Update From Dan Fagin on CJE's Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020

Dear CJE Clients, Residents, Family Members, and Caregivers:

We are now almost two months into the “new normal” brought upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Leadership Team and Board members continue to have almost daily discussions about how we can help our community’s seniors during this evolving situation.  We are following closely the recommended guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA), Cook County Health Department,  Lake County Health Department… and other local regulatory health authorities… to protect our residents, staff and community members. Please know that in regard to testing, we are following CDC and IDPH guidelines; however, contrary to some media reports, there are still limitations to widespread testing for employees.  This situation may be changing soon and we will let you know when it does.

In the meantime, here’s an update on what is happening at CJE as of May 1:

  1. CJE’s Main Office (located at the Bernard Horwich JCC) remains closed to non-essential staff and walk-in clients. We are still taking phone calls at 773.508.1000 to provide information or perform consultations during normal business hours. In advance, we apologize if we are taking a little longer to return phone calls as our volume of calls is quite high. We are, however, planning for a phased-in approach to open community-based services and functions from this building, but it will most likely take several months to get back to “pre-COVID” levels.  We are also utilizing this opportunity to consider new business models in the future.

  2. Most administrative employees are working remotely. Other employees are prohibited from traveling to CJE’s different buildings to lessen the potential of virus spread.

  3. Adult Day Services in Evanston and Deerfield (at Friend Center) remain closed. We will adhere to IDOA Guidelines and implement many precautions to protect clients when we are eventually permitted to open.

  4. Home-delivered meals continue to be delivered to frail or homebound individuals. Volunteers who deliver meals have been given new protocols that practice social distancing and prevent them from entering any homes. Masks and gloves are provided to them.

  5. All staff working in a CJE residential building, in any role, are being paid at a premium. Those who are working directly with confirmed or suspected cases are receiving additional pay.

  6. While we have had confirmed cases of residents and staff with COVID-19 at both Lieberman Center and Weinberg Community, following recommended precautions has enabled us to limit the spread. There is an isolation wing at Lieberman for confirmed cases or for those who may have been exposed (e.g., they are coming back from the hospital). At Weinberg, residents with confirmed/suspected cases are confined to their apartments. In addition, a limited number of staff are assigned to these residents.  For more information, visit the website www.dph.illinois.gov to review resident/staff cases at Lieberman Center.  

  7. All staff have been provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) throughout the pandemic, without limitations.  Those employees working with confirmed or suspected cases are given higher levels of PPE, such as N95 masks, shields, etc.

  8. We have placed orders for 70,000 masks, over 200,000 gloves, 18,000 gowns, hundreds of face shields and goggles and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Orders will continue to be placed so that we have adequate supplies to carry us through this pandemic, however long it may last.  We are also delivering PPE to clients of Holocaust Community Services and residents in our independent housing buildings.

  9. Lieberman Center in Skokie and Weinberg Community in Deerfield are continuing to limit people in these buildings to only essential medical personnel and staff.  This means that individuals are not allowed to come into these facilities except for special circumstances such as end-of-life situations or when it is medically necessary. Anyone allowed to enter these buildings will answer a few simple screening questions and undergo a temperature check.

I will add that we have been very innovative in re-imagining many of our programs so we can provide clients and residents with services such as telehealth counseling, friendly visits via phone, Zoom or SKYPE meetings with family members whose loved ones are at Lieberman Center or Weinberg Community, and streaming life enrichment classes… and much, much more.  In the next couple of weeks, especially as the weather gets warmer, we hope to facilitate more outside or window visits between residents and family members, perhaps even offering some patio dining options while still abiding by the social distancing rules.  We MUST emphasize that families need to respect the restrictions that we have put in place or risk endangering the residents and staff at our buildings.  Although there are no guarantees, the health experts have stated that these precautions can limit the spread of the disease.

On a more positive note, we are still planning for the summer opening of Tamarisk, our new independent living community in Deerfield.  We are getting phone calls from future residents who want to go on the Priority List in order to choose the size and location of their apartment.  The Welcome Center is available to take your inquiries, share construction pictures and “walk you through” the community, albeit virtually, at least for the next few weeks. A new website will be launching soon—www.tamarisknorthshore.com.

Finally, we are extremely touched by the outpouring of appreciation we have had for the staff who are on the frontlines, risking their own health to take care of residents and clients.  We have had donations of food to feed staff members, volunteers who have made masks or helped make telephonic wellness checks, donations and financial assistance to pay for more home-delivered meals. The response by our community has been incredible and is a reflection of our fundamental Jewish value—G’milut Chasadim—the ultimate gift of loving kindness.  Individually and collectively, our community’s thoughtfulness is remarkable and unparalleled.

Thank you again for your patience and trust in us. I will continue to stay in touch via the website, eblasts or phone calls to let you know of any significant changes or developments.

 

Stay safe and be well,

 

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Dan Fagin
President & CEO, CJE SeniorLife