The Key Training Center is temporarily shutting down its daytime programs after some of its employees and residential customers tested positive for the coronavirus last month.
In a letter to client families, Key Training Center executive director Melissa Walker listed the precautions the nonprofit is taking to protect its staff and clients from the pandemic that has swept through Citrus County and the country.
Walker said she closed the training center’s day program the week of August 30 as a precaution, but will now extend that shutdown until September 10. The day program includes assembly for ClosetMaid and life skills training.
Walker told The Chronicle that during the month of August, 31 training center staff and 27 of his residential clients tested positive for the coronavirus.
As of Friday, September 3, Walker said 13 staff and 24 resident clients were positive.
The Key Training Center provides accommodation or work for 300 clients with mental disabilities. The training center accommodates 148 clients. It has 285 employees.
“The previous three weeks weren’t fun,” Walker told The Chronicle. “But I want to commend our staff across our organization at all levels. They brought their best attitude, ability, creativity and teamwork as we continued to be affected by this pandemic. “
The August infection rate was a big blow to the program.
In comparison, from March 2020 to June 2021, only 12% of training center staff were infected with the virus and only 6% of residents.
To continue providing services to its clients, the Key Training Center offers program services to group homes while the two-day training center program sites are closed.
Walker also moved and expanded the training center isolation area to the Chet Cole Life Enrichment Center on the training center’s Lecanto campus. The building will house clients of group homes who test positive.
“Beds, living and sleeping areas, televisions and activity tables have been set up for a home-like atmosphere,” she said.
Typically, residents who test positive can return to their group home after 10 to 14 days, she said.
“All personnel working in this area wear full personal protective equipment,” Walker said. “The state has just provided a drug called Regeneron for post-exposure treatment or prevention of COVID-19 to residents of the isolation area. Exposed personnel will also have the opportunity to receive treatment.
As a reminder to families of clients, Walker said the training center follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for healthcare workers.
All residents and staff are tested for COVID-19. The homes of COVID-positive customers are fogged with chemicals that kill the virus but are safe for humans. The home is then quarantined for 14 days during which staff put on masks and other protective equipment.
“By being proactive, we continue to test our staff every two weeks and require a daily health screening questionnaire and temperature reading at our facilities,” she said. “All direct care staff are trained and retrained in hand washing, hand sanitizing techniques and personal protective equipment.”
To help make up for the loss of staff, Walker said she was also hiring workers through temporary agencies.
The extra workers have proven to be a “huge relief for our workforce”.
Walker said that while the pandemic situation remains fluid, she does not anticipate having to extend shutdown day services beyond September 10.