The Covid-19 Pandemic
Director responds to protest over Project PLASE’s handling of the coronavirus
“All our efforts have been aggressive and effective in addressing the needs of the residents around Covid-19,” Mary Slicher said.
Above: Project PLASE (People Lacking Ample Shelter & Employment) on Maryland Avenue. (projectplase.org)
On Tuesday, residents of a Baltimore homeless facility, Project PLASE, held a demonstration outside the building to protest what they said was the facility’s inadequate response to the threat of Covid-19 infection.
This is director Mary C. Slicher’s response in full:
I understand that you reached out to PLASE to understand our response to the Covid-19 virus with our shelter and permanent housing residents.
Two residents who want mass testing held a small protest today. They assured me and staff that they have no concerns with PLASE but want all tested. We certainly have requested group testing on several occasions. However, until the national protocol standards change that all medical providers change and there are sufficient tests, the BCHD and other medical providers are not able to do such mass testing, but instead follow the protocols required. This is not PLASE’s decision.
I am pleased to tell you that all our efforts have been aggressive and effective in addressing the needs of the residents around the Covid-19. Once again, they have been driven by the recommendations of the health experts – namely the BCHD representatives and CDC.
Project PLASE has followed CDC and Baltimore Health Dept. guidelines in response to the significant and unprecedented pandemic threat of Covid-19 to the safety of our residents and staff. As a matter of policy and normal practice, we have historically been disinfecting and cleaning both shelter locations daily (i.e., Maryland Avenue and Beacon House – Old Frederick Road). However, with the onset of Covid-19, and the associated heightened public health concerns that emerged in February, such sanitation efforts have been stepped up, and are undertaken four times daily.
In addition, we have taken actions to increase the already regular supply of hygiene items on hand for residents and staff (e.g. hand soap, bleach, gloves, etc.), to aid in the continued cleanliness of the shelter and the increased hand washing and personal hygiene of its residents. We have both purchased masks and also received several donations of facial masks (that were previously in considerable short supply). Hence, since CDC and the state has revised and recommended these be used by all, PLASE is pleased to say we have been able to comply with this requirement. Project PLASE will continue to distribute such to residents and staff.
To date, while one shelter member at each of our two facilities had tested positive for Covid in March, both were quarantined off the premises, even prior to being found positive due to PLASE’s policy of having persons remain off site with minor symptoms per our screening. Others with such symptoms, also sheltered off site, were found to only have a cold, allergies and in one case the flu alone. Hence, we are pleased to report that both prior to that time and since that time (way past the incubation periods), there have been no additional cases of Covid infections here. These two members, most fortunately are on the mend and doing well and are back to their lives.
We continue to be committed to do whatever is necessary to continue to ensure there are no additional cases, as we go forward. While the request for additional testing of all residents and staff that may have come in contact with the two individuals is understandable, current CDC guidelines state that such testing should only be undertaken on those individuals that are exhibiting some symptoms. We followed all advice in how residents and staff were addressed at that time, and continue to do so to this point.
Accordingly, Project PLASE continues to screen staff daily for symptoms and takes their temperatures daily. Project PLASE also screens all shelter residents twice each day seven days a week as well as continue ( as we had before) to take daily temperatures. Staff also continues to aggressively emphasize to residents and fellow staff the need for social distancing and other preventative healthy measures (i.e., less than ten persons to the dining room, etc.), frequent and thorough hand washing, and continued education, awareness and emotional support. Our objective for meeting public safety and public health standards in these times demands continuation of PLASE’s aggressive prevention strategies and a high-level of personal vigilance on the part of each of our residents and staff members. Health Department representative have come on site several times and reviewed in person our strategies and met with staff and residents and have affirmed and supported all steps taken. Indeed positive results have been seen in that no other person being infected by the virus.
Once again, we recommit to the goal, daily, and all measures that will assure its continual realization.