COVID-19 FAQs

Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Introduction

The global coronavirus pandemic has raised unique questions from recovery housing operators.  There is much information out there, but questions remain on exactly how recovery housing operators should adjust their policies and practices in response.  This document includes frequently asked questions and responses, based on the most recent best practice advice from national, state and local experts.  We will do our best to update this guidance as needed as the situation develops.

We are in unprecedented and uncertain times.  The situation changes rapidly, and it is possible that new recommendations and resources may become available.  Operators must examine information provided by trusted sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), along with this document and consider the individual needs of their residents. 

Where do I go for accurate information?

The following websites are updated at least daily and contain accurate and trusted information about coronavirus.

Where do I go if I have questions?

  • If you have questions about the coronavirus itself, you should call the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-427-5634

  • For questions relating to housing and coronavirus contact the Ohio Department of Mental Health of Addiction Services OhioMHAS housing team at COVID19Housing@mha.ohio.gov

  • For questions about behavioral health and coronavirus in general, contact the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services OhioMHAS at COVID19BH@mha.ohio.gov

  • For questions about your local response, contact your local health department

How do I get access to the vaccine? 

Starting March 29, 2021 all Ohioans aged 16 and older are eligible to sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  Residents of recovery housing can sign up at their local health department, a local pharmacy, or mass vaccination site.  As supplies of vaccines become more readily available, there are more opportunities to sign up.  As of the last update to this page, many locations are accepting walk-ins and there are opportunities to host a vaccination clinic at your location.  Visit the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Dashboard to see a location near you. Details are available on the Ohio Department of Health Website

What information should I share with residents about the vaccine?

Providing factual information about the vaccine can help residents make the best choice for them regarding getting the vaccine. 

The following are resources from trusted sources that you can share

 

Can residents who have received vaccines behave differently than those who have not?

On July 23, 2021 The CDC Provided Updated Guidance for Individuals who have been fully vaccinated.  This guidance does not apply to health care settings or many transportation settings, like airports and public transit.

 

The updated guidance advises everyone, regardless of vaccination to continue to engage in certain preventative measures, such as handwashing, cleaning, and staying home if experiencing symptoms of COVID19.

The updated guidance advises all people who live in areas of substantial or high transmission to wear masks indoors.  This is recommended for both people who have been vaccinated as well as people who have not.  You can learn if your area is considered to have substantial or high transmission by using the CDC COVID Data tracker maps, which provide data at the county level.

It is also important to discuss changes in policies or practices with residents.  Some residents may be ready to start not wearing masks and get back to activities that they enjoyed prior to the pandemic after they are fully vaccinated.  Some residents may need more time to feel safe.  Allow people to share what they need to feel safe and supported and work with residents to meet their needs.  

What do I do if a resident in my home gets sick? 

Even though many health orders have been lifted, the virus is not gone.  It is still possible for people to become sick.  It is important that you continue to have plans and protocols in place in case a resident were to become ill with COVID-19.  People who have COVID-19 still need to isolate as much as possible and avoid others to prevent the disease from spreading.  

 

If a resident becomes ill and starts to show symptoms of possible COVID-19, the resident should call their primary care provider and follow the instructions provided. If  they do not have a primary care provider, you can call a federally qualified health center, or contact your local health department.

If they are having trouble breathing call 911 and inform the operator of the resident’s symptoms if they are symptoms of possible COVID-19.

In some instances, the resident may be asked to go to the hospital, in other cases the resident may be asked to self-isolate. It is important that you help support the resident in completing the instructions provided by their health care professional. 

  • Assist the resident getting to the hospital if that is the recommendation of the health care provider

  • Be sure to call ahead if you are visiting a health care provider

  • If the resident is asked to stay at home and self-isolate, begin isolation protocols

The CDC guidance for individuals who have COVID-19 recommends that they

  • Stay home except to get medical care

  • Separate themselves from other people

    • This includes staying in a separate room, using a separate bathroom, if possible​

    • It is recommended to wear a mask when using common areas 

  • Monitor symptoms and follow instructions of health care providers ​and local health departments 

  • Clean using appropriate products and clean high touch surfaces frequently 

The following recommendations are provided as ways that recovery housing operators can allow the resident who is ill with COVID-19 to have the support they need to get better, keep moving forward in their recovery as well as reducing the risk of illness for the other residents living in the home. 

  • Provide the resident their own bedroom and single bathroom for their own use

  • Ask the resident to clean high-touch surfaces of the bathroom each time it is used

  • Have staff, house manager or other residents bring the resident meals and other supplies to their room for them 

  • Leave any meals, items, or other needs outside the bedroom door. The resident should only open the bedroom door and retrieve items after the person dropping off items has left

  • Allow the resident to participate in house meetings and other activities virtually.  There are many apps and other tools that can be used to help residents keep in connection with others in the home.

  • Allow resident to participate in outside activities virtually.  There are more online and virtual resources becoming available like IntheRooms and the Connections App.  Check the Ohio Recovery Housing Resources Page for the most up to date information about these tools.

  • If the resident needs to go outside, have them notify other residents.  Other residents should go to their rooms while the resident walks through the house and outside to ensure appropriate physical distancing. 

  • The resident should wear a face mask when around other people (including before entering a health care provider’s office). They may have to improvise a face mask using a scarf or bandanna if surgical masks are not available.

  • The resident should clean any doorknobs, light switches or other surfaces touched 

  • If you need personal protective equipment, supplies are limited.  Contact your local Emergency management agency for guidance.

  • The resident should follow the guidance of their health care provider or local health department to determine when it is safe to end isolation.  Residents who were potentially exposed should follow the guidance of the local health department or their health care provider on how long they should be in quarantine and how they should limit their activities.  

You can reference an example policy for a Level II recovery home provided by Erin Helms, Executive Director of The Woodrow Project and board member for the National Alliance of Recovery Residences and Ohio Recovery Housing.  These procedures are currently in place and working well in the recovery home.

What if our recovery home only has one bathroom?

Some homes are smaller, and only have one bathroom that is shared by all residents.  There are still steps homes can take to reduce risk in these environments.

  • Ensure the bathroom has soap, paper towels and disinfectant cleaner

  • Use disposable paper towels to avoid shared items.  If paper products remain difficult to get in your area, ensure each resident as their own cloth towel to use, and that it is washed frequently

  • Empty trash cans regularly, wear gloves when emptying cans

  • Do not place items on shared surfaces (for example, do not place toothbrushes on the sink)

  • Provide each resident a caddy so they can bring personal items into the bathroom and then remove them when not in use

  • Clean the restroom before and after each use.  Post a checklist of surfaces to be cleaned each time to serve as a reminder

  • Do not use the restroom immediately after someone else has used it.  Wait a reasonable amount of time to enter, clean and use the restroom.

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How do I keep other residents in my home from getting sick?  

Following the above listed guidelines if a resident were to become ill with COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others in your home.  Even if all residents are fully vaccinated, it is important to follow CDC Guidelines for those who are sick, including isolating from others, wearing masks, performing appropriate cleaning and other measures.

The best way to prevent residents from contracting COVID-19 is a vaccination.  See information earlier in this document about sharing accurate information about vaccines to help residents make decisions about getting vaccinations. 

  

Can I require residents to get a vaccination?

Recovery housing operators are landlords and must follow all Ohio Landlord Tenant and Federal and State Fair housing laws.  There is no specific guidance for landlords on if landlords can require vaccinations.  Seek legal counsel to inquire about legal considerations involved in requiring vaccinations for your residents. 

In addition to legal considerations it is important to note that there are many reasons why a person may choose to not get a vaccine, even it is free and readily available to them. Simply establishing a requirement that a resident must receive a vaccine may place additional barriers to groups of individuals who are historically unserved or underserved when accessing recovery housing.  Recovery home operators should consider this as they establish the practices and policies that are most appropriate for their organization.

 

Recovery homes are encouraged to use Trauma Informed Approaches when engaging in discussion with residents or future residents about vaccines.  

How do we safely welcome visitors to the recovery home?

Even though health orders have been lifted, and guidance has been updated, the coronavirus is still spreading among Ohioans.  Each recovery home is encouraged to review your existing visitor policies and implement best practices that are appropriate for your individual operation.  

It is important to involve your residents in discussions about if and when it is appropriate to lift any requirements for visitors.  Some residents may be ready to life these requirements, while others may need more time to get used to this next phase of the pandemic. 

Ask your residents about what they need to feel safe during this next phase of the pandemic, and use this information to help guide your decisions as an organization.  

How can residents safely leave the home for nonessential purposes?

The CDC guidance for fully vaccinated individuals outlines that fully vaccinated individuals can engage in everyday activities without wearing masks or staying six feet apart from others.  People who are not vaccinated are recommended to take additional precautions as outlined by the CDC.

Additionally, each business can establish their own policies and practices.  It is a good idea for everyone to continue to carry a mask with them and be prepared to practice physical distancing as it may be required by the business or organization being visited.  

I have a resident who has lost their job, how do we support them?

As businesses are forced to close to reduce the spread of disease, many people are losing their jobs, including recovery housing residents.  There are resources available.

  • Residents can apply for unemployment online at www.unemployment.ohio.gov or call 1-877-644-6562 or 614-387-8408 M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • There are many people applying for unemployment at this time. You are encouraged to use the website as wait times on the phone are very long.

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I am unable to buy enough supplies at the store, what do I do?

As of the most recent update of this page, common supplies are readily available in most stores for purchase and most purchase limits have been lifted. The guidance below may be helpful in the event that it once again be difficult to access basic supplies.  

 

Each store is managed differently, and these strategies might not work at all stores, but some operators have had success using the following strategies.

  • Call ahead, if possible, and ask to speak to the store manager or business account manager.

  • Explain that you are a housing provider, and that you need to purchase supplies for all the residents in your home.

  • Ask how many supplies you will be permitted to purchase.

  • Bring your Ohio Recovery Housing certificate or other documentation with you to demonstrate that you are purchasing supplies as an organization.  The capacity of your home is printed on the certificate. 

  • Contact your local Emergency management agency for guidance on supplies such as masks.  

  • Contact your local ADAMH Board and/or health department for direction and support if all other sources for obtaining needed supplies have been attempted and exhausted.

  • Contact business that may currently be closed, such as beauty salons, restaurants and other establishments to see if they have cleaning supplies they are not using while closed

  • Post on Facebook or other social media that you are in need of supplies or are looking for places to purchase supplies locally, your community may respond with either donations or places where you can go 

  • Check out this list of potential resources

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How do I support residents who are experiencing anxiety or sadness during this time?

This is a stressful time for all people, and it is not uncommon for people to be overwhelmed and experience anxiety and sadness.  The CDC has provided resources on managing stress and anxiety during this time.

  • Everyone should continue with any existing mental health treatment plans.  Many providers are offering services via telehealth, contact the provider to learn more about how to continue to receive any treatment services.

  • If a resident needs help immediately, you can contact the Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990

  • They can also use the Crisis Text Line.  Text the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a Crisis Counselor

  • They may also call the OhioMHAS help line at 1-877-275-6364 on Monday – Friday, 8:00AM – 8:00PM

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General best practice strategies include

  • Taking breaks from watching or reading news stories or social media 

  • Encouraging everyone to stick to a routine as much as possible

  • Engaging in physical activity, such as taking a walk (remember physical distancing!)

  • Connecting with others virtually, talking to friends and family about how you are feeling

  • Engaging in enjoyable activities 

  • Talking to other recovery housing operators to get ideas about group activities and projects for residents to do

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What can we do to prevent a relapse during this time?

Relapse is always a concern in recovery homes.  This concern is raised during this time of crisis as residents experience increased anxiety, sadness and disruption in routine.  Suggestions for creating an environment that is supportive of recovery and decreases relapse include

  • Connect with your local treatment providers to learn about available services, including telehealth options, in case they are needed.

  • Be sure to talk to your local treatment providers about any resources that may be available to you should a resident experience a relapse.

  • Have any residents who are currently engaged in treatment contact their treatment provider to make arrangements so they can continue with any existing treatment plans under telehealth or other options.

  • Refer to the Ohio Recovery Housing Best Practice Guidance on Preventing and Addressing Relapse in Recovery Housing.  This document contains information on developing and updating recovery plans that include relapse prevention.

  • Go over the recovery and relapse prevention plans with each resident.  Make changes and updates to adapt for a new schedule, goals, and options.

  • In-person recovery meetings have been cancelled, but residents can still engage in virtual recovery meetings using online tools and apps like IntheRooms and the Connections App.  Check the Ohio Recovery Housing Resources Page.  Please also see resources listed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. As we learn about new tools and resources, we will post them there.

  • Many residents may not be able to engage in regular work and volunteering.  Help provide residents resources for virtual job training and virtual volunteer opportunities so they can remain engaged in these activities. 

  • Residents may have limited minutes on their phone, allow them to use the organization’s phone or computer to connect with peers, family and friends.

  • If a resident were to experience a relapse, and treatment services or other options are not available, connect the resident to their primary care provider or to a federally qualified health center.

How do we welcome new residents into recovery housing?

It is important to remember that many people seeking recovery housing do not have any other place that is safe and healthy for them to go.  Potential residents of recovery housing may also have not had access to a vaccine or chosen not to become vaccinated.  See previous question on requiring the vaccine for residents of recovery housing.  

Ohio Recovery Housing has developed best practice guidance for operators in welcoming new residents to a recovery home during COVID19

How can I prepare for flu season during this time?

It is never to early to start planning for and thinking about preventing the seasonal flu! 

 

Public health officials are encouraging everyone to take preventative action against seasonal influenza.  COVID19 is still impacting our health care system, and one way that communities can reduce the strain of COVID19 is by reducing the impact of seasonal influenza by taking preventative actions to prevent the spread of the flu.  You can do this by engaging in the following activities, many of which you are already doing in order to prevent the spread of COVID19. 

  • Get a flu vaccine.  The CDC recommends that those who are aged over 6 months and who do not have contraindications get the flu shot every year.  Specific populations are especially encouraged to get the seasonal flu vaccine.  See the CDC guidance for more information. See the ODH recommendations as well.  Use this vaccine finder to find locations where you, your team, and residents can find a vaccine.  https://vaccinefinder.org/.  You can also contact your local health department to learn about any local resources that may be available. 

  • Ohio Department of Health also recommends these strategies for preventing the flu, including hand washing, covering your cough, and having healthy habits. 

  • Check out the Flu Fighter Tools from the Ohio Department of Health

Additional resources for you also include:

Conclusion

These are challenging times, and the decisions that recovery housing operators need to make are difficult.  It is normal to feel stress, anxiety and sadness during this time.  Recovery homes are critical parts of the continuums of care for people with substance use disorders, they are also critical parts of or neighborhoods and communities.  By being thoughtful, supportive and reasonable during these times, you will be demonstrating to your residents and your communities the core values of recovery housing, and further demonstrating how recovery housing is a critical asset for any neighborhood or community.

Disclaimer

This frequently asked questions guide is not intended to replace the advice of legal counsel or serve as medical recommendations or clinical guidance for substance abuse disorder treatment professionals.  It is based on best practice guidance that has been provided up to the date of publication.  The exact implementation of these responses will vary depending on the exact structure of your home and the Level of Support available in your home.