*This information was last updated July 10, 2020 and is subject to regular updates.
VON's COVID-19 FAQ
The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) is actively monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak, while we continue to provide support, service, and care to our clients. In collaboration with our partners, we have made proactive, preventative changes to our service and care delivery approach to keep our clients, employees, and volunteers safe. Please find below a list of current Frequently Asked Questions, which will be updated as the situation evolves, and more information becomes available.
- What is COVID-19?
- How is COVID-19 transmitted?
- Are VON’s services and/or programs impacted by COVID-19?
- Are VON’s services considered ‘essential’?
- What steps has VON taken to protect its clients, employees and volunteers?
- What personal protective equipment are VON staff using?
- How is VON ensuring that our care providers' personal protective and other equipment is clean and safe?
- How is VON ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment?
- How is VON maintaining delivery of services and care while practicing physical distancing?
- Should I wear a homemade face covering?
- What is the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation?
- Will VON be caring for any clients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
- Will VON be caring for people in Long-Term Care homes?
- How can I find out if my program/service has been impacted and/or cancelled?
- What is the impact of isolation on the people you serve and what is VON doing to help?
- Are you still relying on volunteers to support your programming?
- I receive regular emails from many other organizations about what they are doing during COVID-19. Why have I not received anything like this from VON?
- Where can I find out more information about COVID-19?
1. What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name used to describe the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and different species of animals. Animal coronaviruses can infect people (although rare) and then spread between people as was the case with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus, COVID-19.
In January, the World Health Organization classified it as a public health emergency of international concern, and on March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic due to its ability to infect people easily and spread from person to person.
2. How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes; close personal contact with an infected person and touching the virus on a surface and then touching your face before washing your hands. VON is following all Public Health of Agency of Canada directives on what precautions to take to reduce the chances of staff, clients and their families coming into contact with the virus.
3. Are VON’s services and/or programs impacted by COVID-19?
The health and safety of our clients, employees, and volunteers remain our most important priority as we continue to deliver essential care. We recognize that certain VON programs and services, like home nursing and home support, are essential to helping you or a loved one remain safe, healthy and at home. We will continue to do our best to ensure these services continue without too much disruption, while maintaining the health and safety of those receiving and delivering VON care.
In light of the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic, VON continues to make changes and adjustments to our local programming, as required to protect the health and safety of others. Information on the status of our programming is available on our website.
4. Are VON’s services considered ‘essential’?
All VON front-line service providers and those who support them, are considered staff in essential workplaces in accordance with the Nova Scotia and Ontario governments. With that in mind, VON continues to monitor the safety of our services and delivery to ensure that essential care needs are met. At the direction of public health, VON has reduced, altered, or cancelled some of our programming to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of our clients, their families and our staff. More information on our programming can be found on our website.
5. What steps has VON taken to protect its clients, employees, and volunteers?
All employees and volunteers are self-screening every day. This is consistent with directives from the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the Government of Ontario and Government of Nova Scotia. Employees and volunteers self-screen using online assessments from provincial public health. No one completes a shift with VON unless they are symptom-free or cleared by Public Health to do so. All staff, volunteers and visitors to VON offices or locations are also screened before being allowed to enter. Anyone with a positive screen is not permitted to enter VON spaces unless prior arrangements have been made and extra precautions are in place to ensure the safety of other clients and staff.
We have been screening clients before every visit since mid-January and are updating our screening tools constantly as Public Health adapts requirements. Screening question generally ask both clients and their household members about symptoms of illness, travel history and contact with others who may have been exposed to COVID-19. If a client or household caregiver/family member answers yes to screening questions, we have steps to take to ensure that they receive the most appropriate care, including directing them to contact their provincial health unit to access a COVID-19 assessment or further treatment. Any clients in need of urgent care will be directed to their Emergency Department. Public Health requires VON to report when there is a positive screen. VON follows all Public Health directions for care to the client and family/household members using the standards for Infection Prevention and Control and precautions. We also provide positive screen clients with a VON-issued face mask for them to wear while receiving VON care.
We are ensuring that front-line service providers are equipped with required personal protective equipment (PPE) as directed by Public Health. This means that our providers will wear PPE in accordance with government in Ontario and Nova Scotia directions. All VON frontline service providers wear face masks and eye protection when they are delivering clinical care and/or having face-to-face contact with a client. If a staff member is faced with a situation where proper PPE is not accessible to them, they will not provide care until the suitable PPE is available.
We have increased our already stringent infection control procedures in VON spaces where services are coordinated or delivered. VON follows best practice in infection prevention and control during normal times, and is ensuring that everyone:
- Screens themselves before entering a VON space
- Practices exceptional hand hygiene
- Regularly self-monitors using provided self-screening tools
- Screens clients and those who accompany them, prior to delivering care
Where possible, our employees are practicing physical distancing. In response to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations on physical distancing, we are encouraging our employees who can work from home to do so. We are ensuring that all employees follow provincial directives related to self-isolation.
6. What personal protective equipment are VON staff using?
VON follows direction from provincial and federal Public Health authorities on when (and how) personal protective equipment must be worn. Our employees have access to masks, gowns, gloves and goggles/face shields, and use them as required. All VON care providers in both Ontario and Nova Scotia are wearing face masks and eye protection any time they are delivering clinical care and/or having face-to-face contact with a client.
7. How is VON ensuring that our health care providers' personal protective and other equipment is clean and safe?
VON care providers are trained on how to safely put on and remove any personal protective equipment (PPE) and are regularly audited to ensure they understand how to do so safely. This includes handwashing before and after wearing PPE to reduce spread of germs and illness. VON staff regularly wash their uniforms at home, separate from personal clothes, and are following infection prevention and control guidance on how to safely clean their cell phones, VON bags and other reusable client-care equipment.
8. How is VON ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment?
VON is closely monitoring our supplies and is working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure that supplies are available for care. Staff follow federal and provincial Public Health agency direction on when they should wear certain items of personal protective equipment, which includes wearing face masks and eye protection whenever delivering client care. Much of this equipment is single use or limited extended use. As VON continues to respond to the pandemic, we have introduced conservation strategies for PPE and are regularly replenishing our supply. VON has developed minimum specifications for PPE and other essential infection prevention and control supplies based on Health Canada and other recognized standards. All PPE used by VON staff meets or exceeds these standards. If you are a vendor or manufacturer of authorized PPE and are able to provide supply to VON, please email email@example.com with details including: type of equipment, quantities available, and any support you may be willing to provide.
9. How is VON maintaining delivery of services and care while practicing physical distancing?
VON is focused on safety first and foremost – we self-screen every day and screen our clients prior to each visit/client encounter which we do by phone as often as possible. Upon our arrival to a client’s home, we are practicing hand hygiene and wearing protective equipment (PPE) as required for the care/service. In order to support physical distancing, we ask that household members/family members who are not involved in the immediate care maintain at least a 2 metre/6ft distance from our staff. In some programs, we are delivering meals at the door, contact-free, wherever possible. In other programs we are using alternative ways of providing services including virtual visits.
10. Should I wear a homemade face covering?
For the general public, face coverings are becoming a strongly recommended safety measure when physical distancing is not possible. In some areas, face coverings are now mandatory in public buildings. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer from COVID-19 and does not replace the need to physically distance or regularly wash your hands. However, face coverings used in addition to these other strategies may help to reduce the spread of the virus. More information on appropriate use of non-medical masks can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 webpage under ‘prevention and risks.’
11. What is the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation?
Physical distancing means minimizing contact with other people. In addition to regular handwashing and other measures, physical distancing can help you and those around you remain safe. Physical distancing involves:
- Maintaining a safe distance (6 feet/2 metres) from other people.
- Being mindful about social gatherings – the governments of Ontario and Nova Scotia are regularly updating their guidelines on social gatherings and safe social bubbles/circles. More information can be found on their websites:
- Ontario directives: https://www.ontario.ca/page/create-social-circle-during-covid-19
- Nova Scotia directives: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/what-it-means-for-nova-scotians/
Self-isolation means staying at home and not going out in public for a minimum of 14 days when:
- You return from travel outside of Canada
- You return from travel outside of the maritime provinces (for those in Nova Scotia)
- You have been in contact with someone who has, or may have, COVID-19
- You have been directed by Public Health or another authority to do so (for example returning to a Long-Term Care or Retirement Home after discharge from hospital)
COVID-19 self-assessment tools provided by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Nova Scotia are very useful tools to help you determine if you must self-isolate:
Ontario self-screener: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/#q0
Nova Scotia self-screener: https://when-to-call-about-covid19.novascotia.ca/en
Measures to prevent spread of the virus during self-isolation include regular hand washing, use of separate washrooms from other members of the household (if possible), sanitizing surfaces, arranging for groceries and supplies to be dropped off at home by others, and keeping a safe distance (6 feet/2 metres) from others.
12. Will VON be caring for any clients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
VON staff are continuing to deliver compassionate and essential care to clients who show symptoms, or, who have tested positive for COVID-19. They continue this care because it is essential for the client’s health and safety in their home. To safely deliver care, VON staff are always wearing masks, goggles/face shields, gloves and gowns around clients who are symptomatic, or who have tested positive for COVID-19. These are the items of personal protective equipment that Public Health Agency of Canada has directed staff to wear in these situations. VON staff are also physical distancing whenever possible in the home and provide positive screen clients with masks for them to wear while receiving care. Clients whose condition becomes severe are directed to 911 for emergency management/assessment.
13. Will VON be caring for people in Long-Term Care homes?
VON provides care to residents in long-term care homes when a particular service cannot be delivered by an existing staff person, or additional support is needed in the home. VON has many precautions in place to protect those who provide care in long-term care settings. In Ontario, all staff working in Long-Term Care homes and/or retirement homes must follow specific active screening requirements which includes completing a self-screener twice daily (with temperature checks) and they are not to be in the Long-Term Care home and/or retirement home at all if they have symptoms. In Nova Scotia, staff working in Long-Term Care and residential facilities experiencing an active covid-19 outbreak, are required to self isolate for 14 days after their last shift worked in the facility, and must have a negative COVID-19 test result in order to return to work the community.
14. How can I find out if my program/service has been impacted and/or cancelled?
If there are changes to your service schedules or to any of the programs you participate in, VON will be reaching out directly to advise you of any cancellations. We are also sharing changes on our website, https://www.von.ca/en/program-cancellations – this information is updated regularly.
15. What is the impact of isolation on the people you serve and what is VON doing to help?
Being with other people and maintaining connection with our families, friends and loved ones is important for one’s mental wellbeing and physical health. But for many people, particularly seniors, loneliness and isolation are realities they face every day; during this pandemic, the feeling of isolation may be further intensified. VON recognizes the value and importance of our programs – particularly our group and community-based programs – have in the lives of our clients and we are committed to providing supportive alternatives wherever we can. VON’s staff are finding creative ways to maintain contact by phone, video, and other virtual means to provide regular check-ins with those affected by a reduction in our services.
Through continued delivery of virtual care and support, where we can offer it, VON is able to maintain the social connections and conditions that help people stay healthy and well. To read more about these conditions and VON’s approach to primary health care, visit: http://www.von.ca/en/principles-primary-health-care
16. Are you still relying on volunteers to support your programming?
VON continues to deliver programs and services in certain communities that rely on volunteer support. In particular, our meal delivery programs are supported by volunteers and are critical to ensuring food security among some of our most vulnerable clients and community members. The health and safety of our clients, employees, and volunteers remain our most important priority as we continue to deliver all essential care. All volunteers are required to self-screen, every day before their duties with VON. In addition, VON is screening all clients by phone or from a 6 feet/2 meter distance, prior to them receiving our service. Volunteers are also following physical distancing measures and are avoiding or reducing any face-to-face contact with clients. In situations where physical distancing is not possible, volunteers are are wearing VON-provided face masks and eye protection VON volunteers are encouraged to engage with and support VON in whatever capacity makes them comfortable.
17. I receive regular emails from many other organizations about what they are doing during COVID-19. Why have I not received anything like this from VON?
VON takes its responsibilities as a health and social service provider very seriously, and part of this is ensuring that we use your personal information very thoughtfully and in accordance with the law. There are strict rules in place to protect your privacy and the security of your personal health information, and we take those seriously. Most information to clients and their families is coming directly from our staff who work most closely with them. We are considering providing other more general information to clients via email, but for now, we are focusing our resources on direct outreach and our website.
18. Where can I find out more information about COVID-19?
For more information and resources on COVID-19 symptoms, spread, risks and guidance on how to protect yourself, please visit your provincial public health organization or the Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization’s dedicated COVID-19 websites.
Please consult only official and recommended sources for information regarding COVID-19. Misinformation can raise anxiety, create confusion, and promote unsafe practices and behaviour. Now more than ever, we need to trust and rely upon the experts.