March 14, 2020
As COVID-19 impacts the Lehigh Valley, MOWGLV remains committed to preparing and delivering meals for as long as is safely and practically possible. We recognize that our clients, who are already vulnerable, are in the group at highest risk. We will do what we can to maintain our daily delivery service, but recognize that it may have to be adjusted.
On Monday, March 16, clients will receive a letter outlining our protocol to keep them, and our volunteers, safe. They will also receive an emergency frozen meal.
In order to best serve our community, we are monitoring the CDC protocol daily and are in regular contact with our local public health experts : https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fprevention-treatment.html.
I am also following several national resource sites which focus on senior nutrition or services to the elderly. For example, the Meals on Wheels Association of America maintains a web portal for member programs to share ideas and post questions. There is an active thread ongoing about how various programs are managing to sustain meal delivery. Right now, the precautions we are taking are as good, if not better, then most programs. I am confident that we are doing, and will continue to do, all that we can given the information that is made available to us by the experts, to support service delivery and minimize risk.
Below is a rundown of our specific actions for the immediate future:
- Our Food Services Director monitors our food and equipment supply chain on a daily basis. He has what he needs to prepare menu items for at least the next two weeks. We will order some extra food to have it on hand. We have received correspondence from two of our largest suppliers—US Foods and Oliver Packaging. Both letters outlined the steps that their businesses are taking to minimize risk in their workplaces, and to assure us that they are maintaining the supply chain.
- The kitchen staff sanitizes the inside and outside of the carrier bags and coolers daily. This includes the handles and “touch points” on the bags.
- We have researched commercial freezer space in the event that we need to make frozen meals and store them in bulk. We don’t have the space at Fritch Dr. to store extra meals. I don’t anticipate needing this, if at all, for a few weeks.
- We are minimizing group exposure.
- We are not holding meetings, or inviting non-essential personnel to Fritch Dr (our main office).
- Volunteers will be asked to stay in their cars when they come to pick up meals. This will be effective Monday, March 16. Instructions on how that will work will be provided in a separate email to volunteers. We are practicing “social distancing.”
- Clients have been asked to call the office if they would prefer not to have any contact with a volunteer at delivery. In this case, a volunteer would leave the meal on a chair, table, or box, at the client’s door. Food safety practices are still in effect, which means we will not leave food on the ground. Clients have been requested to come to the door, or talk to a volunteer through the door, so that we know they are alright.
- MOWGLV case managers will not conduct client home visits effective Monday, March 16. This will be in effect until further notice.
- We are asking staff and volunteers to stay home if they feel sick, and especially if they have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
- Some staff will work remotely from home.
- We may implement bulk deliveries to apartment buildings. We hope to be able to leave meals in a community refrigerator, rather than enter these buildings and go door-to-door. This idea is still in process.
It should be no surprise that we are being asked to do more at this time. Seniors are calling and asking to start services because they are afraid to leave the house. While we will try to accommodate those requests, I am mindful of balancing the number of clients with the number of available delivery volunteers. Lehigh County Senior Centers have closed. Those centers provided a daily congregate meal to seniors, many of whom live in the apartment building where the center is located. We will deliver bulk meals to these centers beginning on March 17. This will be an additional 60-80 clients a day.
We are proactively planning for drops in volunteers. At this time, we are not making changes to routes, though we are seeing an increase in the number of volunteer cancellations. If your work has slowed down, and you don’t already deliver meals, I would encourage you to deliver. We can process applications online and over the phone. You can deliver by yourself and in your own vehicle. It is easy to maintain a safe distance from clients, as they are fearful of close contact.
Congresswoman Wild has reached out to me, recognizing how vulnerable our clients are. I will be keeping her informed of our ability to make and deliver meals, and am grateful that she recognizes the necessity of our services.
This public health situation is very stressful. Please know that we are most grateful for your patience and understanding during this time. This situation is so fluid and we are continually re-positioning.
Thank you so very much for your continued support of our clients.
Victoria A Coyle
Chief Executive Officer