April 23, 2020

Dear Key family,                                                                    

Although it feels like years, it’s only been a couple of months since coronavirus (COVID-19) first started spreading across the United States and impacting all of us and almost a month since the Florida stay-at-home order began.

During this time of crisis, the Key Training Center staff’ resilience, empathy, and dedication to the individuals we support, co-workers, and the communities in which they live has been incredible.  Simply put, I am proud of the response of our staff members.  I use every opportunity possible to tell legislators and local leaders that the heroes in this crisis aren’t just doctors, nurses, and first responders—there is a much larger group of front-line caregivers who deserves an incredible “thank you” from society.  As an organization, we are essential in the lives of the people we care for, and our staff is doing heroic work. Without their commitment and expertise, some of our community’s most vulnerable populations would be left with literally nowhere else to go.

The Key Center has taken many steps to keep our employees and the individuals we serve safe during these difficult and unprecedented times.  Preventing the spread of COVID-19 has included a lot of severe changes―including limiting day programs to clients that live at home, canceling all outings, instituting no visitor policies, centralizing day services to Key residents, and other disruptions to everyday life that even two months ago seemed inconceivable.  The mandated no-visitors policy is one of the most challenging things we had to implement. On March 15, 2020, the Division of Emergency Management issued Emergency Order No. 20-006, prohibiting all visitations at facilities in Florida, except in very specific circumstances.  We did receive notice from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) last week that the Emergency Order does not expire until May 8, 2020, as its effective date corresponds with the effective dates of Executive Order 20-52. Restrictions listed in the Emergency Order continue to remain in place, and the Agency requests that family, friends, and representatives of residents are advised accordingly.  We are assuming that if the May 8 date holds, we will receive guidelines and restrictions on how visitation will be able to take place. As soon as we receive more guidance, we will be sure to share it with families and guardians. Initially, we will most likely schedule home visits to adhere to social distancing measures.  In the meantime, we encourage families to stay connected, including using virtual platforms, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, to connect with others; set a scheduled time to connect each week, read together over the phone or video chat, or send a short video greeting; and send letters, cards or artwork.

Another big challenge has been securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for the safety of the individuals we serve and staff members. Many of our standard suppliers stock depleted quickly.  Networking with other health-related businesses in our community, we have been able to establish reliable supply chains and secure a healthy stock for surgical masks, KN-95 masks, gowns, face shields, and googles. The surgical and KN-95 type masks will be required for staff in suspected or positive COVID-19 situations.  In line with recent advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are recommending that our staff members wear cloth masks while working in a care setting and follow CDC advice to wear a cloth mask when in the general public situations.  We are in the process of making tie cloth masks and waiting for delivered elastic to start making additional cloth masks for staff.  We welcome any cloth masks donations to mask our 280+ staff members.  Embracing universal precautions remains

one of the most important things we can do to keep our staff and the people we serve safe:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based gel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean things that are frequently touched like doorknobs and countertops with household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of the elbow, not the hand.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with others.

To date, we have had no client or staff positive COVID-19 cases, but we are prepared if it happens.  For any positive case of COVID-19, the resident will be removed promptly and relocated to our isolation room located on the Lecanto campus and cared for by trained staff in all PPE safety equipment and processes. We will work closely with the local health department and hospital as needed. We will protect the privacy of our residents and their health information while notifying residents, families, authorized representatives, and staff of a positive COVID-19 case.  The home that the resident lived in will be professionally COVID-19 sanitized, and masks/other PPE safety equipment will be required for staff and residents (as needed) for fourteen days or time guidance given by the local health department.  For a suspected case of COVID-19, depending on the client’s symptoms and health, they would either be isolated in their home or relocated to the Lecanto isolation room until the conclusion of the results.  If they stay in the house, they would be separated from others in the house by staying in a specific bedroom or space and using a different bathroom (if possible).  Once again, we will protect the privacy of our residents and their health information while notifying residents, families, authorized representatives, and staff of a suspected COVID-19 case. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.  Self-care and stress management will look different for each person, but here are some things that may be helpful:

  • Try to focus on the things you can control rather than those that you cannot control.
  • Understand that everyone is dealing with this differently, but we are all doing the best we can in a tough situation.
  • Acknowledge the emotions you are feeling. They are a normal response to this very unusual situation we find ourselves in today.

We are keeping a close watch on Re-Open Florida plans and how that will impact our day, residential, and retail departments. Our business is essential, and we are working hard to develop unique and innovative ways to continue services and prepare for recovery.  We are closely monitoring recommendations and guidelines set forth by the CDC, AHCA, and Agency for Persons with Disabilities as changes continue to be fluid and applying as needed.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call:

Melissa Walker, Executive Director                            352.795-5541 ext. 203

Theresa Flick, Director of Program Operations          352.795.5541  ext. 224

Barbara Branch, Director of Day Services                  352.795.5541  ext. 244

Cole Kiser, Director of Residential Services              352.795.5541   ext. 227

Thank you for your continued trust in the Key Center to serve the ones you love.  We will continue to update you and our community of any changes to our operations. We know these are trying times, but we will get through COVID-19 together!


Melissa Walker

Executive Director

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