COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus. Now that COVID-19 is spreading in Utah, this can impact our services to survivors and our abilities to stay at full staffing. Although there are many unknowns, here are some considerations for sexual assault programs and other providing services in high risk areas.
Telecommuting and Confidentiality:
Confidential work space: each program will need to work with advocates to assess their remote work spaces and if confidential services can be provided. If, for example, an advocate's partner is also temporarily working from home, the advocate will need to ensure there is a soundproof room in which to provide phone services. These are of course, case-by-case supervisory discussions.
Temporary file storage: if advocates need to work remotely for some time, they will likely need to bring client files home. Best practice would be to get a password lock document bag or locking clipboard for advocates working remotely so they can store files confidentially. Both items can be found on Amazon for $20-30. With electronic files, the program will want to set expectations and perhaps policy for advocates who will share a computer at home with partners, children, or others. The policy/supervision expectations should address signing in and out of databases, clearing history, etc. to protect confidentiality.
Reimbursement: programs may need to reimburse advocates for personal cell phone usage or modify their mileage reimbursement policies (some programs base reimbursement on distance from the office, but that wouldn't work). An advocate that pays per minute for cell usage will probably go over their minutes if they are using it for service provision.
Check out the National Network to End Domestic Violence's resource on using digital services during a public health crisis.
Use your best judgement when determining if folks should provide accompaniment services to individuals in hospitals and working with advocates to determine risk. If folks have colds, history of respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems, or other health issues, they may not be the best candidate for providing accompaniment to the hospital. It makes sense to take precautions.
Engage in recommended prevention:
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Add hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to your hospital "go bag. " Clean your cell phone often. Wipe down surfaces.
- Avoid touching your face when possible and wash your hands if you do touch your face.
- If you are sick, stay home.
Connect with your hospital partners about their current procedures for limiting exposure to workers and patients not impacted by the novel coronavirus. At some point, the hospital may also be working to triage non-emergency clients with increased cases. Talk with them about contingency plans and a threshold where it could impact exams to survivors.
Although CSAP contracts require hospital accompaniment to be provided to people who have been sexually assaulted, we recognize that your community may be experiencing unique risk factors related to COVID19.
For state and county specific information access the Utah State Department of Health 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak (COVID-19) https://coronavirus.utah.gov/