The Vancouver Second Mile Society’s mandate is to improve the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities living in SRO (single room occupancy) hotels, rooming houses and low-income housing. We work with seniors living in the Downtown South and the Downtown Eastside to build and strengthen their communities by establishing social support systems, run by the seniors themselves. We focus on providing program participants with a quiet welcoming space to relax and connect with others.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic VSMS delivered programs at our 509 East Hastings location (Downtown Eastside Seniors Centre) and through facilities owned and operated by the City of Vancouver (Continental Seniors Centre) and locations in which we provided The Neighbourhood Helpers Program (Downtown Eastside, Downtown South, and Chinese Outreach Projects):
Since the pandemic began, our organization has stopped all in-person activities and focused on (A) preparing and distributing food baskets to needy seniors, (B) preparing low cost lunches for sale from our Hastings Street location, and (C) contacting seniors by phone or through their building managers.
VSMS will re-open in-person programs for seniors in July 2021. This document provides guidelines for employees, volunteers, and program participants to continue to safely lead, support, and participate in programs offered by VSMS. This document will be amended as best practices emerge following guidelines from BC-CDC and other organizations.
COVID-19 is a serious public health concern. It spreads in a similar way to flu, where there is close contact between people.
Most common symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Severe tiredness
Less common symptoms:
- Body aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Skin rash or discolouration of fingers or toes
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- chest pain or pressure
- loss of speech or movement
The virus is commonly spread from one person to another through the air. People can also catch it by touching contaminated surfaces or objects. Most people infected with the virus have mild symptoms and recover, but some experience more serious illness and may need hospital care. While people of all ages can be infected, those over 40 seem to be more vulnerable, as are those with weakened immune systems or an underlying health condition such as diabetes, heart and lung disease. The virus has also been detected in asymptomatic persons. The incubation period of COVID-19 is between two and 14 days. Common signs of infection include a fever, coughing, and difficulty in breathing.
A wide range of symptoms (noted above) are associated with COVID-19. There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for people 1) aged 65 and over; 2) with compromised immune systems; and, 3) with underlying medical conditions.
If You Think You Have Been Exposed
People living in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or who have traveled from an area or have been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, have a higher risk of contracting the virus. The virus may be able to live on surfaces for up to 10 days depending on the particular material, so being aware of exposure can be difficult.
Persons who believe they have come into contact with the virus should monitor how they feel, watch for symptoms and stay home in quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Anyone who has traveled outside of Canada must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days and upon returning to Canada, provide the government with an approved self-isolation plan. There is currently an official global travel advisory and pandemic COVID-19 travel health notice in effect asking Canadian to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection.
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) asks to call your health-care provider or 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319), the province’s dedicated coronavirus hotline, if you believe you have symptoms and have been in contact with someone who is known to have the illness. The same applies if you have symptoms and have returned from — or been in contact with someone who has returned from — an area with widespread community transmission of the illness. The BCCDC has outlined if/when some few should be tested on their website. You can also use the COVID assessment tool here.
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. People may not know they have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. In severe cases, infection can lead to death. Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. Avoiding contact with others is the most important step in defeating COVID-19. For medical advice regarding Covid-19 please call the Health-link Nurse Hotline, 811.
Reopening In-person programming in July 2021
VSMS plans to offer limited in person activities using the posted procedures and directions.
We have established and posted the following occupancy limits for our Seniors Center (located at 509 E Hastings) and for specific spaces:
Individual offices: 1-2 (posted at office entrance)
Main meeting room: 30
All other spaces will remain closed for this stage of re-opening.
While our staff understands that asking participants to register for daily programs in advance is preferable, it is not realistic since the population we serve do not always own or have access to phones and computers (i.e. email). Admission will be on a first come, first served basis until room capacity (36) is reached.
We will initially offer un-structured activities (eg: Lunch, Television watching). Lunch will begin at a set time and will last 1.5 hours.
The occupancy of the main areas has been reduced to 36 including program participants, staff and volunteers. Where possible (i.e. where groups of participants have historically come to VSMS together) efforts will be made to contact the individuals in advance to advise them of the new protocols.
All individuals arriving at our 509 East Hastings location will be admitted one at a time and the operating protocol will be explained. A table placed inside the entrance door will be equipped with a plexiglass barrier, hand sanitizer, masks, a contact log listing names, contact information, times of entry, health/safety questionnaires and a thermometer. This table will be staffed by a rotating roster of VSMS employees and volunteers between 9am to closing from Monday to Friday.
Staff, program participants and volunteers must avoid physical contact when greeting others. Only those members who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the premises. Fully vaccinated meaning 2 inoculations plus a 2 week follow up period. Verification of vaccination status will be through review of health authority documentation.
All staff, volunteers, and program participants will be asked to wear masks or face shields when in the building. The only exception will be for staff who are the sole occupants of their offices. Once they exit their office and are in common areas in the building, they must wear a mask.
Signage at the table and on surrounding walls and floors will provide basic information supporting health and safety when in the building:
COVID-19 Information Signage
- Symptoms sign (i.e. “If you exhibit any of the following symptoms please do not enter the building”)
- Contact information for COVID-19 testing
Personal Safety/Responsibility Signage
- Sanitize hands
- Put on face mask
- Cough/sneeze into elbow
- Practice physical distancing
Building Safety Signage
- Maintain 2-metre distance between self and others
Please pay close attention to Personal Safety and Building Safety signage.
Steps for Program Participation
Step 1 – Arrival
Upon arrival, employees, participants, and volunteers will be asked to sanitize their hands, put on a mask, sign in, have their temperature taken and complete a screening questionnaire. Normal temperatures are 37.9c and below. Anything higher than 38c, please see guidelines in FAQs. Participants will be informed that they may be required to leave based on limited time and seating capacity.
Step 2 – Engaging in activities and work
Program participants will be directed to the main meeting room. Tables will be assembled in the room with plexi-glass barriers and sanitizers will be placed in each section.
In the event that seniors arrive as a group or pair, every effort will be made to seat them close together.
The lunch program will be served as the following:
- Participants will follow the processes described in “Step 1 - Arrival”.
- Once finished, participants will be directed to a seat by a staff or volunteer.
- Said staff will collect payment at the table, then return with food and drink (as described in “Step 3 – Access to non-meeting space”.
- Once the participant has left, cleaning staff will sanitize the area used.
Newspapers and periodicals will be available to participants.
Staff will go to their individual offices and either remain there or go to the “main meeting room” if they are supporting a program in that space.
Staff will continue to use Zoom to support virtual meetings.
Work-days/hours may be staggered for those onsite and staff may also work from home.
Volunteers will report to their designated assignment.
Step 3 – Access to non-meeting space
Washrooms are available. Everyone is asked to sanitize hands before and after washroom use.
The kitchen is closed to program participants. Staff/Volunteers will deliver drinks and food to program participants at their tables in the main meeting room. No outside food is permitted to be shared and/or eaten on the premise.
The kitchen will be available to staff and volunteers to make tea and coffee. Occupancy is 2 people. Kitchen staff will serve and pour coffee for participants who are not allowed to touch the handle of the coffee pot. Staff and volunteers will use their own personal cups, dishes, utensils for eating and drinking and be responsible for rinsing and placing them in the dishwasher.
Step 4 – Sanitization
While VSMS cleaning staff will have general responsibility for cleaning and sanitizing all spaces and contents, staff, volunteers and program participants are expected to do their part as well.
VSMS cleaning staff will sanitize the main meeting room, equipment and materials after each participant leaves their seat. Additionally, sanitization may occur every 30 minutes. They will also carry out a comprehensive cleaning of the building after hours (i.e. programs closed, staff have left).
Staff are responsible for cleaning their respective offices/work stations and equipment during the day. Office doors will be left open during the day to allow for air to circulate.
Staff are also responsible for wiping down public contact points (entrance, washroom, hall/light switches and surfaces in these spaces) twice during (or more frequently if soiled) the day (checklist/schedule to be provided).
Step 5 – Departure
Departure time for staff, volunteers, and program participants will be noted in the contact log they signed at arrival.
Policy, Guidelines (Safety Plan), Communication & Training
We have developed a policy with guidelines to ensure staff, program participants, and volunteers are safe. Our policy includes what to do if staff begin to feel ill at work.
We have implemented a training plan to ensure all staff, including new staff, understand the policy and guidelines.
We have posted signage at the door to the building indicating that people who are experiencing symptoms or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 must not enter or meet with staff.
Staff will ensure that the policy and guidelines are being implemented across all programs and communicated to participants and volunteers.
Board members will monitor risks. They will review the policy and guidelines at least every month with staff members and revise as needed. Staff may also bring ideas or concerns about health and safety to the Executive Director who may bring them to Board members at any time.