Dear Team:

            Here is an update on an issue of major concern: how will Community Healthcare Network respond to workforce disruptions in the unlikely event that New York City closes the public schools.  As Senator Elizabeth Warren was saying, until recently, “We have a plan.”

            This addresses how we will handle a City-wide or borough-wide closing of public schools. Of less concern are sporadic school building closings due to suspicion of possible infection. This happened yesterday in the Bronx, although it proved to be a false alarm: the person who was thought possibly infected with the coronavirus was not.             

Should the schools close, we will keep our administrative offices and centers open. That is CHN’s commitment to our communities, and we will do that so long as it is humanly possible. I expect that it will be humanly possible for the duration of the pandemic.

           At the same time, we recognize that a number of parents will need time to make childcare arrangements in the face of school closings.  Now is a good time to think about those arrangements. Still, school closings will lead to an increase in call outs, at least temporarily. We are preparing for that.

           Center directors, in coordination with Medical Directors, will calculate over the next few days how to anticipate the number and positions of staff who care for school age children at each Center.  Each center will have in place an emergency staffing plan, and where needed we may ask staff to shift from one center to another to maximize the health care we deliver.

            There may well be other reasons that the pandemic will create workforce shortages, and this general plan will guide how CHN responds.

            I do not want to ignore the concern about how we will maintain our pay if we are forced out of work by circumstances beyond our control. First, we need to all to find ways, when possible, to make it to work. Second, we do have a terrific paid leave policy (sick, vacation, personal), at least by standards of employers in the United States. It is the best I have seen in the jobs (many) I have had.

            Bottom line: we need to show up and keep serving our communities. But, the other bottom line, as this pandemic continues, is to maintain financial security for all staff who do everything within their power to keep contributing. At this point in the pandemic, no one knows what that may mean. My job will be to figure out how to do it should it be necessary.

            Hang tough, plan, and keep healthy not just by washing hands but by doing what we know works: eat well, sleep peacefully, laugh, and reduce stress the best you can.   

            And once more: every City official is insisting that schools will be closed only as an absolute last resort.  City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza yesterday said there was very little chance of a system-side shut down. When asked by a reporter about a petition that had 108,000 parental signatures calling for a school closing, Caranza said schools will be open “until 108,000 epidemiologists” say to close them.  Proving I am not the only one who makes unfortunate wisecracks.

            Rest up this weekend, please.

            Best, Bob