COVID-19 related Updates

ABILITIES MEMBERS: If you are not receiving email updates from us, please check your spam filters. Emails are likely being routed to junk.

We are committed to providing daily updates on news and information that would be helpful as we all deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more resources and access to an online forum as well at Stay safe! #WeAreBetterTogether


Your New Normal Workbook 

ImagineAbility Food Service 

Need/Have Staff to be Deployed

Orientation for Re-Deployed Staff – Video version or Printable version

Red River College – Direct Support Worker Orientation Topics – (NEW)

Third-Party Health Agencies that have indicated they will work in COVID positive home: 

  1. Services beyond support
  2. Pro-Care Service
March 3, 2021
Wow! It’s been a while! I hope everyone is managing alright. With both vaccines and Spring on the horizon, things are looking up!
Stats for our sector are looking much improved. As of March 2 there were 3 individuals funded by CLDS with COVID and all are in hospital. There is 1 active staff case. Fantastic work all! Despite COVID fatigue that staff (and all) are surely feeling – this is great compared to previous numbers.
Priority: Currently staff working in 24/7 living arrangements are being vaccinated and we are hopeful to hear soon that folks residing in those situations will begin to be contacted. As of March 2, approximately 65% of staff had been contacted to book appointments.
Following that we expect everyone else to be eligible based upon age along with the general public. We have been advocating for other individuals and staff but Health seems to be sticking close to the national guidance. We are hopeful that vaccines will flow generously and vaccination can occur quite quickly. We have submitted a risk assessment form to the Vaccine Task Force. CLDS has shared that if the flow of vaccines continues to be an issue, they are open to utilizing the risk assessment to prioritize people for the vaccine. If you are supporting elderly individuals who become eligible through the general rollout we urge you to pursue it and not wait for CLDS’ plan to rollout.
If people are under the PGT or choose to check in with their Doctor for advice, we’d suggest booking those appointments.  We would also suggest starting discussions with SDM‘s around the consent form they will be to sign if the individual wants to receive the vaccine. An easy read guide was sent out today as a resource to help people decide if they want to receive the vaccine. We are also very close to sharing a video we have created for the individuals you support about the vaccine.
Dedicated sites and mobile teams: Northway Pharmacy has come forward to offer dedicated vaccine sites in Wpg specific to our sector. They are also open to having mobile team go out in Manitoba to vaccinate. Tache Pharmacy is also willing to provide mobile teams in Winnipeg and we’ve connected both to the Vaccine Task Force. We are hearing from rural members that once Doctor’s and Pharmacists offer the vaccine, they will go the route typically used to obtain flu shots. IF you are concerned about the plan for folks at your agency, please reach out to Leslie, Jeannie or I. 
Day Services Re-Opening? We’ve had some questions from members about when day services may be re-opening. The short answer is not soon. CLDS will take direction from Health on when the re-opening will occur and CLDS has said that it won’t necessarily be linked to changes from red to orange zone. The significant driver is prolonged exposure across multiple households. 
A few interesting updates from our recent meeting with the Deputy  Minister:
– We have been advocating along with you (thank you for the letters sent in) for workers excluded in the wage top-up. I had proposed a wage to financially acknowledge the workers that were excluded and asked if there would be any financial incentive for excluded workers. Unfortunately, the answer was no.
I asked whether there will be an extension of the wage top up for those who are eligible and there seem to be no plans for that at this time.
SPA’s: I spoke about the SPA issues that members are experiencing and the Deputy Minister said that the Assistant Deputy Minister of Admin and Finance was anxious to meet with us to move forward. We have a meeting with her next week to discuss concerns and how they might be resolved. Judging from the strong communication that was sent out Monday, they don’t seem filling to negotiate. We will update you after the meeting. 
Dec 3, 5pm
As of 10am this morning, we’ve engaged in 3 discussions with the Province regarding the caregiver wage top up and the instability and negative outcomes it is creating for staff not eligible. This morning the meeting was with the Deputy Minister.
Here’s our plan:
We’ve drafted template letters to the Minister for agencies, DSP’s and families to submit. We will be distributing these letters very soon. In the meantime, please contact CLDS to share the impacts for your agency.
We’ve reached out to ADSPM to help distribute letters. We will share the template letter with Family Advocacy Network (FAN) as well.
We will be reaching out to understand how this impacts your agency so we can best approach CLDS. You’ll receive a short survey (sorry!!) to gain this info so we understand the ask in terms of dollars. 
This is such a challenge for all — I know you are working hard to manage this. While it’s amazing for those eligible, it does the exact opposite for those who won’t receive it. For them, it is demoralizing and hard. I’ve spoken with a number of agencies who are looking for creative ways to recognize and retain DSP’s. Some have used the additional funds accrued due to staff shortages to match the benefit. Mostly, that is not an option for day services who are particularly challenged, having experienced a number of blows due to the pandemic.
We will continue to move this as quickly as we can. I certainly see that time is of essence right now. 
Be safe, be well, rest, protect your wellbeing and keep up the great work.
Dec 1, 5pm
Caregiver Wage Top Up:  This announcement covers long term, congregate care settings in Dept of Health and Dept of Families. In discussions today, we highlighted the disparity and demoralizing nature of the announcement for those not covered. We have started to advocate for other service types and will continue to do so. We will be drafting letters to submit to Dept of Families as well as MLA’s.
Nov 30, 1pm
Caregiver Wage Top Up: As you’re aware a $5 wage top up for a 2 month period has been made available to staff and house managers working in 24/7 shift staffed homes. 
Naturally, we have heard from many members who are very concerned about all the staff in other types of services who will not benefit from this top up – everyone in all other service types. Immediately after the announcement I spoke with CLDS to better understand who was eligible and began some advocacy. I have also asked CLDS to send a communication out to agencies that describes how eligibility for the top up was determined.
We have a meeting with CLDS tomorrow and will be discussing this further.
To be clear – Abilities advocated for:
The implementation of BOA wage rates ($15.11) across all service types.
An additional $5 per hour wage premium for people working in COVID+ situations.
Nov 24, 11am
Wellness Checks: upon learning about Wellness checks, Abilities response was: 
Many agencies haven’t felt connected to or heard much from CLDS since the start of the pandemic, and now CLDS will be going into homes? If the intent is to be supportive of agencies, I would suggest meeting with the leadership of agencies (ED, Coordinators etc) to understand where the gaps are and what is needed. By doing it at that level it would result in far fewer check-ins and you would quickly see themes that could then be addressed to support agencies. I cautioned them that some agencies would see this as policing – they said if agencies feel like that to contact the Program Manager, as it’s not the intent.
Nov 20, 6pm
Abilities Manitoba has signed on to an open letter to Minister Friesen,  an initiative led by Barrier Free Manitoba. We are calling on the Minister to ensure triage protocols and critical care policies are in place. As the health care system grows increasingly taxed, we want to proactively address and ensure that ALL lives are valued as health care decisions are made. 
Nov 18, 7pm
Today’s announcement by the Minister is good news for us! While the announcement does not cover wages, it does address some issues we’ve been advocating long and hard for including single access to resources (the 1-800 #) connected to nurses, contact tracers, additional staff and the COVID response team. The number is open 24 hours a day and the COVID response team is also available 24 hours a day. This is a great step forward and some members have already benefited from the nurses employed.
The $6 million fund is a win as well. We will continue to advocate to enable that fund to support our members most effectively — by expanding who is eligible and what will be covered. We began this advocacy this morning.
CLDS Webinar Monday: I strongly encourage you to attend and submit questions for this webinar. We have been working at this since April and hope to dee regular ongoing webinars for our members.
Employees without MB Health cards: We have been working at this as people without MB health cards cannot access test results online and thus are off work sometimes linger than needed. Despite efforts to put something else in place, at this point the best option is for people to call in to Health Links to get their test results. We will keep this on our radar in the hopes of a better solution.
Minister of Families Heather Stefanson went on record today to say that in our sector we currently have 100 active cases of COVID which represents a mix of individuals receiving service (about 1/3) as well as staff (about 2/3). 
By-law enforcement officers: We continue to advocate for a letter to go out to agencies that could be shown to officers should it be needed. This would prevent receiving a fine for what may look like a violation to an enforcement officer. A good example is a vehicle being pulled over and asked to prove through ID that they reside at the same address. 
Nov 18, 9am
The Minister of Families will be making an announcement at 11am regarding enhancements to CLDS funded agencies.
Nov 12, 11am
Staff shortages: CLDS is developing a roster of their staff members who are available to fill shifts when needed. This is accessed through the Program Manager. I would encourage you to utilize this resource as needed.
Day Services: can continue to operate and support those with critical needs. The province is expanding the definition of critical to include those with employment and those whose need to access day services to maintain their mental health. They are working on a circular that will include this info.
By-law Enforcement: We’ve requested a letter go out to agencies in the event a by-law officer arrives as a day program or home where people are seen coming and going for shifts. As well, we’ve heard of people being pulled over while driving with an expectation to produce ID that shows they reside at the same address. A letter out to agencies could be distributed to staff to avoid fines. Please note that the gathering sizes do not apply to our sector — ie, max 5.
Advocacy: We continue to advocate on behalf of our members that the province implement the BOA wage rate to retain current workforce, implement a $5/hr wage premium for those working in COVID + situations and develop a fund for agencies to recover COVID related expenditures. We await a response from the Deputy Minister (expected any time now) and then will be approaching the Minister.
Full PPE: Some agencies have moved to full PPE (masks, shields, gloves and gowns) to help prevent COVID from entering or spreading. The agencies that I’m aware of who are doing this have had at least one positive case and have noted a decline in cases since implementing full PPE.
Nov 6, 2020  7:30pm
We had a meeting with the Deputy and Assistant Deputy Minister of Families tonight. They are working in a number of areas, but it’s fair to say that I had hoped for more.
– As a start 5 SIS assessors with be doing contact tracing for the department.
– Nurses are starting in our sector and I’m aware of 2 agencies who have worked with them so far and they report it has been helpful.
– Treasury Board will be approached mid-month for the development of a fund related to COVID expenses. We await details on what may be covered and the amount of the fund.
– CLDS is developing a roster of staff who will be available to provide direct support in emergency situations. They said they have people signed up currently and ready to go. Access is gained through your typical business hour channels or after hours number
– They have offered Abilities funds to act as a provincial recruiter to bring people into the field. I need to work with the Board on this and have some concerns as there is no increase in hourly rate for existing or new staff.
– They will continue to address processes to expedite hiring – checks, first aid etc.
Honestly, I had hoped for more — for an announcement of an injection of funds to agencies, for reprieve from staffing shortages, for robust supports to agencies. I will continue to work closely with the Board and listen to the experience of our members as we respond.
Nov 5, 2020 9am
I spoke with the ADM yesterday to express the urgent and critical situation our sector is in.
Vulnerable Manitobans are at significant risk. We need the government to:
  • clarify PPE requirements and aerosol spread, provide appropriate PPE and communicate. Don’t choose ease (policy/access) over people.
  • Immediate solutions to staff shortages followed by longer term solutions. 
  • $ to agencies to shore up staff resources
  • dedicated health team – more nurses, contact tracers, access to rapid tests, priority for vaccine.
Following this, the Deputy Minister called me and said they will work on a plan and get it to us today. I have a meeting scheduled for 5pm.

Nov 4 9am

I’m sad to report that we are aware of two people who have passed away from COVID 19. They were supported by an agency and passed away in hospital at the end of October.

Bylaw enforcement: 5 person capacity is not applicable in our sector. We’ve asked for a communication for agencies in the event by-law officers attend day services. A communication would also help in the event a vehicle is stopped to determine if passengers reside in the same house.

An updated communication on visitors can be expected – two visitors need to be designated people that cannot change.

Nurses: are expected to be up and running by the end of the week.

Situational Management Plans: If you are experiencing an outbreak, speak to the Department about reducing/simplifying the SMP submission process.



Winnipeg in Code Red and remainder of Manitoba

moves to Code Orange

Oct 30 6:15pm

Re: Steinbach and Winnipeg Metro region Day Services

Recognizing that 5pm on a Friday is not the most ideal time to receive a circular, I wanted to speak specifically to the reduction of day services. First, take the next few days – think, plan, digest. In discussions with CLDS they had a good understanding of changing mental health needs and deeming those folks as critical for services. I’ll discuss this with them in our next meeting as I’d hoped to see it in the definition of critical. Agencies know the people they support and recognize when their mental health is being compromised – trust this & advocate appropriately. Things are not what they were in March – 7 months in we are all experiencing the effects.  My sense is that potentially day services may not experience huge impacts with the move to the red zone. Many/most agencies are still at reduced capacity, welcoming back those who most need services. Time will tell – we see you- we walk with you. Those outside of Steinbach and Wpg Metro Region currently have an opportunity to get a flavour of life in the red zone. Best case scenario is that things become refined and increasingly accessible for others.

Thank you — for pushing forward when weary, for sharing lessons learned so it’s easier for others, for bringing your heart to what you do, for being invested & concerned beyond just your agency, for investing in the greater good, for so much more. Tough times don’t last but tough people sure do.

Oct 30, 2020  4pm

CLDS is working on communications to agencies and aim to get it out today. They will send it as quickly as they can confirm the info to include. I spoke with Sandi Dorbolo who recognizes that Winnipeg day services will need a few days to adapt and move back to critical supports. She asked how I  thought the news would land with impacted agencies. I replied that many in Winnipeg have been anticipating a move to the Red zone and it would be most helpful to not make negative changes to day service funding. The timing is certainly not ideal, but pandemics don’t care! She expressed hope that day services staff would deploy to support residential agencies.

October 30, 2020 1pm

Winnipeg in Code Red and remainder of Manitoba

moves to Code Orange

Hello all – CLDS is working to get questions answered and information out to agencies on the implications of today’s announcement. 

We anticipate:

  • Day services & transportation: return to providing critical services only (minimally in Winnipeg) with a cancellation of non-essential services.
  • Increased restrictions for visitors – I think we will see allowances for some critical visitors with use of PPE. Winnipeg can anticipate the most significant changes to visitor restrictions.

We would ask impacted day services to do what you can to deploy staff to residential settings. Staff fragility is sure to be amplified and we need to get through this together. Need/have staff to be deployed

I understand this poses many challenges and you have oodles of questions. We are still seeking to understand a number of things, but wanted to alert you that we will share what we learn from CLDS as we become more aware. 

On a separate note, regarding the letter you received from Dr. Roussin yesterday — I expected different content in the letter and am exploring if it’s possible to get a new letter. The main change I’m seeking is affirmation that people who are awaiting test results and are asymptomatic can continue to work in situations where someone is COVID positive.

Be well – be safe!

UPDATE 1:45pm May 14

Today Abilities participated in a meeting with the Minister of Finance to make recommendations on eligibility criteria for a potential financial initiative related to COVID 19.

There were 14 others representing other sectors, the vast majority outside of social services.

We strongly advocated on behalf of DSP’s for financial recognition of their hard work and commitment. With such vast representation at the meeting, we are hopeful that DSP’s will receive the recognition they deserve, should an initiative be announced. We look forward to hearing more.

UPDATE 10:45am May 14

We continue to launch the DSP wage and essential worker status campaign.

  • Following the Winnipeg Free Press ad last week, a number of rural papers have published the same letter to the Premier
  • Yesterday we launched the video and have sent it to the Premier, Minister of Finance, Minister of Families, Deputy Minister, Assistant Deputy Minister and some CLDS colleagues.
  • All MLA’s province wide have been sent a copy of the newspaper ad with a request to support the campaign
  • You will start to see billboards popping up in 11 communities around Manitoba on the long weekend. We will share the locations of all billboards as we finalize the details
  • In Winnipeg, you will see 50 transit buses featuring the campaign
  • We are finalizing plans with Global TV for an ad to run for 2 weeks towards the end of the month.

We will be participating in a call with the Minister of Finance from 11-1 today to discuss a Manitoba Risk Recognition Program. Details to follow.

UPDATE 6pm May 7

Make a point of picking up the Free Press tomorrow as we publicly launch our campaign for a wage premium for DSP’s. Members of Abilities have been emailed the campaign elements and timing of each aspect. 

UPDATE 4:30pm May 6

Abilities Manitoba is working in partnership with a number of groups to launch a wage campaign for DSP’s to include newspaper ads, TV and billboards. We are working with Disability Matters Vote, Barrier Free Manitoba, Family Advocacy Network, Inclusion Winnipeg and awaiting news from 3 other potential partners. 

As an initial step, we submitted a letter to the Premier and the Minister on May 4 calling on them to raise wages for DSP’s during COVID 19. Their hard work and complex skill set deserves recognition! 

We recognize that your costs as an agency have increased in the past few months and you may be feeling uncertain, financially. If you are able to, we would welcome donations to support the costs of this campaign which will be province wide starting with an open letter to the Premier in the Winnipeg Free Press and other community newspapers.

We hope you are doing well – Abilities continues to meet virtually and often – both the staff team and the Board of Directors.

Be well and stay safe!

UPDATE 6pm April 29

My apologies for the delay in posting – we’ve hit a bit of lull in terms of new information – and also recognize that agencies are anxiously awaiting new information on a number of topics.

Despite that Abilities truly has been hard at work — all employees on deck and four board meetings in April — kudos to all!

We had a meeting with CLDS today and covered a number of issues:

The Shared Health Directive around working in a single work place is NOT applicable in our sector. This applies only to personal care homes. It is still possible for someone to be employed in a personal care home and also in our sector; they cannot however work in 2 personal care homes.

We’ve heard from many day services who have tremendous concerns about the proposed funding model and encourage you to reach out to CLDS. We have shared the feedback we’ve received to date and will continue to represent your interests. Recognizing that most agencies can anticipate a significant cut, the Province has welcomed those agencies to contact them to work this through and have asked agencies to complete the template. Today CLDS shared they want to be flexible and want to see all day services remain viable. Please connect with CLDS to ensure stability in funding.

Shared Health has published a directive on extended use of masks, which will be utilized in our sector. CLDS is preparing a communication and the directive can be found at:

Current action items from CLDS include:

  • more interactive online platforms for communicating and meeting with agencies.
  • will follow up on eligibility for 2 week isolation pay
  • Communications about:
    • single work place directive for PCH’s
    • interim criminal record checks
    • potential of loosening visitor restrictions
  • Consider requests to fund deployed day services staff as full time if they were employed full time pre-COVID.
  • Consider keeping benefit funding in place so employees who have been laid off can retain benefits and reduce barriers when they return to work.
  • Ensuring in person First Aid training that may be starting has protocols in place to ensure safety.

UPDATE 5pm April 21

The Board of Abilities met with Deputy Minister John Leggat and Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates this afternoon. We used the letter we sent to our Executive Director members yesterday as the guide for discussion. The letter outlined three broad areas of concern with points under each.

Stability in funding

Maintaining a stable and agile work force

Communications from the Province

Regarding stability in funding:

Day Services: we shared great concern over funding cuts to day services and we reported the vast impacts day services will be seeing. They told us that they’d like day services to reach out as their intent is not to destabilize. We discussed fixed costs and loss of income and John Leggat reported they want to work with agencies to figure out fixed costs.

Residential Services: discussion focused on increased cost and coverage of costs to residential providers. Agencies are asked to approach the department with increased costs to seek approval for funding.

Coverage of incurred PPE expenses: A few agencies have been informed that any PPE they purchased will not be funded. We’ve asked for agencies to be funded for purchases ordered up until April 13 when the Department first communicated about arrival and distribution of PPE. They have asked us for a financial forecast of these costs. 

Request to agencies: Please send in your PPE expenditures to include:

  • a list of PPE items and related costs
  • the date the items were ordered
  • number of staff by service area (shift staffed homes, home share, day program etc)

This will assist us in gathering information for the Department to review.

We did not have time to speak to the other items related to stability in the workforce and communications from the Province, unfortunately. ADM Catherine Gates committed to following up on these items. 

I also wanted to report that orders for CLDS supplies can be done through residential care licensing. For rural and northern the contact is Lorna and in Winnipeg the contact is Cecilia. For day services deploying staff to home share or family situations, PPE can be ordered through this avenue. If staff are deployed to residential settings, the residential agency will provide PPE.

The teleconference to discuss the package sent to day services around redeployment will be held on Friday at 10am. We await further information on registration and an opportunity to provide questions in advance.

The Board is drafting a follow up letter to highlight the areas of concern around a wage premium and communications from the Department.

UPDATE 7:15pm April 14

PPE for deployed day services staff: CLDS has confirmed that day services staff who are deployed to residential services can expect to access personal protective equipment (PPE) at the organization they are deployed to.

UPDATE 5:30pm April 14

This morning’s CBC article about cutting non essential services created a lot of concern. I spoke with Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates about this and she reported that she doesn’t see anything shifting away from what has already been communicated to agencies.

PPE is starting to flow and Branden and Leslie will be making runs around Manitoba. Yolly is busy prepping packages to head North and you can expect hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, masks and other essentials as per your orders. We’ve heard that the shipment of gowns and masks has arrived in Canada and is at customs currently. We will communicate plans for distribution as this becomes available.

Dr. Brent Roussin and Deputy Minister John Leggat hosted a session this afternoon on PPE and answered some questions people submitted. Other questions will be followed up on and we look forward to seeing this information.

Day services have been awaiting the arrival of documents to plan for staff deployment to residential services. The due date of April 17 is being pushed back as I understand, as the documents have not yet been circulated.

Abilities is preparing a letter to submit to the Minister and will send a template letter for agencies to adapt for their purposes. Once ready, we will share our letter to the Minister with you.

UPDATE 4:30pm April 9

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brent Roussin will be holding a conference call to review protocols on Tuesday, April 14 at 3pm. Register here:

Folks in Winnipeg: Changes to Transit routes:

Spring Service Change Coming April 12 – Operation begins on the Southwest Transitway

A reminder to passengers that Winnipeg Transit routes in southwest Winnipeg are changing April 12, when service on the BLUE rapid transit line begins, utilizing the Southwest Transitway.

All Winnipeg Transit passengers are advised to use the Navigo trip planner to explore routes and schedules that will be in effect as of April 12.

UPDATE 10:30am April 9

CBC News Article:

COVID Impacts: Survey
Last week Manitoba Federation of Non-profit Organizations sent a letter to our Premier on behalf of organizations to advocate for non-profit needs surrounding COVID 19. This week they are collecting information on what the non-profit sector needs most to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Please take a few minutes to answer the survey. The data collected will be reported to the provincial government and be publicly available.
Submissions are confidential and the survey will be open until April 15.


UPDATE 6pm April 7

Safety Protocols:

As you are aware, we’ve been working to develop and gain approval on some safety protocols for DSPs on how to stay safe as they support people in their homes during this pandemic.

As you can appreciate, information and protocols are changing as the situation has escalated here in the Province. This weekend, Shared Health Manitoba sent out new direction on the precautions and use of Personal Protective Equipment in health care settings. We have confirmed that these guidelines do apply to CLdS funded services. You can find this communication here:

As a result we have updated our guidelines to supplement this direction. Our document provides some guidance on how to implement this direction specifically within someone’s home. We hope that you find it useful. You can find this document here:

We share your concerns about the sector’s ability to implement the direction provided by Shared Health Manitoba and continue to advocate strongly for adequate supplies of PPE from the Province. In the meantime, Abilities Manitoba has utilized a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation to assist in purchasing, delivery or shipping supplies to organizations across the Province. We will continue to share and coordinate opportunities for bulk supply ordering and vendor sources.

Redeployment of Staff:

As many day program/employment agencies prepare to deploy their staff into residential settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, we thought it might be helpful to hear about the experiences and process undertaken by ImagineAbility. You can find that story and resource here:

Audra Penner, CEO of ImagineAbility is willing to answer any questions that you might have on what worked, what they learned and what they might do differently. You can reach Audra at . There have been many positive stories emerging from the chaos of the pandemic and the opportunity for day program and residential staff to work alongside and gain insight into one another’s work has been one of them. Stay tuned as we share some of those positive stories in future updates.

DSP Appreciation videos and pictures: 

We are launching a campaign to be sure that Direct Support Professionals across the Province hear daily how much they are appreciated. The #EssentialToUs campaign will gather videos and pictures of appreciation from families, people supported, organizations and others and post them on our social media, website and other platforms to be sure that our heroes on the front line hear regularly that they are appreciated, honoured and celebrated. They need to know that we see them and that we are fighting for what they need. Please send any pictures or videos to . Note: If you are taking a video on your phone, turn it sideways (so that your phone is horizontal)… it looks better. 🙂

Making Homemade Masks:

Yesterday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer provided new guidance on the use of homemade, fabric masks. You can read further on this here:

Some organizations have asked about making masks and whether that would be useful. We are unclear on whether Manitoba will come out with a position on this. It is possible that using fabric masks for the people we support who display symptoms may be a more comfortable option than the disposable ones. Also if people we support insist on going out into the community, wearing a fabric mask may be something they would agree to do to be safer.

If you are considering making masks, you might consider the pattern and instructions offered up by the Unity Point Health Centre in Cedar Rapids called the Olson mask. More information could be found here:  and . Coffee filters could be used to insert into the pocket in the mask or vacuum HEPA filters. Some people have extended the pattern and/or the ear loops around the back of the head to tie behind the head instead of looping over the ears for more comfort and so that the mask fits various sizes of people.



UPDATE 7pm April 3 

I hope everyone has a chance to spend some time in the sun (and snow!) this weekend – take in some fresh air and find some balance, it’s so important!

We (President Audra Penner and Executive Director Margo Powell) continue to meet with CLDS (Catherine Gates, Sandi Dorbolo, Andrea Thibault-McNeil & Craig Wynands who attend as needed depending on topics) every second day and while our agenda does vary there are some standard items that we continue to address and provide updates on:

Protocols: We continue to await approval of Protocols specific to COVID19 and our sector. We are disappointed that we haven’t received them back from Public Health to share with you. We do understand that all are working tirelessly but also understand the great need for this information.

Personal Protective Equipment: updates on CLDS’ expected supplies and distribution plans and Abilities concurrent work to source PPE.

Wage Premiums/Hero Pay: We’ve asked them to implement this to recognize the amazing DSP’s who are stepping up when needed and have proposed a few ideas.

Staff Deployment Plans: the contents of plans agencies are expected to submit by April 17 recognizing that it will only provide a snap shot and a lengthy document/process is not ideal.

Staff Deployment: Joint updates on the incredible ways agencies are working together for the good of people and highlighting of issues, concerns and issues arising from deployment.

Transportation: Recognizing day services are utilizing transportation in new ways, and anticipating potential future changes, a request to reconsider cutting transportation dollars to day services who continue to use transportation.

Essential Worker Status: for a work force that is already underpaid and truly is essential.

Video Meeting between agencies and CLDS: ADM Catherine Gates suggested this and we think it’s a great idea! They can share some updates and have a Q & A session. CLDS is aiming to have the first session the week of April 20. At that point they expect to have further concrete info available on a number of topics.

First Aid/CPR and Checks: we appreciate that CLDS has lifted some of the barriers around checks and First Aid/CPR, and want to plan for the next step, as staffing is already an issue in rural Manitoba. 

We also always have issues arising on both sides and a number of standing topics including critical day services, block funding details and much more. We will continue to update you as information becomes available. 

Abilities is making a supply run to our rural agencies next week! Once the hand sanitizer arrives, we are planning to keep filling the online requests for supplies and get things out to our rural folk! We will be filling orders and delivering to Gimli, and a tour of south western Manitoba to multiple communities. For Flin Flon and Swan River we will get your deliveries to you via Canada Post. Thanks to our road trippin’ heroes Branden and Leslie who get to spread supply joy to our valuable rural agencies! Shout out to Paul Moore at ImagineAbility for prepping orders and to Yolly Tang for managing orders and pick ups. Need Supplies?

Be well all and from whatever perspective you read this from – self advocate, agency, staff, direct support professional, family, civil servant — THANK YOU!

UPDATE 6pm April 2

We’ve found a source for Masks  and Protective suits and plan to do a collective order. The deadline for submission of orders is Monday, April 6 at Noon.

Masks: $40 per box of 50 plus tax. Approximate delivery date of April 15.

Gowns: Approximately $15/gown however final pricing depends on how large the order is. Working hard on a 10 day time span for delivery.

Send orders to
by Noon April 6. Abilities will place bulk order and ensure distribution 


UPDATE 7pm  April 1

Days slip by way too fast for all right now! I hope you are well!

  • Inclusion Winnipeg is working with Carey Lai of Leila Pharmacy to offer a webinar Friday at 10am on COVID-19. It will also be recorded and available after. Register at  
  • We are currently in discussions with CLDS about items including: PPE access, staff deployment, essential worker status, wage premiums/hero pay, hiring work-arounds (checks & first aid/CPR), block funding for day services, worst case scenarios, transportation dollars, video conferencing Q & A sessions with agencies and much more. We will continue to post updates!
  • We’ve been asked by the province to document what is happening, how we are responding and what is needed. We aim to provide this info within one week along with recommendations.

Thanks to all of you Every Day Heroes! You are amazing! Please reach out as you need to – we are here to support you!

UPDATE 5pm March 31

We are learning that some day services are choosing not to deploy staff to work residentially. We ask that you reconsider this for the following reasons:

  • We advocated substantially to see funding continue uninterrupted to give day services the time to plan for redeployment. Plans to change day funding were substantially earlier. We assured CLDS that agencies would work together to get staff arrangements in place but agencies needed time to make it happen. Help us prove that community can solve problems when given the latitude to do so. 
  • Funding arrangements for day agencies that deploy staff are significantly better for those who are deploying staff.
  • We ask that you consider what you would need were you in the situation that residential agencies find themselves.  This is not about individual agencies – this is about working collectively as a sector for the well being of ALL people funded by CLDS. We must band together.

Please, please reconsider.

Protocols: We did receive the protocols back from Public Health yesterday however have concerns about some information that was removed or changed. We understand you need these as quickly as possible and will distribute them to you as soon as we can.

Minister of Families Heather Stefanson phoned us yesterday to express her gratitude to all the agencies for their hard work and commitment. She asked me to pass along her gratitude.

UPDATE 5pm March 30

The province has announced the closure of all non-critical services in a news release today. Services in our sector have been deemed critical as per item 53 in Schedule A: BG-PHA – COVID-19-PR

We continue to work on getting approval to distribute protocols and are very close!! We are challenged, like you by a number of things including accessing the personal protective equipment required for each protocol in addition to the PPE required on a regular basis irregardless of COVID-19.

Our hearts are warm with the many ways agencies are ensuring the folks they support can access loved ones. Sometimes in new and different ways, but connecting none the less. We are concerned about people who, like all of us are trying to make sense of what is happening and acknowledge how critical our connections to loved ones are. Hats off to agencies trying new and different ways to connect people when in person visits are not always an option.

Agencies experiencing a loss of 30% or more in revenue should be eligible to receive a federal grant to recover losses. More info at:

We continue to reach out and welcome you to connect with us as well. We are all faced with new challenges and unprecedented times. Thanks for your commitment — we will emerge on the other side.

UPDATE 4:30pm March 27

We are awaiting the approval of protocols from Public Health and anticipate that we can share them with you on Monday. The three protocols cover no symptoms, symptoms and positive COVID19 result and will help guide people, families, staff and agencies.

Agencies have been contacted around the distribution of masks. Abilities continues to also try and source for agencies as we are aware of concerns that agencies need access to more.

On Monday we will be emailing agencies that only provide day services. We will share a letter with those agencies that you can share with your staff to help ease concerns around being deployed to work residentially.

Supplies: We are setting up a supply hub and have orders in for hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray. The hand sanitizer is still 7-10 days away from delivery and the disinfectant spray is anticipated before that. We continue to source other items and do have a small amount of supplies on hand for agencies. We will first reach out to people who have identified the need through the need supplies link above. Our supply hub will have pick-up hours and we have plans in place to transport around the province.

UPDATE 7PM March 26 

Stay strong folks! Your commitment to people is beyond admirable. Today’s update…

  • We’ve posted a video orientation for people starting to provide residential supports. It is located above at the top of this page and also here.
  • Recognizing that folks in supported independent living (SIL) may need additional supports to understand COVID19, practice social distancing, maintain well being and obtain needed groceries and supplies we are hearing that people are needing additional supports. If this is the case for people you support, please submit requests through the CSW. Thanks to all who are going the extra mile to reach out to people supported in SIL as they may be particularly vulnerable now, Similarly, any requests to increase hours for anyone who is currently in need can be done through the CSW. We understand some agencies have been approached already about this.
  • The Province has sourced masks that will soon be distributed through Regional Offices or for pick up at 114 Garry St. by appointment. They will contact agencies to communicate the process. They also have limited quantities of gloves, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Please, take only what you require immediately. Supply chains appear to be loosening up and we anticipate this will continue to get easier.
  • We are close to complete on getting protocols out to you. They will explain protocols for people with no symptoms, symptoms and confirmed positive results as well as proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • We continue a number of discussions with CLDS to help mitigate instability and resolve presenting challenges. The President of the Board and myself meet every second day with CLDS with emails and calls in between. These are unprecedented times for all. 

Update 7:30pm March 25

So many moving parts! I had hoped to provide an earlier update. 

First off, I’m in total awe of how everyone is stepping up and doing whatever they can – not only for our sector, but for your own networks and communities. This is surely what will get us through this difficult time.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): We expect the province to soon announce plans for availability and distribution of PPE. Abilities continues to also try to source this for distribution. Please continue to use the links above to let us know your needs. We do have access to a distribution depot in Winnipeg and access to a trucking company to get products and supplies to you. My sense is that every day more becomes available for purchase.

Support Plans: We absolutely recognize how challenged residential agencies are now in responding to COVID19. As you are likely preparing to welcome new staff to provide supports, wherever possible please ask staff to ensure support plans are up to date. This is hard, if we can provide info to new, incoming staff that helps someone on the receiving end of supports, please do this wherever possible.

To our Abilities Members: If you are concerned about immediate financial challenges please email me at or phone me at (204) 890-6751.

UPDATE 12:30pm March 24

We have found another source of personal protective equipment (PPE) at

Available supplies include masks, hand sanitizer, goggles, gloves and thermometers.

Please be aware the the use of PPE is not needed unless symptoms appear or in the event of testing positive for COVID-19. We are working to set up a distribution hub for PPE and have a trucking company on board who is willing to transport goods to agencies on their regular runs. I love how people rally together in times of need! It also sounds like CLDS may also have access soon and I will update as info becomes available.

It’s also time to call on the relationships you have to access what is needed. Do Dentists in your community have PPE supplies they can share with you? What about day cares? 

The province has also launched a website to ask for help and to offer help. it can be found at: Help out where you can and ask for help where you need it!

UPDATE 8pm March 23

Employers, particularly day services have a number of questions right now about continued employment through redeployment, lay offs, refusal to work etc. People First HR has stepped in to assist us and have provided this information around lay offs at: HR_On_Call_Abilities_MB[1]. We ask that wherever humanly possible staff redeploy to fill residential shifts. They also have an HR phone in option for questions and offer a non-profit rate of $60 per month. 

UPDATE 5pm March 23

We are working with Sysco Canada currently – they sell groceries and supplies and are working hard to source gloves, masks and hand sanitizer on our behalf. They deliver across Manitoba and are available if you want to contact Cherise at  Please identify ONE person from your organization to be their contact and let Cherise know who that is. This will make things easier and efficient. 

We are also working with distilleries on your behalf to try and source hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray. They are overwhelmed with calls and ask that they work through Abilities to manage requests. You can complete the supply request above and we will keep you posted,

We’ve added a sample contract for day and residential agencies to reference as staff are deployed to new settings. It’s in the staff deployment area.

We are working on creating a video to walk through the orientation we shared last week and anticipate that being available to you this week. In the meantime you can use the written version. A few suggestions for Day services:

  • gather information on staff availability as shifts will be needed to be filled 24 hours per day.
  • if your staff are worried about providing different supports as it is unfamiliar, approach a residential agency and see about having staff go visit to understand what residential services may look like. While they may not work in that particular home, it would provide a good intro and may help quell anxiety and encourage them to assist in filling shifts.

We continue work on safety protocols and are working at this as quickly as we can. We will share the information as soon as we are able.

Take good care!

UPDATE 1pm March 21

We have created an orientation for staff being deployed to different organizations in the hopes that it saves some time and frees your organization up a bit to focus where you need to. Orientation

We have started a petition to obtain Essential Worker status for direct support staff. Please sign and distribute. We’ve also posted it on Facebook and Twitter. Link to petition.

UPDATE 5pm March 20:

I spoke with the Deputy Minister and assured him that our sector is working together to get through this. I asked him to assist in lifting barriers so we can best accomplish the tasks at hand. He along with ADM Catherine Gates and the team at 114 Garry Street applaud agencies for stepping up and rising to this challenge.

  • Critical Services: CLDS is drafting a letter and will share it with agencies, MGEU, CUPE and UFCW to assist with the deployment of staff.
  • Day Services Staff deployed to residential settings will receive the rate of pay they have at their home organizations.
  • Staff in our sector are eligible to access the Childcare hotline for essential workers. That number is 1-888-213-4754 or 204-945-0776.
  • The expectation is that day services will deploy staff where needed and will maintain funding while doing so. I assured him that organizations are stepping up and we’ve launched a matching tool online.
  • Lifting/loosening of First Aid, CPR, and record checks: This is approved and we can expect to see communication with interim parameters.
  • Access to funds for emergency costs: While they are unable to make a full commitment on what will be available, he acknowledged that these are exceptional circumstances. Agencies are encouraged to submit receipts and requests and they will make an effort to fast track these.
  • Protocols for COVID-19: Abilities is working on some documents for agencies and the Deputy Minister will submit these to Pubic Health and fast track their approval for distribution. Today he put in a request for a video tutorial and booklet to be created for our sector. In addition to the items listed on the 10am update, we are looking at best practices in the absence of PPE.
  •  We are hoping to find a nursing resource available in our sector to assist with assessments. More info on that as it develops.
  • Agencies can expect another communication from CLDS by Monday.

UPDATE 2:30pm March 20:

I wish I had more firm information I could share….

At this point we have a number of asks into the province that we are awaiting information on:

  • Loosening of First Aid, CPR and record check requirements – I expect some progress soon!
  • Funding stability for day service agencies while deploying staff to residential situations and details on funding including staff wages as they will vary between lending and receiving organization
  • A letter from CLDS defining the critical nature of supports provided and a request for health care designation temporarily. This could potentially provide access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and access to the child care hotline
  • We are trying to source PPE for our members and have asked the Province if they will pay should we be able to find it (some potential good leads here) We know agencies don’t mind paying however the most critical part is sourcing and distributing them and allowing you to focus where you need to
  • Guidance on the lack of PPE – best practices in the absence of PPE, back up plans if/when a shortage of staff occur.


MLA’s are meeting regarding the declared state of emergency. Now would be a great time to reach out and let them know of the challenges you are facing.

UPDATE 10am, March 20:

The staff deployment area on our website is live and can be accessed at:

We continue to work with the Province on ensuring agencies have what is needed to deploy staff. Unfortunately our essential worker legislation only covers government employees so we are looking at a number of different angles to address this. CLDS is working on a document that will assist and we are exploring the possibility of a temporary health care designation which may also assist in accessing PPE.

With the cancellation of First Aid and CPR we are working with the Province on a temporary work around to limit the impact of this barrier.

We are working on a protocol to share that is being developed by nurse consultants and will be vetted through Public Health and will include:

 1) what to do generally to keep staff and others safe during this outbreak

2) what to do when people show cold/flu symptoms but don’t have a diagnosis

3) what to do when people have COVID in the home.

We are reaching out to distilleries to try and access hand sanitizer and surface disinfectant and may have access to some next week. With the world wide shortage we are challenged by this and understand the critical importance of agencies having access to this.

UPDATE 1:30pm, March 19: 

  • Abilities has requested that the Province declare all employees in our sector as essential workers. This would provide the directive that all staff can be deployed to assist where needed. In conjunction we’ve asked that funding to Day Services remain in place so that they can assist in the deployment of their staff, pay them for shifts completed and provide oversight and coordination needed. There is a meeting this afternoon at the Department of Families in this regard and we will provide updates here as they are available.
  • The Department will send another communication prior to Monday that will include these anticipated items and direction:
    • Where necessary incident reports can be submitted by email.
    • People with completed and clear criminal record checks and child abuse registry checks can complete shifts even where those checks are more than 3 months old. Verification from a previous employer that they have checks on file will suffice in this emergency situation. Where checks cannot be applied for/obtained, CLDS is willing to change stances as this progresses and no other staff are available. Please keep Abilities apprised of your situations as you encounter this. We know some communities are not able to access the application process.
    • Sadly, no update on personal protective equipment. There is a national shortage. Abilities is in the process of reaching out to golf tournament contacts who work for distilleries to see if they may be able to assist in creating and getting hand sanitizer out to agencies. You may have seen a news story from Ontario yesterday:
  • Abilities is developing an online mechanism to identify needed shift coverage as well as available staff. We plan to have this go live tomorrow and it is available for all agencies and families in Manitoba. We also expect SMD’s Envoyy app to launch this weekend and see this as a good mechanism as well.
  • We are developing a short orientation that will be available on our website as staff head into other agencies and service types.
  • Agencies can anticipate a media release from the government tomorrow.

UPDATE 1:15pm, March 18: We’ve had two verbal discussions with the Province today and anticipate that they will be pivoting substantially from yesterday’s communication. We have expressed the deep need to communicate with agencies today and regularly thereafter as agencies feel an absence of their presence. On our end we continue to advocate on your behalf and are seeking daily updates on critical issues agencies are faced with. We are in contact with CLDS several times daily currently.

We are working in a few other critical areas as well:

  • reaching out to member agencies to check in with you and let you know we are here for you and available.
  • working on the website to accommodate postings of where staff are needed and where staff are available to help out to assist with the deployment of staff.
  • working on a brief webinar that would serve as an orientation when you bring in staff for coverage who are not your employees.

We also ask Day Programs that have closed or are closing to identify if they have any personal protective equipment or toilet paper that can be distributed to areas where it is needed.

UPDATE 11pm, March 17: We have approached the Province with an appeal to reconsider the decision that day services supporting 50 or fewer people continue to operate. We do this in light of how swiftly COVID-19 is progressing and in recognizing that we work with a number of people who have compromised immune systems and are high risk.

The closure of schools and day cares for a demographic that is considered lower risk highlights the need to take swift action in our sector. Visitation restrictions have been implemented in long term care facilities, a demographic that falls within a similar high risk. When we examine the trends experienced in other provinces in recent days, we feel strongly that we need to act quickly and take precautions wherever possible. 

We fully support agencies as you make difficult decisions about what is in the best interests of your organization. We know some day services have had to make the difficult choice to close. We appreciate that you are exercising caution and consideration in making these tremendously difficult decisions. You know the people you support and you are keeping them in the forefront as you make decisions in these trying times.

We applaud the efforts of residential supports to launch plans to manage through this historical time. We ask day services with available staff resources to be ready and available to deploy to residential and respite supports. We are working on plans to make this as easy as possible to navigate.

We are amazed by the efforts of all services to prepare and respond. We stand with you. We are here to support you and welcome you to reach out.   More than ever we need to come together and support one another through this. I know that we can do this together!  -Margo.

UPDATE 6pm, March 17

After a phone call with CLDS I can offer the following updates:

Potential impacts to Day Program funding: At this time there is no directive from central government to change/reduce funding to agencies.

Deploying staff where needed: We are working with CLDS on some ideas to deploy staff from day services to either residential or respite services. They are looking at a model where CSW’s could approve respite for people who have returned to their family for the time being. We’ve asked them to also look at a model that is community lead and matches staff with people they know where possible. They are most open to this and had a similar discussion. We are looking at ways Abilities can set up a forum or means to connect and match staff where needed province wide.

We’ve also asked them to look at an interim work around for criminal record checks where it will be needed. They will look at this and let us know. Ideally agencies can work together to fill staffing needs and pull together as needed. A contract should be possible where the day agency vouches for the qualifications of staff going in which would avoid the issue of criminal checks.

Agencies should check their liability insurance around the clause of sharing of staff during an emergency situation. SPA’s do allow for this (Section 18) and they are looking into their responsibilities to provide a directive that agencies can proceed.

Incident reports: They are looking at an interim plan for submission of incident reports where access to a fax is an issue. I expect more information on this tomorrow.

Funding for overtime and 2 week self-isolation period: CLDS will discuss and make us aware of plans as they are available.

Testing: discussed concerns about testing for individuals, inability of some to wait long periods for testing and the possibility of drive through testing. Again, they will update us as information becomes available.

Access to child care hotline for health care workers: Announced by the Province today – we’ve asked if staff in our sector can be included in this. This request has been sent up for consideration and we await a response.

Personal Protective Equipment: See 4pm update

We plan to have daily contact with CLDS in the coming days and will post updates as soon as we get them.

Stay safe and be well! Remember to take care of yourself in this challenging time!  – Margo

UPDATE 4pm, March 17:

I had a phone discussion with Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates regarding 2 key issues:

Day Services staying open to 50 or fewer people

  • They consulted with Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Roussin to inform this decision.
  • They are concerned about mass closures and the impacts on residential and other supports.
  • They are asking agencies to support people in smaller, scaled back models where possible and where not possible to make staff available to be deployed to residential or respite services.

As we are seeing across Canada, this situation can change very quickly and thus advice will change. We’d recommend agencies be poised to move to gatherings of 10 or fewer people and stay abreast of the situation in Manitoba and Canada. 

We share your concern that many people have compromised immune systems and thus are at an increased risk.


Access to Personal Protective Equipment

  • They are aware of the significant need for agencies to access needed supplies. Catherine has been advocating for information and solutions. As our Health Care system responds to this crisis, she has not been able to obtain this information yet, but has a plan in place to get further information if that isn’t received by tomorrow morning. She recognizes the critical need agencies face in obtaining needed supplies.

Further updates to follow after my 4:30pm discussion.

UPDATE  12:45pm, March 17:

I continue to work with CLdS on a number of issues and am awaiting more information to share with members. Unfortunately, at this time I have no new information. I have a call scheduled at 4:30pm today and will post updates after.

We are aware that some day services have closed, are planning to close or making arrangements for parts of their programs to be paused.

Areas we are seeking info from CLDS include:

  • The role of government in the closure of day services. (as mentioned above some have made the call to close)
  • Access to personal protective equipment
  • Funding availability for day services that are shut down, overtime and 2 week isolation period
  • Testing options for people with compromised immune systems and the feasibility of drive through testing
  • An interim plan for submission of incident reports where a fax machine cannot be accessed.
  • Redeployment of staff from day services to residential including interim work arounds for record checks or the possibility of agencies contracting directly with day services to provide additional staffing.

We are adding to the resource listing daily and thank those agencies that are submitting their examples of communication and plans as it is helpful for others to see. Thanks! Together we will navigate this!

Stay tuned for updates. -Margo