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York County Social Service Agencies Adjust to COVID Surge

For populations that rely on social services, getting help has become difficult as the omicron variant spreads rapidly. But Pennsylvania’s York County officials are adjusting their services to distribute aid amid the risk.

(TNS) — When those who need social services — such as food security or a warm bed — end up getting COVID, how do organizations respond?

Given the steady rise in COVID-19 cases since the arrival of the omicron variant, nonprofits are once again faced with difficult decisions: How do you cope when infected people rely on their support and resources?

The answer isn't always clear-cut, but regardless, some York County, Pa., organizations like the York County Food Bank are figuring it out.

"We're starting to hear how people can't come attend our distributions or local food pantries because they're sick," said CEO Jen Brillhart. "We encourage people to find someone who is healthy to go in place for them."

York County's senior population, specifically, is one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to food insecurity. When coupled with rising COVID cases, it can be hard for seniors to get out of the house and feel safe, Brillhart added.

If somebody is sick with COVID, however, the York County Food Bank won't turn them away.

Strategies implemented at the beginning of the pandemic — including contactless delivery and drive-through distributions — help dismiss fears of transmission or spread, Brillhart said.

Additionally, food packages come with more than a week's worth of food. The COVID-19 isolation period, meanwhile, was shortened to only five days.

"We just want to make sure nobody goes hungry," Brillhart said.

Likewise, several of York County's nonprofits with homeless shelters like Bell Socialization and LifePath Christian Ministries will not turn away sick folks.

Instead, both shelters introduced an isolation period for new individuals coming into the shelter.

Bell Socialization requires a five-day isolation period of anybody who comes into the shelter as part of their COVID-19 protocol.

LifePath, meanwhile, has isolation rooms that are only necessary for those who are infected with COVID or start to exhibit symptoms, according to Norman Humber, CEO of LifePath Christian Ministries.

"If you can think about it as a congregate situation, it's a gigantic family," Humber said. "There's a lot of people around so we have to stay diligent. But when something presents itself like symptoms or a positive test, we act in accordance with what's best for the family."

In addition to the isolation period, masks have once again become required for anybody who enters the LifePath building. Additionally, volunteers were asked not to come in over an abundance of caution.

Vaccine clinics also recently popped up at LifePath as an additional way to battle COVID-19. Partnerships with WellSpan Health, Coalition For The Homeless and Friends & Neighbors helped make these clinics possible — with great turnouts from the community.

Humber hopes to continue these clinics, with plans to host another one in February.

"What can we do to help slow it down? Prevent it? Stop it? That's our emphasis," Humber said. "Right now, we're just trying to stay ahead of the curve."

At Bell Socialization, too, masks are required. With staff cases causing a shortage in hands, it's imperative for Bell Socialization to mitigate COVID where they can, said Executive Director Tony Schweitzer.

A partnership with WellSpan allows Bell Socialization workers to pick up COVID kits, take samples and return them for testing. Bell, however, has not yet needed to do that, Schweitzer said.

"Our staff is dedicated to what they do in helping other people," Schweitzer said. "They show up for work every day knowing what the challenges are and continue to be those heroes."

(c)2022 The York Dispatch (York, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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