CORE Services Group, Inc. (CORE) and its subsidiaries is a critical organization that services a critical population. We are closely monitoring reports about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and following guidance provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal, state, and local authorities. The CDC has many resources available on their website.

Are CORE’s facilities still open?

Yes, all 40 CORE facilities remain open. CORE takes the COVID-19 public health threat very seriously, particularly as it relates to the safety of our essential workforce and our clients.

The New York State on PAUSE Executive Order indicates that the services provided by CORE are essential. As such, we continue to provide these services to our 3,000 clients every day. The health and human service nonprofit workforce, including those who work in shelters, have been rightfully recognized as essential personnel. CORE employees are considered essential personnel because we continue serving the many families, families with children, and youth who count on us.

What is being done to keep clients and employees safe?

Our top priority is the health and safety of our clients and employees. In accordance with the New York State on PAUSE Executive Order, we have implemented enhanced protocols for the cleaning and disinfection of facilities. Today, our facilities are in full compliance with the New York State Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19 that took effect on March 10, 2020 and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Guidance for Congregate Settings effective March 15, 2020.

We have implemented comprehensive sanitation protocols related to high-touch surfaces. CORE’s maintenance teams are under order to frequently and thoroughly sanitize and disinfect high contact surfaces such as light switches, handrails, door handles, keyboards, counters, and chairs. Our teams, using protective equipment such as gloves, are also frequently and thoroughly dusting and mopping floors at all facilities; vacuuming entryways and high traffic areas; disposing of trash; cleaning restrooms; wiping heat and air conditioner vents; cleaning walls and carpets; dusting horizontal surfaces and light fixtures; immediately cleaning spills; and regularly cleaning and laundering linens.

Under our social distancing protocol, interactions are limited within facilities, mealtimes are staggered to reduce cafeteria crowding, and visitors, including community-based partners, are not permitted. Employee-resident interactions, such as case management, are now limited to informational purposes via phone or internet sessions. Additionally, all intakes are screened for symptoms and exposure. In an effort to limit staff travel, but maintain sufficient and qualified staff, we have implemented a modified schedule for all of our programs. Where permissible, a modified schedule has been implemented with a four-day workweek for Program Staff and three-day work week (12-hour shift) for Operations to reduce the number of staff onsite at the same time and allow time for staff self-care.

CORE anticipates increased staff absenteeism caused by employee or family illness. At each CORE site, Program Directors have implemented an emergency preparedness schedule in anticipation of any employee in need of time off from work. Considerations for the schedule include those that live in close proximity to the site to be able to respond to absenteeism quickly. CORE has shared community resources provided by DHS to aid employees in need of additional childcare or elderly care services.

CORE has directed staff to seek medical attention in the event they are experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms. Where a medical professional has indicated the need for quarantine CORE has complied with the order. As a shelter worker in a facility where a client has tested positive, staff can call (888) 364-3065 to schedule an appointment to be tested for COVID-19. Staff will only be permitted to return to work once cleared by their attending physician. New COVID-19 federal and state labor laws provide eligibility for sick time if applicable. Where applicable, employees are provided with information regarding Paid Family Leave and FMLA and the application process.

What are the protocols in the event that a client or employee tests positive for COVID-19?

CORE has protocols that would immediately be implemented. Recognizing that COVID-19 can affect everyone, staff must quickly identify persons with fever, cough, shortness of breath and ensure they seek medical attention. Persons suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 must be immediately isolated and quarantined in their assigned room.
Staff will accommodate persons with possible or confirmed COVID-19. Residents with symptoms are quarantined in a single room, where possible. If only shared rooms are available, contact DHS for an alternate bed at a quarantine site. If possible, designate the room with the least amount of beds for clients who test positive. Meals are delivered to unit and program staff work collaboratively with the individual to ensure supply of medication. Security should rove the floor as usual but not post near quarantined room. Conduct bed check by receiving verbal confirmation through the door. Do not enter the room.
Staff members who test positive are required to stay home and may return to work once they are cleared by their medical physician. In both circumstances, CORE conducts contact tracking and notifies other employees and staff members as appropriate within the standards of the HIPAA laws.

How has CORE’s leadership sustained communication with their programs and facilities?

Jack Brown, President and CEO, is involved at all levels of communication with our programs, facilities and senior leadership. Mr. Brown participates in weekly online briefings with Program Directors, daily check-ins with senior leadership, and video conferences with staff. Gordon Jackson, Vice President of Community Affairs, Curtis Brown, Director of Operations, and Kevin Allen, Director of Training, continue to conduct site visits across all 40 CORE facilities.

CORE has implemented the use of virtual team meetings via Skype, GoToMeetings, and Zoom to foster real-time communication, promote social distancing and reinforce preventative protocols. CORE conducts weekly meetings with its senior leadership team to discuss protocols related to COVID-19 and share information about the organization’s response. Program Directors use these platforms to hold all staff meetings to highlight the importance of sanitation, cleanliness, policy changes, interaction with clients, reviewing flow charts pertaining to CDC updates and most importantly check in on their well-being.

How is programming for clients being conducted amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

CORE has developed new programming in order to keep clients up to date on the most important news around COVID-19 and to encourage healthy behavior. Programming staff are prohibited from face- to-face meetings with clients. Case Management and other programming services are provided by phone. Case Managers will continue to support clients to connect to resources needed and address questions/concerns raised by clients. This includes presentations on the seriousness of following health and safety guidelines, information on the importance of social distancing, conversations on emergency planning, and new activities for youth clients such as making their own hand sanitizer.

How are critical supplies being maintained?

In order to keep close track of supplies during this sensitive situation, purchasing is being managed from the Corporate Office. By centralizing this process, we are better able to secure and distribute critical supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap, disinfecting spray, and other sanitation products. Program Directors conduct weekly inventory reports to help guide the Corporate Office’s supply and distribution processes.

Although personal protective equipment (PPE) is not included in the guidance provided by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in addition to the provision of gloves, CORE has provided masks for staff to utilize for safety purposes. Staff are also allowed to wear their own PPE if it makes them feel safe and more comfortable. Masks are provided to clients who exhibit symptoms to prevent any possible spread of the virus.

CORE has provided each facility with additional supplies such as bleach, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, paper towels, toilet paper, isopropyl rubbing alcohol 70%, placed throughout the facility. Some facilities have even made their own hand sanitizer with aloe. CORE continues to screen all visitors to minimize exposure of the residents and employees. Staff are encouraged to practice safety measures including washing hands multiple times a day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid close contact with sick people, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

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