The following is an email from our Executive Director, Ruth Masterson, to all staff and volunteers:
A small number of coronavirus cases have now been announced in both Montgomery and Prince George’s County, and, as you know, the outbreak here is highly contagious.
I want to first express appreciation to all of you for the work that you do, building a more resilient, compassionate, and interconnected community through our meal delivery program. Your dedication and perseverance with meal preparation and delivery is a key piece of the solution that our society needs as we face this pandemic together. Getting meals to our vulnerable neighbors allows them to stay in their homes, not needing to venture out for food, or move into institutional facilities – either of which would expose them to this new virus. Your work is as important as anyone’s in reducing transmission and protecting our clients, perhaps more so, because of the preventative work that you do to protect and nurture our clients.
In other words, our work at Meals on Wheels is part of our community’s solution in this time. I’m honored to work with you in doing this in a way that protects you as well as our clients in a way that minimizes any risk.
We are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect YOU as well. Luckily, our organizational structure is pretty well suited to protect our volunteers during this time. I have some additional procedures outlined below to protect us further.
I’ve been keeping close tabs on not only the news but also the latest research as best I can, as well as communicating with other Meals on Wheels programs across the country. Earlier this week, we sent out an email (with links) to all volunteers and a message (with CDC flyers) to clients. We ordered hand sanitizer and face masks a few days ago and, due to reduced supplies, expect them to be here in a couple of weeks. At the kitchen, we are wiping doorknobs and cooler handles daily with disinfectant.
One of the things that research shows about the spread of infection generally (not just COVID-19) is that being proactive – taking steps before they seem required – has a much greater impact than being reactive – taking steps after the illness is documented in our community.
There are several steps that YOU can take now to be proactive and reduce the risk to our clients, ourselves, and our communities. Please read the following carefully:
A. Follow previous recommendations:
If you’re sick, call in (301-434-1922) and stay home
Get a flu shot (CVS on Carroll Avenue still had flu shots as of 3/10)
Avoid close contact with clients…or anyone, really. Elbow bumps and toe taps are good alternatives to hugs for the time being
Wash those hands yet again.
B. If you can find any to purchase for use between now and the end of the month, please donate: Hand sanitizer; rubbing alcohol; aloe vera gel; empty hand sanitizer bottles (we can use 8); disposable masks.
C. NEW: please wash your hands at the beginning and end of each shift (Deliverers/Drivers/Runners, also!), AND follow specific requests below.
Maintain regular safety procedures meticulously: wash hands, wear gloves, wash your hands again if you touch your face or eat food, disinfect counters and tables with bleach spray any time you change what you are using them for.
DELIVERERS, DRIVERS, RUNNERS:
Wash your hands in the Meals on Wheels kitchen before going out on your route and after you get back, before you head home.
Call clients prior to delivery so they know you are coming and can get to the door.
When you get to a client’s home, leave your meal in the bag on door handle, knock, step back 6’ and wait for them to open the door. Let them know where the bag is, say a friendly hello (from a distance), and depart.
If they did not answer their phone and do not come to the door, grab the bag off the doorknob and bring it back to the kitchen.
Bring with you and use, if you have it:
Hand sanitizer or wipes to use between drop-offs because we need to keep YOU well;
Face mask of any type to wear while you are delivering, because individuals can be infected and contagious before they realize they are sick – if you cough during this phase, you can infect a client, and we want to keep THEM well;
Disposable gloves: remember that they can get dirty just as your hands can, but they are not a bad idea if you have to open a door or be anywhere that feels that hygiene is lacking. Although COVID-19 is not believed to be transmitted through touch, we also need to reduce the spread of all illnesses because they dampen the immune system and we want to keep EVERYONE well.
If a client is coughing, or seems sick, ask them if they’ve received and read the CDC handout that we sent out, “what to do if you are sick,” AND if they have called their health care provider. If it’s a medical emergency, including if they seem to be having trouble breathing, call 911 first, any emergency contacts second, and, third, the office at 301-434-1922 so we can call emergency contacts. During this outbreak, stay safe and don’t risk infection yourself, but there are action steps we can take to help them get medical care.
Remain aware that people infected with COVID-19 are most contagious just before symptoms, or at the moment of early, mild symptoms, and that transmission is primarily through short-lived bursts of droplets in the air after a cough – not primarily through touch – so just keep a 6’ distance for your sake and our clients’.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with updates as we work through this together. Your support is critical to help continue to provide uninterrupted service to our clients so that they do not go hungry and to keep them protected. I, and all of us here, are deeply grateful to you for all that you do.