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COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted and DDS Programs

Since many of the pandemic restrictions were lifted in Massachusetts this week, DDS has released updated guidance for visitation, group homes, day programs, and transportation.

On May 29, the Commonwealth lifted COVID-19 restrictions, except in certain settings including group homes, day programs, and transportation. Important COVID-19 protocols on surveillance testing, PPE, and infection control will remain in place for our programs. 

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DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families

August 10, 2021

Dear DDS Community:

With the recent policy changes across the country and news about the Delta variant, I know you are wondering how this impacts DDS programs and your loved ones, and what steps we are taking to keep them safe. This week, we are announcing major updates to our congregate care surveillance testing program and also releasing updated guidance for visitation, group homes, and day programs.

First, we will be testing more often and including vaccinated staff in surveillance testing again.  Weekly surveillance testing of all staff working in congregate care programs will help us identify cases quickly. As is current practice, any time a positive case is identified, testing will occur right away for all staff and residents. Please note, the current isolation and quarantine polices have not changed.     

Second, we encourage masking more often, even for fully vaccinated people. While fully vaccinated residents do not need to wear a mask in their own home, staff will continue to wear masks in day programs and group homes, and we ask that all visitors wear a mask inside programs, even if fully vaccinated. The goal is to not restrict visitation, prevent you from embracing of your loved one, or limit your ability to spend time with them. Masking and testing helps us do that. 

Third, we continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for all. You may arrange an In-Home Vaccination by calling 1-833-983-0485, find a vaccination site near you using the VaxFinder website, or work with a group to schedule a Mobile Vaccination Clinic.  If you need help, please contact your DDS Service Coordinator.

On the pages that follow, please find vaccination resources and links to updated guidance for group homes and day programs.

As always, please stay in contact with your Service Coordinator and Area Office and follow the Department on our website (mass.gov/dds) and social media (@ddsmass) for the latest updates.

Take good care,

Jane

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Surveillance Testing Program

  • Weekly surveillance testing for all congregate care staff, even if they are fully vaccinated, starting August 12.

Wearing Masks

  • Fully vaccinated group home residents are not required to wear a mask in their home. 
  • Individuals served by DDS should follow the public mask guidance in public settings.
  • All staff are required to wear a mask while working in congregate care programs and day programs.

Visitation

We have asked our residential settings to return to their pre-pandemic visitation policies and practices with the following exceptions:

  • All visitors are now asked to wear masks indoors. 
  • Continued screening of all visitors for symptoms of illness and COVID-19 infection.
  • Suspended visitation when a resident is isolating due to COVID infection or there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the program.
  • Staff are required to wear masks in group homes, regardless of vaccination status.

Vaccination Update

  • In-Home Vaccinations are available to anyone with trouble getting to a vaccination site. Call 1-833-983-0485 to schedule your in-home vaccination.
  • Call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment over the phone.
  • Use the VaxFinder website to search for appointments at pharmacies, health care providers, and other community locations.

If you need help planning a COVID-19 vaccination for an individual served by DDS, please contact your DDS Service Coordinator. 

Please see below for helpful links and resources:

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Visitation Guidance

Guidance for DDS Programs

DDS Resources

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Chinese)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Haitian Creole)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Khmer)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Portuguese)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Russian)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Spanish)

DDS Commissioner Ryder Message to Families (Vietnamese)

Coronavirus Update and DDS Programs

COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted

On May 29, the Commonwealth lifted COVID-19 restrictions, except in certain settings including group homes, day programs, and transportation. Important COVID-19 protocols on surveillance testing, PPE, and infection control will remain in place for our programs. 

Vaccination Update

  • All people age 12+ in Massachusetts are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Walk-in appointments are now available at most vaccination sites, meaning you no longer need to book an appointment in advance. 
  • The Homebound Vaccination Program is now available to anyone with trouble getting to a vaccination site. Call 1-833-983-0485 to schedule your in-home vaccination.
  • Call 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277 to schedule an appointment over the phone.
  • Use the VaxFinder website to search for appointments at pharmacies, health care providers, and other community locations.

If you need help planning a COVID-19 vaccination for an individual served by DDS, please contact your DDS Service Coordinator. 

Wearing Masks

Individuals served by DDS should follow the public mask guidance in public settings. If you are vaccinated, wear a mask if the setting requires it. If you are unvaccinated, public health guidance recommends you continue to wear masks in public and settings in which others may be unvaccinated.

Visitation

We have asked our residential settings to return to their pre-pandemic visitation policies and practices with the following exceptions:

  • Continued screening of all visitors for symptoms of illness and COVID-19 infection.
  • Suspended visitation when a resident is isolating due to COVID infection or there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the program.
  • Visitors must wear masks indoors at the home except if fully vaccinated and visiting a fully vaccinated resident in their room. Staff are still required to wear masks in group homes, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Residents who are fully vaccinated may visit with loved ones who are fully vaccinated without maintaining social distancing or wearing masks, if they choose.

Helpful Links and Resources for Visitation, Group Homes, Day Programs, and Transportation

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