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COVID 19 President Update May 7

Dear Cushing Community,

I hope that you and your families continue to stay safe and healthy during this time. As I had shared in our last community update, the Cushing Community is now feeling the surge of COVID-19. Since our last update, we have had six additional staff test positive and four individuals that we support test positive. Of this group, almost half are asymptomatic. We have also had 2 staff recover and return to work and a combined total of more than 20 staff and individuals test negative this week. 

Each week brings more news. I will always share the good and the bad. There have been many requests made around access to testing for both the individuals we support and our staff. Until there is a mandate from the government, we cannot mandate our staff be tested for COVID. We continue to recommend resources for various testing sites in the area and are encouraging all of our staff to get tested. Per Governor Baker, all of our staff are considered “essential healthcare employees” during this crisis and the process should be relatively easy for them to be approved for the various testing sites. If there are additional questions around accessing testing sites, please reach out to HR.

We have been very fortunate that all of our adult participants and the staff that are supporting adult homes have had access to mobile testing through Department of Developmental Services & Fallon mobile testing unit. Unfortunately, this same access has not been readily available on the student side. I have had many conversation with other school leaders around accessibility for testing and it seems without having symptoms, this is nearly impossible to come by.

A few weeks back, the Town of Hanover launched a mobile integrated health program to support residents of Hanover during the COVID pandemic. At that time, I had reached out to Chief Jeffrey Blanchard of the Hanover Fire Department to see if this was something our community could access. He assured me yes, and said that the criteria for accessing testing would be that patients must present with symptoms such as fever and/or cough. Patients could be screened and testing was determined by health care professionals at South Shore Mobile Integrated Health. As we know, this virus doesn’t always present with symptoms so access was very challenging for our residential students. 

This Monday, I reached out to Chief Blanchard again to share my concerns around access to testing and asked for their support. The Hanover Fire Department and Town Nurse called upon their partners at South Shore Health and provided a letter on behalf of Cardinal Cushing to MADPH and MEMA describing our community’s need to access testing. Not only did they make the request for access to tests, but Dr. Kelly Lannutti, the medical director of the South Shore Health Mobile Integrated Health, requested oropharyngeal swabs as the nasopharyngeal swabs may have been uncomfortable for our students during testing. This request was approved yesterday and our teams began to work on a plan for testing, accessing guardian permission and prepping our students with social stories on what was to be expected.

Yesterday afternoon, Hanover Fire Department first responders and physicians from South Shore Health were here to help our community. Along with this group, our Clinical Director, Bridget Lally, and Emmanuel Manigat, one of our Nurses, dressed in full testing PPE to assist first responders in getting our students tested here on campus. This was an incredible opportunity for our community and I am so grateful for not only their responsiveness, but also the respect and sensitivity that they showed to all of our students.

The test results for our students will be coming in later this week, and in the meantime, our teams in both student and adult services are doing their best to prepare taking the following steps:

  1. Our Nurse Practitioner, Adult Service Nursing Staff, and Health Center Nursing Staff have been training staff on appropriate use of PPE and how to don and doff gowns, masks, gloves and shields etc.;
  2. Our staff have been preparing our PPE kits;
  3. We have contracted with Erlich cleaning Company for deep sanitation treatments– 2 residences and 1 building were treated this week;
  4. Hanover Fire Dept. generously offered their ambulance sterilizing machine to treat one of our residences, isolation sites, and the health center this week; and
  5. 500 face shields will be arriving this afternoon to add to our stock of PPE.

As we see an increase in positive cases in  our community, we expect our staffing levels to decline. We understand that each family situation is different, however, if you are able to safely take your loved one home during this time we would ask that you do so. We will do our best to work out a prompt re-entry plan once it is safe to do so. During this health crisis, Cardinal Cushing reserves the right to move individuals based on the outcome of testing in order to keep those with negative results separate from those who have a positive diagnosis if they cannot safely quarantine in their home. There may also be times that we cannot provide 1:1 staffing, however, this will be looked at on a case by case basis and safety will be taken into consideration. We will continue to keep parents informed of these changes and ask for your full support in the coming days and weeks.

Please continue to keep all of our community in your thoughts and prayers, especially our staff. Our staff are dealing with not only their own fears, worries, and anxieties, but also the worries and frustrations of those we support. We have now been through eight weeks of uncertainty, transition, and change, and staff are working harder than they ever have. They are helping to fill vacant shifts, they are spending long shifts in hot, tight, painful masks supporting those that are recovering from this illness and trying to make this whole experience as “normal” as possible. They continue to do so with grace, despite what they are feeling inside. I am so grateful for their dedication and sacrifice.

Please know that we are doing everything in our power to keep everyone safe. We encourage families and staff to reach out to management if you have specific questions or concerns about your loved one. I also encourage staff to reach out to their supervisor, human resources, or myself if they have questions or concerns. Please know that we must maintain HIPPA when discussing those who have tested positive for COVID. If there are staff or individuals who have been directly impacted by someone who has tested positive, they will be notified per our guidelines from DDS, EEC and DPH.

We very much appreciate your support during these challenging times.

Be Well,

Michelle Markowitz
Interim President & CEO