Due to the rapidly increasing infection rate of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Affirmations community center has implemented temporary, additional policies to protect staff and center guests. The changes were prompted when a volunteer tested positive for the virus last week.
“Three staff were in close contact with them,” said Affirmations Executive Director David Garcia. “Those staff [members] have all now tested, and two are negative. We are waiting to hear back regarding the third.”
Garcia says the outbreak and the rising infection rates sparked a conversation with staff and the executive board committee. “It was decided to take further precautions to help mitigate risks of exposure or infection,” he said. “We did not feel it is necessary to return to appointments only or to completely close the doors again at this time.”
New protocols include half of the staff working remotely to mitigate any potential spread throughout the Affirmations team. Those working at the center will be staggered throughout the building to limit the risk of exposure. N95 masks have been made available to the staff with a strict mask mandate continuing for all who enter the building.
“All staff are currently vaccinated,” said Garcia. “We decided to stagger the entire team — having half work from home and half from Affirmations and then they will swap next week and continue this pattern so long as necessary. We feel this will help protect against any possibility of a larger exposure affecting the entire team at once.”
In addition, facilitators of support and discussion groups have been strongly encouraged to suspend in-person meetings and pivot to virtual technology supplied by the center.
“As for [the] suspension of face-to-face groups being ‘strongly encouraged,’ we are asking that all of our more than two dozen support, recovery and discussion groups move back to the Zoom platform for at least two weeks,” Garcia said. “Most already have since the announcement. There are a few smaller groups that would still like to meet face to face. In these remote cases, we have moved them into our largest meeting areas in the building, spread them out, and have eliminated food and drinks throughout Affirmations so that individuals can keep their masks on at all times.”
Increased vaccination clinics in partnership with Oakland County Health are currently being planned, in addition to the center providing drive-up testing for community members.
“We have already conducted a few vaccination clinics here at Affirmations in partnership with Oakland County Health Dept,” said Garcia. “We will soon be adding additional dates and hopefully providing a drive-through testing option here at Affirmations. But we are still waiting on confirmation to move forward on that last piece.”
These changes will continue at the center for the foreseeable future.
“This is all very fluid and we will continue to reassess all of our options on a daily basis,” Garcia said. “Our goal is to do our best to protect staff and the community’s health. The truth is, this pandemic is new for us all. We are all doing the best we can and we ask the community to be flexible and to show grace toward one another during this unprecedented time.”
For a complete list of all upcoming vaccine clinics and testing dates, please visit Affirmations’ website.