven out of ten people over age eighty who contract the virus. The rate drops to approximately 14.7% for people between the ages of fifty and seventy, and to 1.7% for people under twenty. In Ohio, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities are reporting over 60% of all new COVID cases. With the recent loosening of stay-at-home restrictions, we’ve seen a spike in identified cases in Ohio jumping from about 450 to almost 800 in one day.
So, what does this mean for Boundless?
If Gov. DeWine is shifting from “required” to “highly suggested” restrictions and rules, does that mean that Boundless is going to re-open all of our programs and open our doors to unrestricted access? In short, “not so fast” is the answer. Boundless is going to err on the side of caution—the people we serve include a very high percentage of individuals who have pre-existing medical conditions and are otherwise at very high risk. I would even say that many of the folks we serve, while not in the over eighty age group, still fall into that high-risk category because of their medical challenges. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to re-open. It does mean that we are going to be very thoughtful and cautious in HOW we re-open to minimize the risk of exposure and restrict the spread of the virus.
Believe me, I am as anxious as anyone to get Boundless back up and operating. The precautions we have taken have been necessary but have certainly put a strain on our finances, and more importantly, on you and the people we serve. With staff and residents cooped up in quarantine status and little or no opportunities for outside social interaction, everyone wants this to end. But please, please understand – the COVID virus is as virulent and present today as it was three months ago—nothing has changed about that.
The bottom line is that all of our assumptions and projections for Boundless are based upon us ramping back up by August. We still have that target in sight. We are now determining how to reconfigure our work environments, what new work schedules are required, and what PPE is necessary to protect staff and the individuals we serve. These and many, many other visible and behind the scenes initiatives will help us open while prioritizing safety and good health. We will get there, and I’ll have more to share on the topic in the weeks to come.
I also want to take this opportunity to address the subject of hazard pay. I’ve been hearing a lot about hazard pay and want to let you know where I stand. While our resources and financial projections will not allow us to provide hazard pay from our operating funds, I am (and Boundless is) absolutely supportive of local and national initiatives to make such pay possible. I serve on the board of a national organization that, like OPRA in Ohio, is focused on lobbying for I/DD and complex needs populations and service organizations. Our efforts are finally starting to pay off in tangible ways, as seen with the recent passage by the US House of Representatives of the HEROES Act. This third stimulus package includes specific language and funding aimed at hazard pay for frontline nonprofit workers, as well as forgivable loan programs for organizations like ours to retain and re-hire staff. That stimulus package now has to pass the US Senate and be signed by the President. We’re keeping the pressure on and encourage everyone else to do the same. It is time congress recognizes and addresses the critical work organizations and staff like ours do to support this country’s highest-risk populations.
The last item I’ll address today is in regard to PTO. As you may know, our policies and processes around PTO have remained the same throughout the pandemic, with one caveat—we asked that authorizations for PTO be considered on a case-by-case basis to avoid any staffing gaps at essential service levels. Now that home quarantine and travel restrictions are being loosened, I know that staff will be anxious to start planning vacations and other uses of PTO. Again, knowing that the Pandemic response is a marathon, not a sprint—please help by working with your supervisor to ensure adequate staffing and coverage—try to be planful with your PTO requests. The more everyone can help, the more ability we will have to start loosening up and letting people plan to use PTO.
I hope everyone has a great remainder of the week.