COVID-19 Guidance on Re-Opening or Expanding In-Person Services

Many SoT programs are contemplating re-opening or expanding in-person services in the near future and may have questions about doing that safely and ethically. At this point, there is no blanket guidance for federal grantees other than following the CDC, state, and local guidelines.  Below are some preliminary thoughts that have come from our friends at ORR that may be useful. This will also be a topic in the next ORR Virtual Town Meeting for SoT grantee organizations.

Masks are still required in healthcare settings, schools, and public transportation.

In general, social service providers should adhere to local guidance if it is stricter than state or CDC guidance (e.g., Montgomery County is stricter than the rest of Maryland right now).  Each organization and business may have to come up with its own policies, if there is a need to be more cautious than follow local or state guidance.  Because refugee and SOT populations may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 for a variety of reasons, refugee-serving organizations may have reason to proceed more carefully.  This may create a somewhat confusing situation for the time being.

You may want to pay attention to updates on these guidance pages for CBOs, in-home social service providers, and refugee-serving agencies:   

NRC-RIM https://nrcrim.org/ will likely also have something on their website to help stakeholders navigate the constantly changing COVID-19 guidance, so also stay tuned for that.

Regarding Wearing Masks:

NPR Article: Confused by CDCs Latest Mask Guidance? Here's What We Learned(link is external) Updated 6/8/21

Relevant points:

 CDC doesn't run or oversee and can't overrule your local or state health department. You'll still need to check the local rules where you live to see how they've changed (if they have) in response to this week's shift in the CDC's guidance.

  • Whether you need to wear a mask indoors in public venues will depend on local mandates and guidelines, as well as businesses, which make their own operating decisions.
  • Most legal experts agree employers can require vaccination of their employees returning to the workplace.
  • It is legal for employers to ask to verify vaccination by checking, for example, a worker's vaccination card — so long as they are not requesting other medical information that may violate the employee's privacy.
  • Whether employers will continue to require masking in their workplaces may depend on a range of factors like local public health regulations, whether that employer has a vaccine mandate (and therefore only vaccinated employees are on site) or whether they have enough space in the facility to distance those who are unvaccinated.
  • Some settings should still require masks even for fully vaccinated people, including in correctional facilities and homeless shelters, and for staff, patients and visitors in health care settings(link is external).

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