Dear Fellow Staff–

As I am sure you have heard from the news, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging in our state and our country, far exceeding levels from the beginning of the virus in March and it has not excluded our NCIA family. As of today, we have seven homes on outbreak status, including four HERO homes, which means at least one of the individuals in those homes has tested positive. This is incredibly disappointing, as we know the main carrier of the virus in the affected homes is our staff. This simply has to stop. The impacts of this on NCIA are enormous—it is leading to staffing shortages, significant financial resources being spent, and most of all, many of our individuals are quarantined in their homes and unable to go out to work because the staff in their houses tested positive. As of now, we have 28 individuals who cannot leave their homes to work, even though they tested negative.

We need to wake up every morning with one goal in mind—to keep our family, friends, co-workers and the individuals we serve safe. NCIA has provided ample personal protective equipment to allow this to happen and the easiest and safest way to do this, in our Governor’s own words this week is to “WEAR YOUR DAMN MASK”! Therefore, we need to be better “buddies.” If you see a fellow staff not wearing their mask, or not covering their nose with it, say something. It is for your benefit, and that of your co-worker.

We are in the midst of our first COVID-19 Holiday season, and with any luck and the introduction of the vaccine, we hope and pray it will be our last. It will be the first Holiday of my life that Martha and I will not be able to celebrate with any of our family. Having three children, four siblings and eight grandchildren, it will be painful, but the sacrifices we make this year will allow us to be together next year.

I continue to be amazed at the incredible teamwork our programs are displaying. This week left me with a number of examples.

First, the culinary training program at our Baltimore Vocational Training Center, led by Chef Christa Bruno, came out to our YIT School, toured the commercial kitchen, and immediately agreed to make all the Christmas meals for our Adult Residential homes. That is over 120 meals for their Holiday dinners!

Second, our Chief Operating Officer, Carole Argo, has worked with our Adult Residential Services team and Compliance Department to develop a contingency plan for using our Career Development Center building as an emergency placement should we continue to have outbreak homes. (Think of COVID-19 wards in gymnasiums.) It is a monumental effort, but will help in case of a major outbreak. Here’s hoping we do not need it!

Third, our Director of Education, Dr. Angela Chambers is working to support our Adult Services program by building and testing the curriculum for our Meaningful Day program. This is important so when we return to services we will be aligned with the new waiver requirements for Adult Day programs. We are truly blessed to have the physical facilities to help our NCIA family work our way through this pandemic, as well as the professional leadership to work together to serve all of our individuals.

Our Youth In Transition School developed a theme for our students over the next couple of weeks and I think it is one that we can all think about applying. That theme is “Consistency”—letting our students know that we will be consistent in our support for them. As we all know, holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of people, and this year that will be amplified.

We know that getting through COVID-19 is not a sprint–rather it is a marathon, but with the rollout of the vaccines, the finish line is in sight. So let’s get there together as a team. Remember the saying:

“Be strong now, because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever.”

Stay safe.