Updated March 19, 2019
COVID-19 is upon us and we need to take action to protect our colleagues and our community. We are particularly concerned because many people with differing abilities have immune system issues and therefore, are particularly vulnerable to this virus. For example, people with Down syndrome, like our co-founder and inspiration, John Cronin, are susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
We have consulted with Kathy DiBenedetto, the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center and her staff to devise a plan. We have also consulted information provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Autism Speaks and the National Down Syndrome Society. We are focusing on three issues:
- Educating ourselves and our colleagues on the best health practices
- Engaging in positive health practices
- Reducing physical interaction a.k.a. social distancing
By nature, we are a very social organization, we welcome visitors to our facility and spend time at public events and speaking at conferences and meetings. Many of our staff are huggers. Implementing a program to address COVID-19 will require changes throughout our organization. And while we are encouraging people to work from home, the reality is that fulfilling online orders requires that our Sock Wranglers and Happiness Packers be physically present at our facility.
We have been working with Department of Infection Prevention and Control at Good Samaritan Hospital to develop a comprehensive education program for our employees. On Thursday, March 19, the Director of that Department, Kathy DiBenedetto, conducted a training and educational session for our employees. We shared that session through a Facebook Live broadcast and video on our YouTube Channel. Kathy taught us how to best wash our hands, engage in sneeze and cough etiquette, wipe down surfaces and engage in positive health practices.
We will provide our colleagues with material they can use to practice good hygiene on the job and at home.
Positive Health Practices in the Workplace
We start by requiring anyone who is feeling sick to stay home. We will encourage anyone not feeling well to consult with his or her personal doctor. We have reviewed our personnel policies to ensure that it is easy for an employee to stay home and take care of his or her health. We are asking sick employees to remain home for 14 days or until cleared by a physician.
Upon entering our building, we will require all employees to wash their hands. Given that many of our colleagues have a differing ability, we are establishing a schedule where all employees wash their hands every two hours. We will have reminders on how to thoroughly wash one’s hands.
We are taking these additional actions:
- We are conducting a thorough cleaning of the facility.
- We are establishing a schedule to wipe down common surfaces three times per day.
- We are putting up educational posters on hand washing and sneezing and coughing etiquette.
- We will provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- We are encouraging our employees to avoid physical contact, so no more handshakes or hugging. (We have a lot of huggers.)
- We are providing gloves for use with inventory.
Reducing Physical Interaction
We need to reduce physical contact and promote social distancing. In accordance with the directions issued by Governor Cuomo, we will no more than 25 percent of our workforce in our facility at any one time. More specifically, we will limit to five the total number of Sock Wranglers and Fulfilment team members working in our warehouse at any one time. That will reduce the density of people in our facility.
We want to limit outside visitors to our facility, so we are taking these steps:
- We are suspending all warehouse tours and offering Skype visits instead.
- We are suspending all work groups.
- We are asking employees to bring lunch or to order out which we will do collectively.
- We will provide drinks and snacks to minimize the need to leave and come back into the building.
We are encouraging those who can work from home to do so and we have provided the resources necessary to make this possible.
Mark and John have suspended public appearances and speaking engagements (which makes John particularly sad.)
We take these steps to protect our colleagues and to slow the spread of this virus in the community.
For more information, you may want to consider a Fact Sheet put out by the National Down Syndrome Society.