The Sight Center of Northwest PA has re-opened its doors to the public…with the safety of clients and staff taking priority! While many services and inquiries can be managed by phone or remotely, other needs simply must be addressed in person. To that end, current office hours are Monday through Thursday 8am-4pm; Fridays, 8am-noon. Face masks are required for entry into the building until further notice. For the safety of all: in-office staff will be reduced, social distancing will be practiced, common areas of the office will be cleaned frequently, and professional sanitization and cleaning of the entire office will occur twice weekly.
Transportation services remain available Monday through Thursday in order to ensure that our clients can get to medical appointments, attend to pressing business, and attain groceries and essential supplies. Social support services remain available, and are being managed on a case by case basis. Participants in the Sight Center’s Diabetes prevention program are being given the option of attending in person, or participating in the program remotely. Support and education groups have re-started, with special attention being given to individual health and safety.
As the days pass and this pandemic continues to evolve, the Sight Center will continue to adjust and grow in order to meet its mission of preventing blindness and promoting independence for those with vision loss. Please stay tuned for updates, follow us on Facebook, and look for monthly articles in the Tri-State Senior News. If you or someone you love is living with vision issues, please contact the Sight Center by phone or visit us in person during our business hours.
Coronavirus and the Sight Center of NW PA
The internet and local news outlets as well as social media and the proverbial “grape vine” are rife with information and mis-information about COVID-19/Coronavirus. Federal and state governments are actively publishing information on developments and reliable resources are listed below.
|World Health Organization (WHO)||Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public|
|U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)||Get Your Workplace Ready for a Pandemic (flu-specific but can be adapted to Coronavirus)Pandemic Planning Checklists and Guidance (can be adapted to Coronavirus)|
|U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)||Safety and Health Topics: COVID-19How to Protect Yourself in the Workplace During a Pandemic|
|U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD)|
Pandemic Flu and the Fair Labor Standards Act (can be adapted to Coronavirus)Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act (can be adapted to Coronavirus)
|U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)||Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and The Americans With Disabilities Act|
Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace:
As the number of reported cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rise, the Sight Center is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for our employees as well as the individuals and families we serve.
We are abreast of and compliant with:
- The general duty to provide employees with safe workplace conditions imposed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA);
- Protection against disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- Requirements set by federal and state employee leave laws; and
- The compensation of individuals who miss work due to COVID-19.
What is the Coronavirus?
The 2019 novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19” or “Coronavirus”) is a virus that is closely related to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, runny nose, cough and trouble breathing. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some, usually people with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The incubation period for COVID-19 varies between 2 and 14 days.
How Is the Virus Spread?
According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may also be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not the main way the virus spreads.
People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, and there have been reports of this occurring, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Disease Prevention at the Sight Center
The Sight Center has taken and will continue to take precautions to keep the disease from spreading through the workplace including sanitizing surfaces, requiring anyone who is sick to stay home and providing hand sanitizer to all who enter the building. Anyone who enters the building with any cold or flu-like symptoms will be asked to sanitize their hands and wear a mask provided at the front desk.
The Sight Center requires employees to stay home from work if they have signs or symptoms of a communicable disease that poses a credible threat of transmission in the workplace, or if they have traveled to high-risk geographic areas, such as those with widespread or sustained community transmission of the illness. When possible, employees can work remotely. Depending on symptomology, employees may be required to provide medical documentation that they can return to work.
As of Monday, March 23, 2020, the Sight Center is closed. We continue to provide escorted transportation to our clients with necessary medical appointments as well as emergency grocery and supply delivery. Social work staff have called all clients to assess their needs and provide comfort and communication. We will remain in touch with this particularly vulnerable population until the “stay at home” orders are lifted, or the situation changes in some other way.
Communicating with Employees, Volunteers and Board
This communication is provided to all employees, volunteers and members of the board of directors as part of the Sight Center’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our workplace. Please contact Janine LaCour, Office Manager, or Linda Moore, CEO or refer to the resources cited above for additional informational material on the virus and its symptoms, prevention and treatment.
Dear Board, Staff and Extended Family,
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has an increased impact throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation, our first priority is the safety, health, and well-being of our staff members, volunteers and the individuals we are privileged to serve. As of today, we are not aware that any of our staff members or consumers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. We will keep you updated should any new developments arise.
Janine LaCour, office manager, is the organization’s point person for information and questions related to policy during this outbreak. She is closely monitoring the rapidly-evolving developments and making sure we abide by the recommended safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the state, and our local county health departments. The CDC’s website specifically addresses FAQ’s, symptoms, prevention, and treatment – information that you may find helpful.
We are taking the necessary steps and precautions to prevent, contain, and minimize any potential exposure to the virus that our organization could face and to protect the particularly vulnerable population that we serve. To that end, we are ensuring that best sanitizing practices are implemented. We are confident that diligent attention from each one of us to the practice of good hygiene, like washing our hands, ensuring that our common areas are sanitized, “social distancing” and self-monitoring, will help to minimize the impact of Coronavirus and any other flu or colds.
All staff are advised to stay home if they are not feeling well. Depending on symptomology, a doctor’s release may be required to return to work. Anyone with a sick child or family member is encouraged to work from home to minimize exposure. Please speak with Janine or with me to make arrangements to work from home. There are laptops available or we can install a VPN on your home computer to provide access to your office desktop from home. We will, of course, exercise flexibility in administering PTO for anyone who needs to stay home because they are ill or because they have a sick family member.
At this time, all Sight Center programs and services are in full operation although we have cancelled speaking engagements in nursing homes and senior centers at their request. Staff are asked to avoid crowded events such as health fairs, although most have been cancelled anyway. We are especially committed to those elderly blind individuals who count on us for transportation and shopping assistance and we will monitor their circumstances as well as we can. No one will be left without food or transportation to the doctor to the best of our ability. Vehicles are supplied with sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizers although we must also firmly encourage clients to stay home from any non-necessary appointments if they don’t feel well.
As you can imagine, we have already received phone calls from clients and family members worried about their individual situations. We are doing our best to allay their fears and provide comfort. We have discussed additional plans that we will implement if the need arises. Our responses to the situation will remain fluid and we will keep you informed of any changes.
My very best to you,
The Sight Center of Northwest PA was featured in the news as we began our fourth annual year of Snow Camp last Tuesday night in Asbury Woods. Read about how our Snow Camp is designed to help blind or visually impaired children and their siblings learn new skills, boost confidence, make new friends, and have fun. You can read more about it here.
Future Leader Dog, ERIE, has been with his Sight Center family for almost four months already. During that time, he has graduated basic obedience classes, become ALMOST completely housetrained, met hundreds of new people, switched from puppy to adult dog food, and gained over 30 pounds in the process. ERIE has had many highs and lows, as all puppies do. So far, this sweet dog has maintained his quiet intelligence and loving temperament: just part of why WE LOVE ERIE so much!
Another milestone that ERIE has reached is quite poignant and meaningful: he has graduated from donning the bright blue Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy kerchief, and now fits powerfully & proudly into his Future Leader Dog training harness. Through much effort, ongoing practice, and a whole lot of patience, ERIE is slowly learning the very serious responsibilities that come with the honor of wearing a working dog harness.
The first year of training and socialization is a true challenge on many levels, for both pups and handlers. Both must learn by trial and error. Handlers struggle to adhere to very specific training guidelines and worry that their pups are staying on track. Handlers need to ensure their pups are practicing fundamental skills daily, staying healthy and developmentally stable, and steadily growing in confidence and maturity.
Puppies in training need to learn their place in changing environments. They need to become comfortable with a very wide variety of people, places, noises, smells, other animals, and any number of other distractions. Over the course of time, the goal is for the puppy to become practically unshakeable when he or she wears that working dog harness.
The road to becoming a Leader Dog for the Blind is not an easy one. ERIE is slowly learning that he is not a typical puppy, and that there are special rules that apply to him. When ERIE rides in the car these days, he knows that his designated place is on the floor of the passenger seat. He is realizing that he is not permitted to jump up on the furniture or sleep on the sofa, even though his big brother does it all the time. Most importantly, ERIE is starting to get the idea that when he is wearing his working harness, he needs to pay a little more attention to what is going on around him. When ERIE is in his harness, he needs to learn that he is “on the clock,” and playtime is suspended. So, the road for ERIE continues. Day by day, he grows and learns. His sweet puppy features are steadily morphing into those of a handsome adult Labrador before our very eyes. If you would like to be a part of ERIE’s journey as a Future Leader Dog, please call 455-0995, visit us at 2545 West 26th Street, follow ERIE on his Instagram, “@ErieTheEyeDog” or visit www.sightcenternwpa.org.