Should Schools Make Employee Vaccinations Mandatory?

Educators have navigated uncertainty and unprecedented challenges since March 2020, even as most other sectors of the economy shut down completely. Earlier this month, President Biden directed all states to prioritize teachers, school staff, and childcare workers for COVID-19 vaccination, to vaccinate with their first shots by the end of March, marking this month School and Childcare Staff COVID-19 Vaccination Month. Currently, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program is prioritizing the vaccination of all teachers, school staff, and childcare workers, and new CDC resources are available to provide vaccination information here. Yet as the COVID-19 vaccine does gradually become more widely available, polling data continues to show that a significant percentage of Americans prefer not to receive a shot, research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 28% of U.S. workers are willing to lose their job rather than get vaccinated. The risk of future in-person learning disruption or shutdowns due to increased COVID-19 infection in classrooms is of great concern moving forward, as various districts staff and students have faced multiple rounds of quarantine because of illness or exposure. However, in-person school attendance “is not a primary driver of community transmission” according to the CDC, which states that, “the science has demonstrated that schools can reopen safely prior to all teachers being vaccinated.” So, how do educators navigate this latest challenge on the road to recovery, while ensuring school staff, students, and families feel safe and secure? Read on for the latest guidance.

Can an employer make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for workers?

ANSWER: In December, the federal agency focused on workplace discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said because the vaccination itself is not a medical examination, employers could make COVID-19 shots mandatory for their workers. Keep in mind that if employees have medical or religious reasons that prevent them from taking a coronavirus vaccine, employers could be legally required to give the workers some reasonable alternative to continue to work. Also, for employers with a unionized workforce, the employer must consider bargaining requirements before implementing a mandatory vaccine policy.

Can an employer ask an employee if he or she has already received the vaccine or require proof of vaccination?

ANSWER: Generally, yes. However, that inquiry can only be made, according to the EEOC, if the question is “job-related and consistent with business necessity” as provided under the ADA. To meet this job-relatedness standard, the employer will need to establish that the worker’s failure to be vaccinated would pose a “direct threat” to the well-being of that employee or others with whom the employee would have contact as part of his or her job duties. No states are publicly reporting the percentage of teachers and school staff that have been vaccinated, according to a Johns Hopkins University analysis.

Can an employer fire an employee who refuses to be vaccinated?

ANSWER: Possibly, in limited circumstances. The EEOC guidance reminds employers that it will need to make reasonable accommodations to employees seeking an exemption due to disability-related reasons or religious objections and will need to follow the established reasonable accommodation process under either the ADA or Title VII before taking any adverse employment actions. The EEOC cautions employers that if it can establish that an employee who is not vaccinated poses a direct threat (that cannot be accommodated without undue hardship), the employer can exclude the employee from the worksite, but the employer cannot terminate the employee without further consideration of the employee’s legal protections or other possible accommodation, including whether the employee can perform his or her job remotely.

It is important to remember that the EEOC guidance is only that—guidance—and not a law. Consequently, some employees may legally challenge mandatory vaccination programs therefore, many employers may opt to strongly encourage vaccination without requiring it. A recent survey found that while most employers have no plan to create a mandatory vaccination process, many do plan to encourage employees to get the vaccine. Nearly 90% said they would provide information to employees (e.g., how to get vaccinated, the benefits of doing so) and nearly 40% said they would offer vaccine administration at their facility to increase convenience – even though this may be easier said than done. A third said they would offer paid time off for employees to receive the vaccine and/or recover from any side effects. According to New York State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, 17% of the population is currently completely vaccinated.

We hope this summary provides some helpful information for your school to consider as you navigate this complex issue. Pursuing a mandatory vaccination program ultimately requires management, together with its legal and HR teams, to engage in significant planning and develop a program detailing how the process will work from beginning to end. If your team would like to talk to our firm, please contact us today. Additionally, if you have HR questions, please reach out to our wholly-owned subsidiary Visions HR, and connect with Janet Giannetta.

Sources: PBS, AARP, NY.Gov, SHRM, JHU

Critical Home Health Aide Crisis: Recruiting Guide

Critical Home Health Aide Crisis: Recruiting Guide

Hundreds of thousands of older New Yorkers and people living with disabilities rely on home health aides to carry out daily tasks many of us take for granted. From bathing and dressing to meal preparation, routine cleaning, shopping, and even going to school or work – they fill the gap and exponentially improve people’s quality of life. The problem is, the need is growing, and recent revelations in our state’s care and funding threshold make the disparity between qualified aides and demand feel more like an endless void. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for home care even more, while further depressing the labor supply. In a fall 2020 survey, 85 percent of participating New York State home care agencies reported worsening staff shortages.

How do we recruit and retain these essential workers in the middle of a pandemic?

Before we talk about solutions let’s build some more context. While the challenges we are up against may feel overwhelming, we have to understand the problems to fix them. In New York, the number of home health aide and personal care aide jobs is projected to rise to over 700,000 by 2028, driven by employment in home care agencies, private households, and public programs like the Medicaid Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). High turnover adds to the problem: employers across the state need to recruit an average of 26,510 new aides each year just to keep up with the growing demand for care, as well as an additional 71,680 workers each year to replace the thousands of aides who leave these occupations or exit the labor force entirely.

Below we are breaking down some of the most critical suggestions laid out by patients, families, providers, aides, and advocates. We will also link different support sites we encourage you to visit if you want to learn more or support the growing need to fill the aide gap in New York.

Provide financial care sustainability

  • Organize support for new legislation aimed at raising wages for home care workers, like the newly launched Fair Pay for Home Care
  • Currently, the median hourly wage for home-care workers in New York is $13.80, and the median annual income is $22,000. The bill looks to bump home-care wages to $22 hourly, or $44,000 yearly in New York City; $19.25 or $35,000 on Long Island and in Westchester; and $16.50 hourly or $30,000 in the rest of the state.
  • A new report examining the impact of raising wages for home-care workers concludes that economic benefits, such as income and sales-tax revenue, would far exceed the costs. Experts estimate it would cost $4 billion annually to fund increases, which represents just over 1 percent of total annual spending within New York’s healthcare system.

Address urgent home care and hospice workforce needs

  • Create opportunities across state funding pools and other sources to address core barriers to home care workforce supply (e.g., transportation, childcare, peer collaboration, professional development, and reduction in administrative burden).
  • Support capacity increases through state law and regulatory changes that create new training opportunities, entrants, and case assignment options.

Continue and expand COVID-19 era regulatory relief

  • Establish a process to continue, expand and/or make permanent areas of COVID-19 era flexibilities that are beneficial to worker and patient safety, efficiency, service capacity, access, and quality, including telehealth flexibility.
  • Make the cost of personal protective equipment and related safety protocols ongoing components of the state’s health care reimbursement.

Nearly 1,000,000 positions must be filled to meet the demand for aides over the next decade. A 2018–2019 statewide survey of home care agencies found that, on average, 17 percent of home care positions were left unfilled due to staff shortages. You don’t need to be an accountant to recognize that these realities are not sustainable. Because home care work is physically and emotionally stressful, the path towards viable recruitment and retention is clouded at best. However, we believe by considering the suggestions above, real progress can be made, and this essential industry can attract more compassionate, fulfilled professionals. At RBT, we understand the diverse and complicated world of healthcare. Feel free to contact our dedicated team for more information on our healthcare services.

Community Colleges: Is On-Campus Living Right for You?

Community Colleges: Is On-Campus Living Right for You?

In a virtual world full of digital events and Zoom lectures, college students are dreaming of the return of normalcy. Simple activities we took for granted, like strolling the campus grounds on a sunny day, hurrying to class with friends, or entering a crowded dorm at the end of a long night to catch a few hours of sleep, seem a distant memory. Soon enough, in-person classes will resume, and students will once again fill bustling campuses. But for a long time, many community college students didn’t have an option to enjoy campus living, with many working entirely from home long before the rest of us learned to adjust to remote scheduling. So, as we have all been forced to step away from campus living, what can we learn from the community colleges that have shifted to a dorm experience structure in recent years? And as we long to connect in person, could restructuring other community colleges mean a boost to enrollment and a shift in public perception?

Benefits of Campus Living

Every college is unique, and if your school is more focused on adult and graduate students, investing in a campus living plan may not make sense. But many community colleges are integrating some of the campus living benefits that four-year colleges take advantage of:

  • Better proximity to college resources like the library and recreation center
  • Exposure to international lifestyles that comes from living near fellow students
  • The ability to fully immerse oneself in the college experience
  • Apartments or dormitories are often fully furnished and affordable, students don’t have to deal with the hassle of paying separately for utilities and amenities, providing an economic housing option to cash-strapped students

According to a recent poll conducted by the American Association of Community Colleges, the number of community colleges that offer on-campus housing in the United States has risen dramatically in the past two decades, with about 25% of community colleges currently offering this option. In fact, 15 community colleges across New York feature on-campus housing, including Dutchess Community College as well as Sullivan County Community College right here in Hudson Valley. Some other successful New York on-campus community colleges include Tompkins Cortland, Herkimer, and Onondaga.

Two-year colleges serve diverse populations ranging from high school students in dual-enrollment courses to senior citizens, working adults, and traditional-age students, and experts say COVID-19 is accelerating the challenges community colleges faced before the pandemic and intensifying the competition. Fall enrollment at community colleges was down 10 percent from a year earlier, according to National Student Clearinghouse data from mid-December. While dorm life isn’t for everyone, it can provide additional resources and strong recruiting incentives to attract students with a range of needs. If you haven’t explored this consideration, it’s worth surveying your student population especially as incoming students consider their future educational options. Our dedicated team is here for you to answer financial planning questions you might have about your path ahead.

Stand Out: Social Media Strategy Secrets

Stand Out: Social Media Strategy Secrets

Digital engagement has become a critical tool to help create the trust and transparency with which government entities have traditionally struggled. Hundreds of agencies across the country have embraced social media to encourage one-on-one and one-to-many engagement. If you’re not one of them, you’re missing out on valuable residential feedback, and even the opportunity to attract new visitors or families interested in relocating. Can you afford to stay silent while other local governments gain trust and streamline communication? We can’t physically connect in person right now, but that’s no excuse to not make an effort online – in fact, it strengthens the argument that your team should put more effort into building a digital community. If you haven’t already tapped into valuable, free platforms, here are seven reasons you should start utilizing social media right now to stay connected:

  • Crime prevention/law enforcement assistance
  • Emergency alerts/severe weather updates
  • Townhall/council meetings
  • Public service announcements
  • Road closures/construction
  • Local employment opportunities
  • Community event awareness

Ok, ready to get started? While popular social media platforms like Facebook may come to mind, there are other options you may not have on your radar. Consider tapping into the following to make the most out of your new digital presence:

Nextdoor: This is a hyper-local social networking platform just for neighbors. This app verifies residents, so you reach your community right where they live. By utilizing this platform, you can build direct relationships and drive awareness in the community.

Instagram: Take advantage of this platform if you’re trying to boost engagement with young adults in your community. Consider that 75% of 18–24-year-olds use Instagram, so if you’re missing out on this platform, you’re missing out on connecting with a huge subset of your residents. Utilize posts, daily stories, and tagging local businesses to promote events and support the local economy.

Twitter: This is an exciting option because it allows for a continual dialogue between local government officials and concerned community members. You can also create polls and get real-time feedback about a community issue. Plus here’s a fun fact to help you boost engagement: according to Twitter, tweets with photos are 62% more likely to be retweeted than plain text tweets.

Want to reach the widest audience possible? Of course you do! Schedule posts in advance to create consistent messaging. Inevitably other high-priority governmental duties can force your digital presence to take a backseat. Avoid a weak online following by developing a monthly content calendar. Keep your team accountable by brainstorming and planning out posts, and be sure to host virtual events to engage with your community on a regular basis.

When used correctly, social media is an effective way to address concerns and solve problems. Still not sure where to get started? Many organizations and associations can help you begin. The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center provides government communicators with emergency-specific social media training. Organizations like Government Social Media and Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) also play a vital role in sharing best practices, connecting a diverse network of government professionals, and translating marketing and communications strategies that work to improve the service government provides. Want to discuss your social strategy? We are happy to help! RBT CPAs offer a full range of services for our governmental clients. Contact our team today.

Remote School Struggles: Helping Parents Cope

Remote School Struggles: Helping Parents Cope

As we continue to combat the health crisis and navigate the unorthodox and at times disorganized COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, many parents are wondering what the future holds. For months, parents of school-aged children have been faced with extreme pressure. As we are sure you are acutely aware, some are coping with the emotional toll of having lost a loved one to COVID-19. Some are dealing with chronic symptoms after their own recovery, or are juggling telework schedules while supervising children who are receiving remote or hybrid curriculums. Others are navigating job loss or substantial income depletion, waiting for stimulus money to make ends meet.

A lot remains uncertain – including that magical date when parents can anticipate sending their kids back to a safe, normal in-person school setting. While our guess is as good as yours with fluctuating federal and state guidelines, no concrete plans for children to receive vaccinations, and new virus strains popping up, we’d like to help you assist parents as they navigate COVID-19 remote-learning fatigue. These times are not without moments of overwhelming emotion and frustration, but we believe together we can support our communities to remain strong, safe, and successful!

Keep Communication Open

If we’ve learned one thing about living in a pandemic, it’s that information is constantly changing and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Take one extra weight off of a parent’s shoulders by removing the guesswork from the unique remote-learning model your school has established. Make sure that your school website is updated frequently to avoid confusion or misinformation. Consider establishing a weekly newsletter or text alert system to enable families to review changes that are coming so they have time to prepare and keep their kids in the loop. Ensure that teachers and other relevant school staff members are connecting with parents, especially if they have concerns about a particular student’s ability to keep up with assignments or activities. While this arrangement has stripped away much of the reliable consistency of a “normal” academic year, you can still set students and parents up for success by regularly communicating plans.

Provide Free Resources

We know that many school systems are dealing with stretched budgets and financial challenges as adjustments to adhere to safety policies and procedures have cut into funding. We also know that parents still rely on your educators to help them make sense of the remote learning model. Maybe a household has a range of kids, from pre-k to college-aged students, all trying to learn under the same roof. What can you do to go above and beyond, to set your students up for success? Reach out to staff and brainstorm a list of favorite apps, websites, or digital resources you can compile to address parent’s needs. For your convenience, check out this short list of free, quality classroom resources for each grade band and subject area. Each tool has scored well on independent nonprofit Common Sense Media’s research-based ratings rubric. More importantly, each tool is something we think would work well given the unique circumstances of the pandemic.

Bring Empathy

To create a loving, ethically sound community, we need empathy to exist at the core of all of our actions and behaviors. We are all experiencing heightened stress and emotions, and while parents are tuning in to assisting their children, they need to feel supported, too. All educational policymakers should continue to come from a place of empathy for parents and caregivers, students, and teachers. Remember, parents aren’t trained teachers, and even trained educators are juggling teaching their students and sometimes their own children. Lean in to support families in any way you are able to during this unprecedented time. Maybe for your community, that looks like organizing a virtual book club, hosting virtual meditation or yoga classes, or recruiting the help of a professional therapist to host group sessions for struggling parents. Additionally, direct parents to reliable resources that can help them cope. Check out the Child Mind Institute’s supportive resources here, to remind them they aren’t alone.

By helping you to help the parents and caregivers in your student’s lives, we hope we are easing some of the daily pressure your dedicated staff members are up against. We admire and appreciate the endless commitment of Hudson Valley’s educators, and hope we can assist your future professional needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact our team members today to discuss how RBT can help your team succeed.

Unplugged: Overcoming the Digital Divide

Unplugged Overcoming the Digital Divide

As our homes have transformed into our offices, daycare centers, and classrooms, it can feel difficult to disconnect from the all-pervasive technology that creeps into every aspect of life. But while most of us are on our devices 24/7 to get work done quickly and efficiently, it’s easy to take for granted that thirty years after the debut of the World Wide Web, some families are still unplugged, putting some kids at a direct disadvantage when it’s time to log on for a Zoom lesson or turn in a research paper.

According to the most recent federal data, about 14% of households with school-age children do not have internet access.

Most of those are in households that make less than $50,000 a year, and many live in rural areas.

Among those who do have access, not all have a broadband connection. Specifically here in New York, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need to address digital equity. So how are districts coping with the wide technology gap that exists in some households, with remote or hybrid school schedules? Below we’ll explore options you can take advantage of to help all of your students succeed, in 2021.

Two key factors play into measuring the divide between those who have sufficient internet availability and those who do not: access and affordability.

In comparison with the other fifty states, New York is the second most well-connected state in the US. Overall, counties throughout New York State are fairly evenly connected, with the exception of Hamilton County, which has significantly lower coverage than the rest. In New York, the current average state-wide download speed is 190.5 Mbps (bits per second), according to the independent broadband availability data collector, broadbandnow.

As for accessibility, there are currently 307,000 New York residents who do not have access to a wired internet option capable of 25 Mbps download speeds. Download speeds less than 25 Mbps are too slow to be considered broadband and with these speeds, users may experience connectivity issues like buffering when streaming video or difficulty connecting multiple devices. Additionally, 112,000 New Yorkers have no wired internet services available at home, causing enormous disruption for remote-learning environments.

Affordability data from Q4, 2019 reveals that 70% (13.7 million people) have access to a wired internet plan that costs $60 or less per month. In this regard, New York State is well ahead of the nationwide statistics, which show that only 51.5% of consumers have access to the same. But what about those who can’t afford the cost? As thousands of students are expected to keep up with the curriculum remotely or with hybrid schedules, how can you help to level the playing field? Below are a few statewide funding resources to consider:

  • The Smart School Bond Act (SSBA) provides funding for district technology and community connectivity projects.
    • The Community Connectivity category involves partnerships between school districts and communities. It could, for example, be used to supply Wi-Fi access points or computing devices to public libraries or community centers.
  • The Broadband for All program is awarding $500 million in grant funding to support projects that deliver high-speed Internet access to Unserved and Underserved areas of the State.
  • The FCC’s Lifeline program provides low-income families with a monthly discount of up to $9.25 on a phone or broadband service.
  • Additional resources include:

While not all broadband, high-speed internet connections are made equal, it’s clear there is a connection between academic success and internet access. We hope the resources above can be a jumping-off point for your administrators to ensure no child is left behind because of digital inequality. As always, our dedicated team is committed to keeping you informed and providing helpful resources to your educators as you shape the next generation of New Yorkers. Want to connect? Contact us today.

4 Steps to Help Small Businesses Succeed

4 Steps to Help Small Businesses Succeed

While local municipalities can’t provide the level of financial relief to small businesses that the US Treasury can, local officials can take strategic actions to improve the survival odds for local businesses. Below are some ideas for you to help your community succeed amidst the ongoing obstacles and pressure of the pandemic.

Promote your local businesses

Promote local businesses by publicizing open stores with street signs or offering free digital downloads to help businesses market effectively. Encourage residents to shop locally by linking store sites to virtual town hall meetings. Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus teamed up with the Orange County Department of Tourism to remind community members of the power of keeping their dollars local. In a Small Business Saturday promotion, officials pointed out that for every $100 spent locally, $73 stays in the Orange County economy. Your local government can continue to support struggling businesses by helping to make connections through webinars and networking.

Create a central, online resource to distribute information

Be a source of information to your business community by creating a simple, user-friendly digital one-stop shop for resources, tools, and information. One shining example is Dutchess County’s Youtube channel which regularly releases videos featuring County Executive Marcus Molinaro and various health officials and guests. We recommend you designate a staff member to update your site daily with relevant local, state and federal news, as well as guidance on how businesses can apply for SBA loans, and how to contact local SBA-approved lenders or other business support organizations. On Monday, the SBA re-opened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to small businesses who have not already obtained a PPP loan. Today, the program will reopen for small businesses who have drawn a PPP loan in the first stage of the program. The PPP has been expanded to be more accessible and flexible for businesses, seasonal employees, nonprofits – including 501(c)(6)s, housing cooperatives, and direct marketing organizations. The loans can now cover operating expenses, property damage costs, supplier costs, and worker protection costs. Your guidance for local businesses could be the difference between a thriving downtown and more boarded up storefronts in 2021.

Team up with others to support the community

Consider forming a centralized Covid-19 donation and relief center to provide bridge funding to struggling small businesses and families. Some cities are partnering with nonprofits to create a lifeline for low-income families who have lost income due to pandemic hardships, like the City of Kingston in Ulster County. Kingston partnered with the Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO) to provide up to $3,000 in rental assistance over three months for dozens of households that submitted to a lottery. Selected applicants will be notified later this week, and local officials describe this effort as crucial to protecting residents against eviction. Municipalities can get creative with funding through a combination of local resources, philanthropic dollars, or by redeploying Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to small businesses.

Gather data to make the case for funding

Collecting relevant local business data can help inform your municipality’s future budgets as well as your approach to state and federal advocacy. For example, Sullivan County has partnered with the County Visitors Association, chamber of commerce, and two economic development agencies to form a Recovery Working Group that has sent out needs assessment surveys to all of their member businesses. The group aims to use this data to help streamline business’s access to capital and make a unified case for support to the state and federal governments. If you haven’t already gathered data that’s unique to your community, now is the time to start asking questions and recording information. Some ideas include:

“What is the risk of your going out of business?”                                                            

“What areas of your business are you most concerned about?”                                                  

“How many employees do you estimate you will have to lay off?”

In this overwhelming time, businesses need reliable sources of information to help them navigate financial assistance and survive so your local economy can thrive. We hope these ideas will inspire new initiatives to further support the businesses that are unique to Hudson Valley. As you support your communities, we are here to support you. Contact our dedicated team today and get answers to financial questions with a free consultative appointment.

Sources: NLC, ICMA, ELGL

Community College Crisis: Enrollment Challenges

Community College Crisis: Enrollment Challenges

In many economic downturns, cost-conscious families turn to more financially feasible options. With the average cost of college enrollment now climbing over $41,000 a year, community college is an accessible alternative, especially as travel restrictions mean more young people staying closer to home. But new research released in December 2020 reveals startling statistics, and an alarming trend for community colleges, as higher education institutions around the country grapple with the ongoing challenges the pandemic presents. Across the country, postsecondary enrollments declined 2.5% in fall 2020, nearly twice the rate of enrollment decline reported in fall 2019. But even more striking is the decline in community college enrollment – a 21% enrollment decrease on average, falling at a rate almost 20 times higher than pre-pandemic decline. The statewide drop New York is experiencing means community colleges need to get creative to appeal to students.

Creative Recruiting

Traditionally, the college application process can be a major source of stress for students. But with fewer students opting to pursue higher education some schools like Clinton Community College (CCC), are going after students to boost engagement. The Albany Times Union reports that if CCC gets federal approval, it will launch a program that would allow inmates at nearby Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora to take classes remotely. This would offset the community college’s loss of about 45% of its student enrollment over the last decade. They’re not alone in needing to fill class spots. New York’s 64-campus State University system opened this semester with 5.7% fewer students than it had one year ago according to data released by SUNY administrators. Several campuses offering graduate programs have seen a significant drop of 20% in the number of international students they attract. The statewide drop has been paced by a decline of some 10% in enrollments at SUNY’s community colleges. Expanding outreach and offering remote access to nontraditional groups is one creative option to offset costs and create sustainable growth in the coming years.

Keep Connected

Without in-person events, campus tours, or high school counseling sessions, students can start to feel disconnected from their education path. The National College Attainable Network suggests the administration should continue contact with students from the class of 2021 regularly so kids know where to turn when they need support. That means keeping email addresses, phone numbers, and other communications avenues updated so that as opportunities to get back on a postsecondary pathway arise, students can stay in the know. Additionally, the NCAN recommends adding more postsecondary on-ramps for the class of 2021. That might look like increasing support for national service programs like AmeriCorps and strengthening the college and career readiness programming they provide. Did you know that parents are the top influencer when it comes to students’ enrollment decisions? Students who provide parent contact information permitting schools to contact parents directly are 53% more likely to submit a college application according to EAB data.

Unfortunately, even in a pre-pandemic world, community colleges were facing challenges. A survey of college and university admissions directors completed by Inside Higher Ed revealed that 84% of community colleges have seen enrollment declines over the past two years. The implications of this new “lost class” are expected to be felt on a wide basis as young adults enter the workforce out of high school. While some are opting to take a gap year and resume education when in-person learning resumes, research shows students who delay enrollment are 64% less likely than their “on-time” peers to complete a bachelor’s degree and 18% less likely to complete any college credential. As we begin to feel the impact of the rollout and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, a return to normalcy is on the horizon. Student outreach is the most important part of the next few months to increase awareness and encourage enrollment.

How Solid is Your Safety Plan?

How Solid is Your Plan?

A year ago, it would be incomprehensible to imagine a time where local family-friendly traditions like attending a holiday concert or a crowded community tree lighting could pose a public health threat to us, but as challenging as it is to accept that we still need to operate under pandemic rules, alternatives are out there. From drive-by holiday light displays to virtual viewings of The New Paltz Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, local government needs to keep communities informed to maintain morale and stay virtually connected. As the holiday season continues with Hanukkah celebrations in full swing and Christmas just around the corner, more opportunities to get together and a boost to interstate travel, unfortunately, mean more risk to contract Covid-19. Right now, Covid-19 community spread persists as a growing problem within Hudson Valley neighborhoods, and many local leaders are contracting the virus themselves, while others are leaving their positions entirely. An alarming new investigation from The Associated Press finds one in 8 Americans — 40 million people — lives in a community that has lost its local public health department leader during the pandemic. Top public health officials in 20 states have left state-level departments, including in New York, which has lost three state health officers since May, one after another. The study found many of the state and local officials left due to political blowback or pandemic pressure. Some departed to take higher-profile positions or due to health concerns. Others were fired for poor performance. Dozens retired. As community members struggle to know how to handle the pandemic this winter, a shrinking local government needs to remain diligent and revisit safety plans.

Practice what you preach.

Local government officials should be mindful of their actions and the actions of their team members. It’s important to lead by example and ensure that your team is following the rules you’re enforcing. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently came under fire after being photographed at large formal dinners and gatherings, mask-less and ditching the same social distancing protocols that he is enforcing statewide. Regardless of your status as a public figure, your team must practice the same consideration as you instruct your constituents to follow. Check in with team members regularly to make sure everyone is aware of the latest regulations and safety recommendations.

Stay social, while social distancing.

Some local leaders are using the power of social media to get their message out and create an open dialogue with the families they serve. Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus is teaming up with The Patrick M. D’Aliso Foundation to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health every Monday and Thursday. As part of a new awareness and outreach initiative, “Orange Cares,” asks residents to write letters of appreciation to Orange County’s doctors, nurses, first responders, medical administrative staff, and those in nursing homes or hospitals during this holiday season. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan took to Facebook to share vaccination updates in his Thursday briefing, detailing that the county health department and CVS pharmacies would be in charge of distributing vaccines to the county’s nursing homes. Communication and consistent community outreach are key while we are all staying safe, apart. While your team may be operating remotely, don’t neglect to update your website or social media sites to keep community members informed.

Quarantine fatigue is a real issue that’s driving people out of their homes and into unsafe social settings.

After months of fluctuating levels of lockdown, some are letting their guard down, not adhering to social distancing measures or diligent mask-wearing, leading to heightened infection rates and spikes in new positive cases within the Hudson Valley. Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, and Putnam county leaders held a joint Zoom press conference in late November, focusing on managing risk and revamping safety measures – an accessible plan that could be extremely effective if it was coordinated regularly. As positivity rates and hospitalization rates continue to increase, New York is recalibrating protocols with a new Winter Plan based on the most recent public health data. Click here to stay up to date with the new metrics for determining color zone designations. Whether it concerns accounting, out-sourcing or compliance issues, you can contact RBT’s dedicated team for help navigating this challenging time.

Who’s Getting the First Covid-19 Vaccines in NY: What to Know

First Covid-19 Vaccine

Hope is on the horizon for the healthcare heroes that have exhausted resources including their teams of staff for the past eight months, as the pandemic drags on.

Finally, the beginning of the end is in sight, and Governor Andrew Cuomo plans on giving vaccination priority to nursing home residents and health care workers, as he follows the recommendation set out by The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. New York expects to receive 170,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech by December 15. Ultimately, distribution depends on authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, and a tentative FDA advisory committee meeting is scheduled for December 10. The vaccine requires each person to receive two doses, and according to Cuomo, New York expects to obtain another 170,000 doses within 21 days to meet that requirement.

Few industries have felt the full wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic like those who operate within the assisted living and nursing home world.

While 6% of U.S. cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for roughly 40% of the country’s pandemic fatalities. Teams have spent the last eight months balancing staff safety with high-risk patients, the adoption of new procedures and the added costs associated with mandated Covid-19 testing requirements. Even before the pandemic, recruiting and retaining qualified skilled workers was a growing challenge across the state. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) released an updated report revealing that U.S. nursing homes have experienced the worst outbreak of weekly new cases since last spring due to community spread among the general population, surpassing previous peaks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking cases in nursing homes. While federal and state government agencies have stepped in to mitigate the impact of the virus, many staff members are left feeling completely overwhelmed nearly a year into dealing with the loss and strain caused by the pandemic. The news of the pending Covid-19 vaccinations comes as a welcome glimmer of healing as we approach 2021. So, if you are a healthcare worker, when can you realistically expect to be vaccinated?

According to New York’s draft vaccination plan released in October, there are approximately more than 800,000 critical health care workers in hospitals, long term care facilities (LTCFs), emergency medical services, and home care, and approximately 83,000 LTCF residents will be targeted during the initial phase of limited vaccine supply. This means based on available dosages, over 700,000 nursing home residents will miss out on initial vaccinations but will be next in line. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens entitled the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program to offer on-site vaccination services for residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The program will provide the vaccines, on-site vaccination of residents, and end-to-end management of the COVID-19 vaccination process, including storage, handling, cold chain management, and fulfillment of reporting requirements, at no cost to the facility. For more information about vaccine training and the latest reference materials for healthcare professionals, please visit this site.