CHEER takes steps to protect senior clientele, staff, volunteers

CHEER Inc. Friday announced changes impacting outside contact, its congregate nutrition program and tweaks to homebound meal delivery in light of the coronavirus crisis. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — In efforts to curb potential spread of COVID-19 to a potentially at-risk senior population, CHEER Inc. has taken steps to restrict congregational gatherings, reduce outside contact and tweak its massive homebound meal delivery during the growing coronavirus crisis.

In the aftermath of conference calls Friday amid Gov. John Carney’s state of emergency declaration, CHEER chief executive officer Ken Bock, said all CHEER centers — along with similar programs statewide — were directed to close their congregate nutrition sites.
“They will be closed for people coming in. There will be no congregate meal program, fitness centers or any other activities,” said Mr. Bock.

This impacts all seven CHEER activity centers (Georgetown, Greenwood, Long Neck, Ocean View, Lewes, Roxana and Milton) and two independent sites, in Bridgeville and Laurel.

Ken Bock

CHEER’s homebound nutrition program continues with precautionary adjustment in meal delivery.

“It is evolving on an ongoing basis,” said Mr. Bock.

Meanwhile, CHEER’s adult daycare program and the agency’s home services will continue.

CHEER activity centers will serve as distribution points for homebound meals prepared at the agency’s administrative/nutrition hub in the Thurman Adams State Service Center in Georgetown.

“In addition, those members that come to the congregate sites that we consider high risk in terms of various health conditions, those people, we are going to try to put on homebound meal routes for the duration of this, so we can continue to ensure that they are getting a meal,” Mr. Bock said.

Additionally, CHEER’s regular congregate members who can come to the centers can pick up a prepackaged meal between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. weekdays. CHEER staff or volunteers will bring meals to the vehicles. “Congregate members will not be entering the centers,” Mr. Bock emphasized.

CHEER, which serves thousands of senior-age Sussex Countians through a range of programs and services, plans to continue providing transportation for congregate members who rely on CHEER transportation for weekly trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or other needs.

“Barring any changes, we are going to continue offering that service for those congregate members. Rather than them coming to the centers, we will have the bus pick them up at their homes,” said Mr. Bock.

Delivery of homebound meals will undergo protocol change during this crisis. Instead of greeting the senior recipient and often times entering the residence and engaging in casual conversation, volunteers will simply go to the house, ring the bell or knock on the door and leave the meal on the front doorstep — and back off 6 feet, Mr. Bock said.

“If nobody comes to get the meal, or pick the meal up, we just can’t leave it on the doorstep,” he said. “There is no going into homes to deliver. And we’re not going to do any direct contact, so that we don’t expose our people or worse, wind up bringing a source of transmission for any kind of virus.”

Efforts will be made to enable senior homebound meal recipients to stock up in the event delivery should be disrupted in some capacity, or should a senior undergo home quarantine.

“We are going to try to increase the number of meals delivered so senior recipients will be able to stock up,” said Mr. Bock. “Our goal is to try to get them to the point where they can get as many as 14 additional meals in their home. So if something should impact our ability to deliver, our goal is to get everybody to where they can have 14 additional non-perishable or frozen meals in their house.”

CHEER is looking to enlist more volunteers.

“We are trying to add volunteers because, of course, these are volunteers that have concerns about this also,” said Mr. Bock.

During normal times, CHEER prepares on average approximately 1,700 meals daily, counting both congregate and homebound programs.
“We expect that to probably go down some in terms of total because there are congregate people that won’t be getting it. They will have to do something different. If we do our numbers, we are anticipating probably somewhere between 1,200 to 1,300 meals daily,” said Mr. Bock. “Now, if we are taking three additional meals to build that surplus, then obviously that number multiplies accordingly.”

While CHEER’s adult daycare will continue, a ban is in place on any outside visitation, such as entertainment and performers.
“You’ve got to err on the side of caution,” said Mr. Bock.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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