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For Immediate Release

Easterseals Update and Phased Reopening Plans

May 13, 2020

Easterseals Arkansas Families and Guardians,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well during this COVID-19 pandemic. I am happy to continue to report that we still do not have any known positive cases of COVID-19 among staff or any of the individuals we are continuing to serve in our open programs. Keeping people safe has always been our top priority.

I wanted to provide you with another update with regards to our currently closed programs and our plan to begin reopening on June 1. Specifically, with regard to our currently closed programs, I want to share with you the criteria we are using to help determine when we will reopen, the health and safety measures we are implementing, and the current timeframe for reopening.

As a reminder, our currently closed programs include: our Little Rock and Stuttgart Developmental Preschools and our adult day program at the Center for Training and Wellness (CTW). Additionally, the following programs also have staff who have been furloughed and are operating on a limited basis: Outpatient Therapy and our K-12 Academy at Riverdale.

Criteria for Reopening Programs

The Easterseals Arkansas (ESA) Board has established five key criteria for determining when closed programs can reopen:

  1. Community COVID-19 Trends – Are the overall COVID-19 cases and severity of those cases in the community on the decline? Or, has there been a secondary wave of infections as businesses start to reopen? Any significant spike in cases, hospitalizations, or ventilator usage may delay reopening but at the present time we are on target to reopen June 1.
  2. Availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Do we have and can we continue to acquire sufficient supplies of PPE (gloves, masks, hand sanitizers, and cleaning supplies) to safely reopen? We believe that with our current inventory and the increase in the availability of new supply vendors that we will have the necessary PPE supplies.
  3. Family Readiness – Based on program directors calls, are the families and guardians of the individuals we serve ready to have them return to the currently closed program? The feedback from families and guardians of individuals is that most are ready to return in phase 1 or phase 2 of reopening.
  4. Staff Availability – Are we able to staff the demand that families have for the program without compromising the open programs? With over 60 staff on furlough and another 19 staff now employed in open programs, we are working diligently to schedule the return of furloughed staff and hire new staff.
  5. Economic Viability – Can the closed program reopen without the need for subsidization from fundraising or other sources? Given the uncertainty in being able to conduct large fundraising events over the next 9-18 months, we will be working to increase enrollment and attendance in the programs that are reopening to ensure their long-term viability

Health and Safety Measures

In order to ensure the health and safety of individuals we serve and the staff who serve them, ESA continues to carefully monitor and implement the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Governor Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA). As part of our reopening plans, among other things, we will be implementing the following measures:

  1. Staff Training – Prior to reopening, staff will be trained on increased daily cleaning protocols and on the appropriate usage of masks, gloves, and potentially other required PPE that will be provided by ESA.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Staff will be provided masks, gloves, and any other PPE that is needed to adhere to the health and safety guidelines from the CDC, Governor, ADH, and AHCA.
  3. Daily Screening – Anyone entering the building (including staff, individuals served, parents/guardians, and visitors) will have their temperature taken and will need to answer screening questions.
  4. Social Distancing – We will be following social distancing guidelines as much as possible in each program by keeping group sizes to 10 or less. Groups will remain separate for the entire day, which will result in changes in lunch procedures, therapy services, and leisure activities.
  5. Daily Cleaning – Service Professionals will be sterilizing all high touch areas each night and will come in one week prior to re-opening to do a deep cleaning.
  6. Hand-Sanitizer Stations – Stations are being installed throughout the facilities – outside of each classroom, therapy treatment room, breakroom, and at each entrance.

Estimated Time Frame for Reopening

Based on what we know about community COVID-19 trends, availability of PPE, and current family readiness, we are currently targeting Monday, June 1 for phase one of reopening for our Little Rock and Stuttgart Developmental Preschools and our adult day program at CTW. To prepare, we will bring back staff for this first phase on Friday, May 22 for program planning, cleaning and training.

Forced to navigate an unprecedented crisis, we closed our programs for all the right reasons. We put health and safety of the individuals we serve and of our staff as priorities, but we have certainly missed seeing each of you! We are excited to begin the reopening process and welcome back our children and adults that have had to remain at home during this pandemic.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me or the rest of the leadership team by sending us an email to covid19@eastersealsar.com. We look forward to seeing you soon and in the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

Heartfelt regards,
Ron Ekstrand
CEO, Easterseals Arkansas

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