Friday, April 3, 2020

Michigan American Legion Update April 3, 2020

Update April 3, 2020:

Good morning Legionnaires! Passing along information to keep you informed as much as possible.

Please share with your membership and executive committees, several pieces of information to know.
Table of contents:

  • News from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency about the Veteran Homes
  • Department Veteran Service Officers are still working
  • Michigan Girls State has been canceled
  • Is there financial help for Posts?
  • The 2020 Census is important for our Veterans
News from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency about the Veteran Homes

The department reached out to the MVAA to ask about the two Veteran Homes. The following is the response we received from the agency:

At this time we have NO confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the member population at either facility and members are being monitored at a minimum of twice daily for symptoms and fever. We have one employee at DJJHV who did test positive. This individual had not been at work since March 5, 2020 and also based on information shared with us by the employee, we have no indication that would lead us to believe the staff person had direct contact with any resident member or any other employees while at work from the time the individual was potentially exposed and subsequently tested.
Here is a summary of some of the major steps and actions taken thus far:
  • Week of March 2, 2020, myself and Steve Rolston initiated a risk assessment process to identify what risks existed in relation to potential COVID-19 exposure to our members and the steps that would be necessary to mitigate these risks. We briefed General Rogers on the results of this assessment and provided recommendations. We then began the process of implementing restricting visitor access and establishing screening processes for staff.
  • On March 12, 2020 we restricted access to both Homes and only allowed medically necessary staff and contractors in the buildings. The attached letter was sent to families, friends, volunteers and non-medically necessary contractors letting them know of this decision. We did indicate that members who are at end-of-life would be allowed to have visitors (these approved visitors must complete the same screening as employees described in the next bullet).
  • On March 13, 2020 we began mandatory screening of each employee entering the facility. We restricted all access points into the facility to one main entrance. Employees are required to wash their hands or "gel in" with hand sanitizer, they then complete a health screening that asks about their current health condition, any symptoms they have and if they have traveled both domestically or internationally. If they answer yes to any of the questions they are asked to leave and go home for 14 days. The Director of Nursing and other nursing leadership will also interview them/review conditions if there is any uncertainty or concerns raised during the screening process. The final step before being cleared to enter is a temperature screening to ensure they do not have a temperature over 100.4.
  • By March 16, 2020 (over the course of the weekend) we had restricted members to their rooms, stopped all communal dining and activities and are only allowing members to leave the facility for medically necessary appointments. Plans have been implemented to ensure members are receiving in room activities and smoking privileges are being maintained on a supervised/one-on-one basis to adhere to social distancing recommendations. This also applies to the members of the Domiciliary who all signed an acknowledgement of these necessary new restrictions.
  • On March 16, 2020, Major General Rogers recommended to Governor Whitmer to place National Guard members on State Active Duty to assist with COVID-19 response efforts. MG Rogers then assigned 4 State Active Duty Guard Members to report to the Homes to support our screening efforts and to provide other assistance as assigned (2 for GRHV and 2 for DJJHV).
  • Since this time we had an additional Guard member added at each Home for a total of 3 at each Home.
  • On March 23, 2020, Major General Rogers and Executive Director Anne Zerbe designated all employees who have been reporting to work since the start of this crisis as "critical infrastructure workers" as this relates to Governor Whitmer's "Stay Home. Stay Safe." Executive Order, therefore ensuring our workforce had clear instructions to continue reporting to work as assigned in order to ensure proper staffing levels and member health and safety.
We continue to refine and update our response plans for if and when we do get a positive case at either facility, based on the regular updates we get from the CDC and other public health officials. This has included converting and preparing spaces at both facilities to be used as isolation units (3rd floor at DJJHV and 2 South at GRHV). We have initiated a centralized inventory process to ensure we are well equipped to continue to manage this situation for the foreseeable future. The full resources of the DMVA and state government are being leveraged to support our efforts, including coordinating with the State Emergency Operations Center.
We have also started regular, scheduled outreach with members' primary responsible parties to inform them of the steps we have taken, schedule video visits via FaceTime or other apps and answer any questions they have. We are also accommodating "window visits" and our activity and other support staff have been amazing in ensuring members are getting in-room, socially distanced on-unit and one-on-one activities. At GRHV they even setup a photo scavenger hunt for members while on escorted walks outside and are preparing a Nerf gun squirrel "hunt" where they will shoot at paper cuts out squirrels.
Our employees have been amazing and deserve an incredible amount of recognition for their efforts during this difficult time. We are providing them with regular communication and updates in an effort to ensure they have accurate and consistent information.
As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to let me know.
Department Veteran Service Officers are still working

The VA is OPEN. If you have Veterans with VA Benefit Claims being processed, I want you to know the Department Veteran Service Officers are still working. Gary Easterling has his staff working remotely at their homes, because of restrictions placed on their offices. The VSO's can answer questions, look up information, and process paperwork. If you have a Veteran who needs to speak with a VSO, contact Gary Easterling at (313) 549-8557, email, or fax information to (517) 689-6000.

Note: The VA has postponed hearings until May 1. Veterans who had a hearing scheduled in April should receive letters discussing the process.   

If a Veteran has an appointment at the VA, they should contact the clinic to ensure the appointment is still happening. If it is still on, the Veteran should leave plenty of time to get to the VA since they have instituted one entrance and medical checks before entering the building.

Michigan Girls State has been canceled

Message received from Beryl Robbins: We heard the official news from MSU today that all of their summer youth programs have been cancelled for 2020, giving us no choice but to cancel our 2020 Girls State program. Discussions were held between Al Vanderberg, our Government Coordinator and myself regarding the possibility of doing a virtual session, but it just didn't seem like it would be successful. I will be getting word out to our sponsors by this weekend. Hopefully, we can all come back stronger in 2021!
Beryl Robbins
Michigan American Legion Auxiliary Girls State

Is there financial help for Posts?

The only answer I can give on this is maybe. President Trump signed the CARES ACT on Friday afternoon, which provides financial relief to qualifying small businesses and non-profits. The Small Business Administration has designated Michigan an Economic Disaster Area opening Economic Disaster Injury Loans and Grants. I would recommend that if your Post has a building and a business inside to contact your tax preparer or accountant for help. To learn more, I recommend two websites to look at and

The 2020 Census is important for our Veterans: Fill Out your Census

The 2020 Census is in full swing, the information received from the Census will help government officials to know how and where to allocate resources. Your input matters.

Please encourage your members to take the Census. It takes just a few minutes and can make a tremendous difference in your community.
This to shall pass.

Stay safe, exercise social distancing, and call your Buddies.
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