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COVID Resource Page


Maryland SILC OPERATIONS COVID-19 UPDATE – March 9, 2021

Due to the Coronavirus health emergency, our physical office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 9am-4pm, Wednesday 9am-4pm virtually, Friday 9am-3pm, except holidays. Due to our small size, it may occasionally take several days for us to return your call or respond to an email.  Items mailed to SILC’s office may not be received or processed immediately. Please consider using email correspondence as much as possible.
Our main line – (301) 637-5723 – is checked several times a day, please leave a message and we’ll return your call as soon as possible.
Should you require an in-person meeting due to disability, please call to schedule an appointment. Plan to follow strict social distancing recommendations and wear a mask, unless it interferes with communication, or other disability or health related concerns. We will provide you with a mask if you do not have one.
We will continue monitoring the Coronavirus Health Emergency while working on statewide projects and adhering to our statutory responsibilities, including addressing systemic issues that impact Idahoans with disabilities and their families.


ACL Policy Update: What ACL’s networks need to know about CMS’ new COVID-19 vaccine rule

By Alison Barkoff, Acting ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging

COVID-19 has been devastating for people living in congregate settings, with residents experiencing among the highest rates of infection and comprising nearly one-third of deaths. They have been isolated from friends and families throughout the pandemic, and many who wanted to transition to smaller, safer settings in the community have faced barriers due to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine is providing hope. As residents and staff of congregate settings have begun to get vaccinated, infection and death rates have dropped, visitation has started to resume, and transitions to the community are picking up (helped by the recently reauthorized Money Follows the Person program). That is why today’s announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of a new rule to improve COVID-19 vaccine access for older adults and people with disabilities in congregate settings is so significant.
This new policy is a powerful step in furthering the Biden Administration’s commitment to equitable vaccine access and ensuring that those who are most at risk – including people living in congregate settings – have access. It also advances the Administration’s focus on racial equity by improving access to vaccines for staff, the majority of whom are women of color.
Today’s rule builds upon prior requirements for COVID-19 testing and reporting in long-term care (LTC) facilities – nursing facilities and skilled nursing facilities. It requires LTC facilities to:
  • Educate residents, clients, and staff about COVID-19 vaccinations; 
  • Offer vaccines to all residents, clients, and staff (when vaccines are available); and 
  • Report vaccination of residents and staff to the CDC’s National Health Care Safety Network (NHSN) database. 

The new rule also recognizes the high risks – and importance of vaccines – in other types of congregate settings. The rule requires Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-IIDs) to provide vaccine education to residents and staff and to offer them vaccines. Because ICF-IIDs do not yet have the infrastructure to report into CDC’s database (unlike LTC facilities), the rule encourages ICF-IIDs to report vaccinations to CDC and seeks public comment on mandating this requirement.

Finally, the rule seeks public comment on applying the vaccine education, access, and reporting requirements to other congregate settings, like assisted living and group homes that are funded through Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) programs, and psychiatric residential treatment facilities. In the interim, the rule encourages these congregate settings to voluntarily adopt culturally and linguistically appropriate and accessible vaccination education and to support individuals in accessing vaccines.

This rule also asks for input from the public on future actions CMS could take to help ensure the health and well-being of individuals living in congregate settings. Your input is important! There is a list of questions CMS has for stakeholders in the rule, but they include: 
  • What barriers exist to the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination policy for residents and staff of all congregate living facilities?  
  • How can equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines be ensured for residents of congregate settings? 
  • How can regulations be revised to ensure that congregate settings are able to reduce the spread of COVID-19? 
  • Whether your state or county has included residential and adult day health or day habilitation staff on the vaccine-eligible list of health care providers? What other impediments do staff face in getting access to vaccines?  
Your knowledge and expertise are crucial, and I encourage you to weigh in before the comment period closes in 60 days. Instructions for how to submit comments can be found in the Federal Register notice.

ACL is pleased to have worked with our colleagues at CMS on this important new rule. This rule reflects the strong advocacy by the disability and aging communities about the need to protect the lives of people with disabilities and older adults in all congregate settings. This new policy is an important step in our fight together against COVID-19, in ensuring that the people most at risk have access to vaccines, and in putting systems in place to protect that the health and safety of people in congregate settings moving forward.

 

You can find more information about today’s rule on CMS’ website.
For COVID-19 information and resources for people with disabilities and older adults, visit ACL’s COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 Vaccine Reluctance

by Tim Fuchs, NCIL (IL-NET Training Logistics Coordinator)

and Mary Willard, APRIL (IL-NET Peer Mentor Coordinator)

152 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccination against COVID-19 
(Washington Post). That’s just over 45% of the total population. It’s great progress, but 45% is still far short of the 70%+ of the population that we will need vaccinated to achieve any sort of herd immunity to stop widespread transmission of COVID-19.
Just a few weeks ago, many people found it almost impossible to get an appointment for a vaccine and the roll out was hampered by vaccine supply shortages and bottlenecks. Now, appointments are significantly easier to find, vaccine supply seems to be plentiful, but we have dropped to the lowest rate of vaccinations since mid-March 

(Washington Post). We are reaching a point where most of the people who want to be vaccinated are able to do so, and many of the people who remain unvaccinated are undecided or have no intention of getting vaccinated. A recent survey of people with disabilities conducted by the American Association on Health & Disability (AAHD) found that people with disabilities who were hesitant or refused to be vaccinated were most concerned with vaccine safety than with access to the vaccine. In other words, most of the individuals responding to the survey could access the vaccine, but did not want to take it or were still unsure. Many of the individuals responding to the survey – and people with disabilities in general – have legitimate concerns about the impact of the vaccines on their disabilities and underlying health conditions. Those concerns are valid and should not be minimized. However, a majority of survey respondents who refused to be vaccinated said that they were motivated by a distrust of the federal government, government officials, or vaccine producers. There are still millions of undecided individuals who could help us move towards herd immunity to make things safer for all of us, and especially individuals who cannot be vaccinated because of disability or other underlying health conditions.

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can and should help promote the vaccines and encourage consumers to be vaccinated. We need to respect the expertise and lived experience of people who are concerned that their disabilities or underlying health issues might react unfavorably to the vaccines. But for others, CILs are trusted community organizations who can change minds and assist people with disabilities to access vaccines. These activities are allowable with CARES Act funds and likely the forthcoming vaccine funding Part C funded CILs will receive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Consider how you can use meetings, videos, social media, and other avenues to get the word out about getting vaccinated and about vaccine safety. Studies are showing that political leaders and research are not changing minds for people who are vaccine hesitant. Information from friends, and local, trusted individuals, and seeing those trusted individuals talk about their experiences getting vaccinated are convincing people that they should get vaccinated. CILs are in a great position to be that source.

CILs and partnering organizations across the country are working together to eliminate some of the barriers people with disabilities and those who are aging experience in gaining access to vaccines. One of the major barriers for people in rural settings is transportation.

To address barriers of getting to the vaccine sites, many CILs are utilizing creative partnerships for transportation. There are CILs who have used CARES Act funding to contract with transportation companies in their communities such as Uber, Lyft, and taxis to provide free rides for people with disabilities to any of the vaccination sites. A few CILs have their own transportation companies to address rural shortages and were able to provide rides. These companies vary in size and scope. For example, one rural CIL in Wisconsin, coordinates a volunteer ride share program supplemented by accessible vans the CIL owns. At a rural CIL in Colorado, the CIL owns accessible vehicles that blends funding from the Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) with CIL funds to enhance their operation. Other communities are using this opportunity to advocate with their local Department of Transportation to expand hours and routes to get folks to the vaccination sites.

For folks who can’t leave home, there are many creative solutions happening. Some CILs are partnering with local public health departments and Meals on Wheels to help identify folks who are not able to get to a site and connect them with a public health nurse who can go to their homes to administer vaccines. In Idaho, the SILC partnered with allied organizations to implement a pop-up vaccine site in a rural community that was having difficulty physically getting to the other sites and to address apprehension around getting the vaccine. It included education, vaccines, and fun giveaways. A few CILs chose to become vaccine sites themselves since they are already a location and organization that many people with disabilities know and trust. 

There are CILs like the one in Michigan that used some of their CARES Act funds to train and coordinate volunteers to accompany and support individuals through the vaccine process who might be anxious because of their disability or for other reasons to get the vaccine. There are also advocacy initiatives around ensuring proper access at vaccine sites including physical, American Sign Language (ASL), and plain language information that can also help address reluctance. There is advocacy around expanding the vaccine time slots to give more room in the day for problems, such as late transportation which CILs report helps lower consumer anxiety. Many CILs are also offering support to individuals in navigating the vaccine registration system and assisting with educating on misconceptions around the vaccine.

We know that CILs are on the front lines when it comes to making sure our community gets the vaccines that they need. The IL-NET operated by ILRU with support from APRIL, NCIL, and the University of Montana Rural Institute and RTC: Rural thank you for the commitment and creativity that you have dedicated to the cause. We are here if you need us to brainstorm, offer potential solutions, assist with finding resources, or to just give you our thanks and support to keep up the good work.

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