[NFBOH-Cleveland] National Federation of the Blind Response to COVID-19

Suzanne Turner smturner.234 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 12 19:59:26 UTC 2020

The news has been dominated lately by information about the COVID-19 outbreak. This message will share what the National Federation of the Blind is doing and recommending. Please know that this is a topic that the leadership group continues to monitor and discuss on a daily basis. The health and safety of all of our members, staff, and friends is always our top priority.


Attending a Federation event is a personal decision to be made based upon your current health status and, when appropriate, in consultation with medical professionals. For the latest facts about the virus, we encourage accessing reliable information from sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) <https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019>  or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html>  Users of NFB-NEWSLINE® can also access the latest information in the breaking news section.


National Convention and National Headquarters 

The 2020 NFB National Convention is taking place July 14-19 in Houston, Texas, as planned. At this time we do not believe there is a need to alter plans for our annual meeting. We will continue to evaluate the situation and the needs of attendees. We will update the national convention webpage (nfb.org/convention <https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention> ) regarding the status of the event and any related precautions to be taken.


At our national headquarters, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, we are taking extra precautions and implementing sanitation and safety measures to keep our members, visitors, and staff safe. We are evaluating our planned meetings and tours and will communicate with participants regarding the status of previously planned events. While we have postponed certain large-scale national meetings, we continue to host a number of smaller meetings where the risk factors are low. These factors are being constantly reviewed.


Large State Meetings and Conventions

Based on current information, the national leadership recommends that state conventions or other events should be continued as appropriate while monitoring local conditions and directives. Affiliate leadership should monitor and follow any directives or guidelines issued by public health officials in your state or area that are specific to outbreaks there. The local circumstances should be the strongest guide for adjusting statewide meetings. State leaders are asked to coordinate their plans with the President of the Federation so assistance can be provided and clear lines of communication can be maintained across the nation.

*	If an event is proceeding, take appropriate precautions and let members know about the details of those precautions or updated information. Please review the general guidance for executing meetings during COVID-19 offered below.
*	If an event is cancelled, appropriate messaging should be distributed through all relevant channels. 


Local Chapter Meetings and Events

Like state meetings, our current recommendation is that local leadership should continue activities as appropriate while monitoring local conditions and directives. Local chapter meeting changes should be coordinated with the affiliate president.

*         Communicate to members that they should decide their level of participation based on their own health and safety. Be sure to utilize the general guidance for executing meetings found below. 

*         Local chapters should communicate with meeting locations to understand what precautions those facilities are taking to support hosted meetings.

*         Chapter leaders may want to secure supplies to assist members in keeping the meeting environment as free of germs as possible.

*         Local leaders should ensure that clear communication plans exist for sharing updated information to members.

*         For meetings of small chapters or of chapter or division boards, leaders might consider using a service like Zoom or FreeConferenceCall.com to conduct virtual meetings as a temporary measure if local circumstances do not permit public meetings.


General Guidance for Executing Meetings

The most important prophylactic step that Federation members can take is to encourage those who are exhibiting any type of symptoms related to a respiratory illness to refrain from attending any organizational events. If someone has been exposed to the virus in any way, that person should stay away from Federation events as well. Additionally, those who are in high-risk groups should consult with their medical professionals and consider staying at home. At Federation events, it is critical that everyone practice the highest level of hygiene. 

*	We should refrain from handshakes or physical contact like hugs, etc. 
*	Hands should be washed frequently and/or hand sanitizer should be used liberally. 
*	It should be recognized that serving food at Federation meetings is a potential exposure point. We recommend considering eliminating food at Federation events during the current circumstances. However, if food is to be served extra attention should be given to best practices for serving food and keeping surfaces clean. Specifically, anyone serving food should wear gloves, and before serving, hands, serving surfaces, and serving instruments should be sanitized.


Again, we will continue to monitor all aspects of this situation as they develop, focusing first and foremost on the health and safety of everyone in our Federation family. I wish you, your families, and your colleagues the best as we address these challenges. 


Warmly, Mark


Mark A. Riccobono, President

200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

(410) 659-9314 |  <mailto:officeofthepresident at nfb.org> officeofthepresident at nfb.org 





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The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. Every day we work together to help blind people live the lives they want. 





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