Since February 2020, Citizen Care Inc., which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, had been preparing for the spread of the coronavirus in Allegheny County. Yet nobody could have been fully prepared for the discovery in early April that all four residents of one Citizen Care site were infected.
“We had been planning for more than five weeks, but found we needed to change our plans immediately and offer increased support to staff,” said Margaret Rothenberger, CEO of Partners for Quality, of which Citizen Care is a subsidiary. “It was a very challenging time.”
The organization implemented an all-out effort to obtain a sufficient supply of masks and other protective equipment for all residential staff and persons supported. Employees working directly with clients were offered special hazard pay. Hotel rooms were reserved so that staff with potential exposure could shelter in place temporarily, thus keeping their families back home safe.
Partners for Quality’s human resources department reinvented itself as a concierge service, answering staff’s daily questions on anything virus-related and also providing additional information about community resources—from finding food banks or childcare to what to do about possible symptoms.
All four of the infected residents—who apparently caught coronavirus from a temporary agency employee who was asymptomatic but later tested positive—were hospitalized and unfortunately, two of them didn’t survive the virus. But the organization’s special efforts generated some positive outcomes. Across the Citizen Care system of residences, staff kept working through the crisis, providing much-needed care and positive social interaction.
When the two surviving residents got back home and completed their 14 days of quarantine, Rothenberger showed up personally for a staff celebration. Amidst the pandemic, everyone came together to honor the two men who recovered and the two who didn’t, as well as the extraordinary commitment of dedicated employees on the front lines.