An email from DCYF, May 27
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
As the state of Washington starts to reopen, caseworkers are conducting health and safety visits and monthly contacts with parents and caregivers in-person. This is different from Family Time visitation (visits between parents and their children) or sibling visits, which may continue to use videoconferencing. Caseworkers will not have the option to conduct Health and safety visits and monthly visits with caregivers and parents remotely due to legal requirements. We honor and recognize how increased in-person contact may be frightening, so we want to let you know what we are doing to reduce the risk of exposure in an effort to protect children, youth, parents, caregivers and caseworkers.
Prior to any in-person contact, caseworkers must ask if anyone in the home (parent, child, caregiver that the child is living with and/or others in the caregiver’s household) is experiencing any of the following symptoms that cannot be attributed to another health condition per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH) Screening Guidelines:
- A cough.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
- A fever or feels feverish.
- A sore throat.
- Chills or repeated shaking with chills.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Muscle aches.
Visits will proceed with additional precautions outlined below if the answers to the screening questions are no.
During any face-to-face contact, caseworkers should use social distancing techniques to the greatest extent possible. Effective social distancing includes:
- Eliminating any physical greetings, such as handshakes, or other physical contacts between persons.
- Maintaining physical distance between all individuals, preferably of at least six feet.
- Limiting the transfer of physical objects, such as paperwork, pens, phones or tablets from one person to another.
Extra precautions should be taken to provide for the health and safety of household members and the worker. These precautions may include, but are not limited to:
- Meeting outside the facility or home to complete the interview.
- Taking a walk with the child or youth to hold conversations.
- Coordinating with other workers to have one caseworker meet with multiple children or youth in order to limit the number of caseworkers entering a placement.
The amount of time spent in the home will be minimized. If possible, all interviews will be conducted outside. However, any required environmental safety assessments (including Safe Sleep assessments, when applicable) will require the caseworker to enter the home.
If the answers to the screening questions are yes and there are no safety concerns or timeframe consideration, caseworkers are to reschedule the visit for a time when the person is no longer sick.
Persons in High-Risk Categories
According to the CDC, older adults (aged 65 and older) and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Underlying medical conditions include:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
- Serious heart conditions.
- Immune compromised
- Cancer treatment
- Bone marrow or organ transplant
- Immune deficiencies
- Poorly controlled HIV/AIDS
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
- Severe obesity (BMI of 40+).
- Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
- Liver disease.
If you or someone in your household is considered high-risk based on the above CDC categories, please notify your caseworker when they call to schedule the visit, so that the extra precautions can be exercised.
If directed to conduct the visit, caseworkers will take the following extra precautions in addition to practicing social distancing:
- Caseworkers must wear face masks covering the mouth and nose and all members of the household, except children under the age of 2, will be asked to wear face masks covering the mouth and nose.
- Caseworkers will ask the ill or high-risk household member to remain in a separate area of the home throughout the duration of the visit, if possible.
- Caseworkers will use disposable gloves (if available).
- Caseworkers will wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer (if available) – before and after the visit.
- Caseworkers will refrain from touching any surfaces, whenever possible.
- If surfaces must be touched, caseworkers will wipe down the surfaces with a disinfectant wipe.
- Caseworkers will have several changes of clothes in the event of multiple encounters with people experiencing confirmed COVID-19 or similar symptoms throughout the day.
- If the client or their child/youth is sick, caseworkers will ask if they need assistance contacting a medical provider. They can be referred to their Apple Health managed care plan or to MultiCare’s free Virtual Care service for COVID-19 screening.
- Caseworkers will alert other DCYF staff or service providers scheduled to visit the same household and document the notification in a case note.
- Caseworkers will discard PPE (if available) appropriately unless instructed to reuse. In these instances, caseworkers will follow specific DOH guidance for reusing PPE.
- If using a cloth face covering, caseworkers will launder the face-covering following CDC guidance.
- After leaving each home, caseworkers will wash their hands or use hand sanitizer and disinfect any equipment they had in the home with them.
Information About Cloth Face Coverings
The Department is working to obtain enough face masks to give to children (over the age of 2), youth, parents and caregivers who need them. However, given the shortages within the supply chain, the CDC has developed a guidance document on the use and creation of cloth face coverings. Caseworkers are also encouraged to share the document with parents and caregivers.