Coronavirus Response Update
April 1, 2020
March 24, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Our Essential Work Continues
Dear Friend of Guiding Eyes for the Blind:
We think of Guiding Eyes as a family. Our generous donors, hardworking volunteers and talented staff, together with our devoted, intelligent guide dogs, make it possible for people with vision loss to achieve greater independence and accomplish adventures big and small.
Our family, along with the rest of the world, is facing an unprecedented and unpredictable challenge due to COVID-19. This is a trying time for all of us. I wanted to take a moment to continue to update you on more of the steps we have taken to limit the spread of the virus, reduce risks for our students, puppies and guide dogs in training, and ensure that our essential work continues.
- This past week, for the first time since our founding in 1954, we made the difficult decision to end training one week early so that our students and staff could return home. Fortunately, everyone made it back safely, in good health, with their new guide dog at their side. We are grateful for the help from our community of supporters, volunteers and training staff, working around the clock. Special thanks go out to our nurse in residence, Marianne, who cared for our students while they were living on campus.
- Our training staff is working to develop new ways to support our more than 1,000 working guide dog teams around the country. Our graduates rely on their guide dog to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, or to independently exercise outside. We will be following up with our new teams to complete training and working with existing teams to address new challenges presented by COVID-19.
- Our latest task was to move as many of our guide dogs in training at our Yorktown Heights, NY campus temporarily into the homes of foster families, so that most of our staff can remain safely at home. Led by our veterinary team, we are taking every precaution possible to make sure every dog going home will receive the best of care. In mid-March, we had 225 dogs and puppies on campus, as well as pregnant dogs. In the past few days, over 175 have found a foster home – an amazing testimonial to our selfless puppy raisers, volunteers and staff!
Our world is very different than before. Our daily operations may change, but our commitment to our mission — bringing independence and mobility to people with vision loss — is unwavering.
Thank you for standing with us through these challenging times, and for being such an important part of our family. We will move forward together.
Thomas A. Panek
President & CEO
March 24, 2020
Dear Guiding Eyes Community,
Greetings from the veterinary hospital. Here at Guiding Eyes, we are dedicated to providing the best possible care to our dogs from puppyhood through retirement. Even during these unsettling times, we want you to know that we are here for you and will continue to prioritize the health of our dogs while following CDC recommendations to protect our vet staff and the broader community.
You can always reach us as our team continues to work remotely to answer all of your calls and emails. Our after-hours emergency line operates the same way it always has, but please be aware that you might experience a slightly longer than normal hold time due to reduced staffing at our answering service. For routine inquiries, we are making every attempt to utilize your photos, descriptions and videos to help patients without physical contact. We are able to call in prescriptions to your local pharmacy or leave them out at one of our locations for you pick up when necessary. Although we are not holding regular hours being physically present in our veterinary hospitals, we will be able to come in to see dogs on an essential basis. We are orchestrating a plan to efficiently vaccinate local dogs and puppies while maintaining social distance, and will continue to come onsite to see pregnant broods who are sick. We will also be performing C-sections as needed and will tend to urgent patients in the whelping kennel.
We are here to support all of you as this situation evolves and welcome you to reach out so we may assist you to the best of our ability. Thank you for all that you do to make this organization function seamlessly regardless of the challenges and circumstances.
Wishing you all well,
Dr. Brenninkmeyer and the Veterinary Team
March 16, 2020
Due to COVID 19 planning and precautionary measures, all visitors, on-site tours and events have been suspended at this time.
March 13, 2020
At Guiding Eyes for the Blind, our number one priority is the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, graduates and dogs. We appreciate the outpouring of support we are receiving on ways that you can help us navigate the Coronavirus situation. The best way that you can assist Guiding Eyes for the Blind is to donate in support of our mission during this difficult time. Here are the steps we are taking to support our graduates, volunteers and staff:
COVID-19 and Service Dogs
COVID 19 is affecting people from all walks of life in New York State, including pet owners and potentially those who utilize service animals.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend that people with COVID-19 should be advised to tell their public health point of contact that they have pets or other animals in their homes.
In addition to other prevention measures, people with COVID-19 who are identified by public health officials as requiring home care and isolation should be advised to limit interaction with pets and other animals. Specifically, while these people are symptomatic, they should maintain separation from pets as they would with other household members, and avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.
The guidance from CDC states that service animals should be permitted to remain with their handlers. But what if that is not possible? Individuals who have the virus or are in an affected containment zone may face challenges such as relocation, pet care, pet food, pet medical needs and so on.
Reach out to the following services for transitions involving service dogs:
Westchester County – Guide Dog School
Guiding Eyes for the Blind 611 Granite Springs Rd. Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Phone: 800-942-0149 Phone: 914-245-4024
General information regarding guide dogs: https://www.nfb.org/resources/guide-dog-resources
COVID-19 Update for Volunteers:
In keeping with the best possible practices regarding the Coronavirus, Guiding Eyes for the Blind remains consistent in monitoring daily news updates and makes any necessary changes to our protocol for the health and safety of staff, students, volunteers and visitors.
- Anyone with febrile illnesses and coughs must not come in for their volunteer shifts until their symptoms are checked by a doctor.
- Anyone who has just returned from business or personal travel whether from another country or within the United States, must not return to their volunteer shift for at least 14 days from their date of arrival.
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
- Avoid handshakes
- Maintain frequent hand washing
- Observe “coughing/sneezing etiquette”
- If you have mild symptoms of a cold (mild coughing, sneezing, runny nose), we ask that you remain home.
- If you are uncomfortable coming in for your volunteer shift due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, or possibly exposing others in your family that may be vulnerable, please email or call me ( email@example.com or 845-230-6412) so that I can notify your supervisor.
We value each of our volunteers and appreciate that each volunteer has a significant role contributing to our mission. Our goal is to provide a healthy environment for everyone to keep any virus or flu from spreading.
COVID-19 Update for Graduates:
Temporary Modifications to Guiding Eyes for the Blind Student and Graduate Services due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
In keeping with the best possible practices regarding the Coronavirus, Guiding Eyes for the Blind remains vigilant in monitoring daily news updates and will make all necessary changes to our protocol for the health and safety of staff, students, graduates, volunteers and visitors. Your safety and the care of our dogs are at the core of these decisions.
Staff will not be traveling by air, visits requiring air travel will be postponed. Requests for assistance with work-related issues will be resolved through phone calls or video calls when possible, in the event the issue is a safety issue that is not able to be resolve in this manner we may need to recommend that you not work your dog until we are able to visit you.
- Routine visits will be conducted remotely or postponed if the graduate does not live within driving distance of Field Rep.
- Home Interviews – Field Rep staff will explore virtual home interview options or postpone.
- Our March class students were sent home with their dogs early and will be receiving in-home training to finish their training.
- We are working with our April Class students to postpone their training to a later date exploring the option of home training when possible.
COVID-19 Update for Puppy Raisers:
To protect our students, some of whom are immune-compromised, we are limiting foot traffic at the Yorktown campus. As part of this effort, we are not going to have a public IFT or graduation for the month of March. Attendance to both events will be limited to staff and a few local volunteers.
We will get IFT test results and video to you as quickly as possible. The graduation will be live-streamed as usual. Please know we wish we didn’t have to make these changes and I understand how important these events are for you. They are milestones in our dog’s lives and a great way to see all your hard work pay off. Thank you for getting our dogs ready for both IFT and graduation. Guiding Eyes has also decided to hold off on air travel for work for the time being, so some regions will be affected by this and we will address those regions.
For those of you who are dropping off dogs over the weekend please try to keep the visit short and sweet.
We will have staff available to get the dogs from your cars to make things easier.
- Please pull up in the main larger lot in the back and park in one of the spaces with orange cones.
- If nobody is outside ready to assist you, please call the kennel kitchen at 914-243-2219.
- You may not enter the kennel or the main building during your visit. If you have traveled internationally in the last 14 days, please let your RM know.
Local tip: FDR State Park is right around the corner if you want to have a nice walk with your dog before dropping off. https://parks.ny.gov/parks/148/details.aspx
For those that were planning to bring puppies back to your region on IFT Tuesday, we are working on travel arrangements for them. Please check in with your RM regarding changes in the pick up and drop off schedules.
Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time.