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July 16, 2020

COVID-19: NYS OPWDD Releases Guidance on Resuming Day Services, Home Visits, and Community Outings

In response to the phased reopening of New York State and consistent with the New York Forward Reopening Plan, the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) released a series of guidance documents addressing the reopening of day services and the resumption of both home visits and community outings. This guidance is critical for OPWDD-certified or operated providers that will need to ensure compliance with the frequently changing guidelines related to COVID-19.

Home Visits

In its “Home Visits for Individuals Residing in OPWDD-Certified Residential Facilities” guidance document, the OPWDD rescinded and replaced earlier guidance that suspended community outings and home visits for individuals living in certified residential facilities. According to the guidance, state regions that have entered Phase 4 of the NY Forward Reopening Plan may recommence home visits for individuals residing within OPWDD facilities starting July 15, subject to certain restrictions, including:

  1. Families and individuals must adhere to risk-mitigation strategies, including the use of safe social distancing, masks or other face coverings (unless medically contraindicated), and frequent handwashing.
  2. Any off-site visits to public places should be done only on a limited basis, and masks should be worn whenever social distancing cannot be maintained (and to the extent they are medically tolerated).
  3. Prior to any visits and before leaving the facility, the individual must pass a health screen and temperature check and must not be suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. The location of the visit must also not have any household members with a confirmed diagnosis of or exposure to COVID-19 in the prior 14 days.
  4. The individual must wash their hands immediately before leaving and prior to returning to the certified facility.

There are a number of transportation-specific requirements for travel to and from home visits, including a 50-percent total capacity limit and cleaning and disinfecting between trips. Where medically tolerated, face coverings should be utilized by everyone in the vehicle. The guidance notes staff who cannot tolerate the use of a face mask should not be assigned to transport individuals.

The interim guidance also establishes documentation requirements, including a daily log of all home visits and visits off-site from the residence, including information confirming that a health screen and temperature check were completed both prior to leaving the facility and immediately upon return. Additional information for contact-tracing purposes is required, including the addresses of any and all places the individual spent time in during the home visit and the names of other people who were within six feet of the individual during the visit.

Community Outings

The OPWDD also published “Interim Guidance Regarding Community Outings for Individuals Residing in OPWDD-Certified Residential Facilities,” which rescinded and replaced earlier guidance on community outings. This guidance indicates individuals residing in OPWDD-certified residential facilities may now resume low-risk activities such as going to work and medical appointments as well as participating in community-based outings.

Guidelines for these outings include many of the same precautionary measures referenced above, including adhering to social-distancing and face-covering mandates. No more than 10 individuals may be within the group, and planned recreational community outings must be limited to one location per day for any individual participating. Per the guidelines, facility staff is responsible for bringing hand sanitizer and must ensure that all individuals are washing or sanitizing their hands throughout the trip. Documentation is required for all individuals and staff present on all outings.

Day Services

Finally, the OPWDD published “Interim Guidance Regarding the Reopening of Day Services Certified by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities,” outlining the steps certified day programs and community-based sites must take to resume operations. The required steps include:

  1. The day program must develop a safety plan for reopening that addresses the requirements set forth by the OPWDD and must provide the plan to the OPWDD Division of Quality Improvement.
  2. Each day program must designate a supervisory-level staff or health care professional to conduct daily health screenings of all individuals and staff prior to program entry. Screenings include temperature check requirements and questions about recent travel and contact with COVID-19. Staff screenings are to note only whether the screening was passed or if the staff member was sent home; no health information should be recorded. Day programs must also designate a site safety monitor whose responsibilities include continuous compliance with all aspects of the safety plan.
  3. Additional requirements include a handwashing protocol, social-distancing guidelines, and documentation for contact-tracing purposes.
  4. Signage must be posted throughout the site addressing COVID-19 transmission prevention and containment information. This signage must include guidance regarding the social-distancing requirement; use of masks or face coverings; proper storage, usage, and disposal of personal protective equipment; symptom monitoring and COVID-19 exposure reporting requirements; and proper handwashing.
  5. Entrance into sites is limited to those essential staff providing direct services not otherwise amenable to telehealth delivery and to those required to continue health and safety operations of the facility. Groups within the facilities must be limited to no more than 15 individuals, not including staff, and rooms should be modified to maintain six feet of social distancing in all directions.

Best Practices

Providers should be aware of the requirements and documentation required under this new guidance, including requirements for daily wellness and temperature checks, and their responsibility to maintain documentation proving adherence to these guidelines. Providers should also be aware of possible privacy concerns that may arise regarding wellness screenings of staff members.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Dena DeFazio, associate, at ddefazio@barclaydamon.com; Paige Jones, summer associate, at pjones@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Health Care & Human Services Practice Area.

We also have a specific team of Barclay Damon attorneys who are actively working on assessing regulatory, legislative, and other governmental updates related to COVID-19 and who are prepared to assist clients. You can reach our COVID-19 Response Team at COVID-19ResponseTeam@barclaydamon.com.

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