WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Wednesday plans to reintroduce volunteers to its health care facilities.
“Just as our facilities are gradually reinstating services, volunteers are slowly reintegrating into them,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Volunteers are an integral part of our health care teams, offering fundamental services. We look forward to their return.”
Volunteer activities had been paused to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Local state agencies have yet to reply to the report that comes at the height of the pandemic. The U.S. has averaged just shy of 48,000 new cases over the course of the past three days.
Over 646k cases have been reported in the U.S. since August 1st with a daily average of 53k per day in August. The United States largest single-day report came on July 25th when over 78k cases were reported in a single day. The US now leads all nations with over 5.1 million cases confirmed in the country.
The VA says volunteer roles will be new, while others will stay the same, be modified, go virtual or remain paused as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Individual VA facilities will tailor the reintegration of volunteers based on the facilities’ operational needs and the volunteers’ abilities.
Volunteers can expect the following safety measures:
- Phased reentry: Volunteers are being asked to return to duty on an as-needed basis while maintaining physical distancing. VA asks that volunteers do not return to the facility unless they have been approved to do so.
- Retraining: Volunteers must complete an orientation and training on VA’s policies and procedures. This includes the proper use of personal protective equipment including face coverings.
- Health screenings: Volunteers, like staff and patients, must consent to being screened for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms prior to entering facilities.
Locally, the Illinois Veterans Home at Manteno has reported 62 cases of COVID-19 to date, resulting in 16 deaths at the facility. The adjacent supporting Prince Home unit has also reported four cases of the virus, with zero deaths.
Cases at both facilities remain OPEN status as of Wednesday according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.