I hope you and your family had a good Thanksgiving. At Evergreen, we were not able to hold our normal large dinners, but residents in each of our community homes enjoyed a small Thanksgiving with their roommates and direct support staff. Many of the individuals we serve also had a great time decorating their homes for Christmas. I am writing to provide an update regarding new challenges we have been facing with COVID-19.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again at Evergreen. We have seen an increase in cases in the people we serve and our staff members in all the states where we provide services except Georgia and Florida.
Since November 1, 2020, positive cases have resulted in five additional homes undergoing quarantines in Louisiana, six in Texas, one in Kentucky and one in Oklahoma. In Tennessee and Arkansas, there has been an increase in cases in persons served and staff members.
I reported in an update to you last month that our Kentucky offices were forced to close after an outbreak. Tragically, one of our Kentucky staff members passed away from COVID-19 this weekend. Her death is a painful and grim reminder that COVID-19 is still with us.
Even with all of this news, we have a reason to be hopeful that we are nearing the end of this pandemic. Evergreen’s operations team is actively planning for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to pharmacies and health care providers. In early November, we responded to a request to register the number of all of the individuals we serve in order to reserve enough of the vaccine for them.
Because people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are considered high-risk, the people we serve have the opportunity to be among the first to be able to get the vaccine. As front-line workers, our Direct Support Professionals will also have the same opportunity to receive the vaccine first. This means that these individuals may be able to get the first dose of the vaccine as early as the end of this month.
Just as we do with the flu shot, Evergreen will encourage the COVID-19 shot for the people we serve and our staff members. We will be keeping all family members/guardians who are healthcare surrogates for an individual served fully informed about our vaccination rollout plan, and we will not allow our healthcare providers to administer the vaccine without written consent for this group of individuals. If you are a family member or guardian and have any questions about the vaccine, please contact the Executive Director of the Division where your loved one resides or is supported.
I know that many of the people we serve are eager to see their loved ones for the holidays, and we would love to accommodate you. However, we must follow our holiday visitation guidelines implemented before Thanksgiving to ensure that we are keeping all of the people entrusted in our care as safe possible. Here is the link to the guidelines on our website.
Please note that even if the first dose of the vaccine is given before Christmas, the second dose is needed to be effective, and cannot be given until 28 days following the first.
I appreciate your understanding and prayers. I know that we are overwhelmed by all of the changes COVID-19 has brought to 2020. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring many blessings, including a return to normalcy.
I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!