COVID-19 Response

by | Mar 12, 2020 | COVID-19

by Evan Serio

DESK’s Program Manager, Evan Serio, joined the organization almost a year-and-a-half ago, and since that time he has been the driving force at DESK behind some of our most significant health initiatives.  As a staunch advocate of harm reduction and healthcare for the homeless, he is well-versed in the latest strategies for helping to ensure the overall health of those we serve at DESK as best we can.  In addition to the important work Evan does with our Guests, he also oversees Volunteer Coordination.  The following is taken from an email sent out earlier this week to DESK’s 2,500+ volunteer corps. –ed.  

By now, everyone is aware of the threat around the COVID-19 virus.

Most of what is being circulated sounds pretty scary and we at DESK want to assure you that we’re taking this very seriously. We are in communication with City and public health officials, and are taking the necessary precautions to keep the whole of DESK’s community safe: volunteers, Guests, and staff.

We encourage all volunteers and staff to protect their health and the health of people we serve together with some basic steps both here at DESK and everywhere you go:

Know your symptoms

Coronavirus, Flu, and strains of cold can all show symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, or in some cases, difficulty breathing. Again, these are signs to watch for and to treat with rest, or with a visit to a clinic or healthcare provider if they do not improve or if they get worse.

Wash your hands thoroughly

As DESK volunteers, you already know the importance of good hygiene practices when it comes to food service. But did you know that COVID-19 is an ‘enveloped’ virus? This means that it has a lipid membrane around it. Thorough hand washing with soap can dissolve this membrane and kill the virus. Thorough means vigorous washing with ample soap for at least 20 seconds (sing yourself “Happy Birthday” twice over!).  Be sure to get between you fingers, under rings, and over wrists, and don’t forget the nail-beds.

Manage your exposure risk

Clean high-traffic surfaces frequently (such as railings, door and sink handles, counters, public computers, etc.) with disinfectants. Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, or nose with unwashed hands. The CDC also recommends against healthy people wearing face masks: it only keeps you breathing stagnant air and can raise alarm in others.

If you’re not feeling well, please stay home, and rest up!

People who are ill may share their germs with others. And people who are ill are already weakened, so any other spreading viruses may hit them harder than healthy individuals. Add to this that many of our volunteers and Guests are immuno-compromised before coming in contact with any other illness, and we should all do our part to keep everyone healthy and safe.

If you need to call out from a volunteer shift, please just email me ahead of time, and if you are able to remove yourself from the SignUp calendar, please do so!

There is a wealth of information about COVID-19 on the internet right now; make sure that you are following credible sources. Here are some that DESK is following:

Is DESK closing or altering our schedule?

At the time of writing this, DESK does not intend to close.  That said, we have established protocols to implement “reduced services,” which will take the form of “grab-and-go” meals, rather than our typical sit-down.  At yesterday’s Food Pantry, we changed our model slightly to allow only a ten clients in at a time, so as to avoid having too many people in an enclose space at once.  We will do our best to keep volunteers and Guests alerted to major changes. 

We — and our Guests — can’t do this without YOU!

We always rely heavily on our passionate corps of volunteers, but all the more so during a public health crisis.   Many volunteers will have to cancel at the last minute because they are unsure of their own health status, so we are counting on you all go the extra mile.  If you would like to join our Emergency Volunteer Group to be on-call in the event of volunteer cancellations, please send me an email with your name, email address, and phone number for texting.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me at (203) 624-6426, ext. 8961 or our Executive Director, Steve Werlin, at (203) 624-6426, ext. 8557.

Stay healthy, New Haven, and we hope to see you soon!