CEO talks precautions after COVID-19 case at First Step

Staff Writer

Brett Chancellor, CEO at First Step Arkansas, has confirmed that a person at the Malvern facility has tested positive for COVID-19.
“When we received notice, the client had not been in our facility for a week. The same day of receiving positive results we notified all individuals who had been in direct contact for testing and quarantine,” Chancellor said.

When asked about closing the facility, he said that the center offers various necessary healthcare services for individuals with special needs.
Many families do not have other options for receiving these services, Chancellor said.

In a statement to clients and their families, Chancellor expressed his appreciation for their “support and trust as we all learn to navigate the world with COVID.”
“We are taking every precaution we can,” Chancellor told the Malvern Daily Record adding that officials are coordinating with Arkansas Department of Health, Developmental Disability Services of the Department of Human Services and Arkansas Childcare Licensing.

Precautions include cleaning and sanitation, screening individuals, staff wearing face masks and not allowing visitors to the facilities. The riders on transportation vehicle are also limited to half the normal capacity to allow for social distancing.
 “Under guidance from the Dept. of Health, we must restrict access in treatment areas to only those who must be there, the clients and the staff. We are even limiting what staff go into treatment areas to assure we have as small a number as possible making contact,” Chancellor said.  
Staff have also altered “our activity centers, seating areas, sleeping areas (for children), and eating areas to allow for smaller group size and social distancing while performing their daily treatment regimen,” according to Chancellor’s statement.  

If a  person tests positive for COVID-19, he or she cannot return to the facility until cleared by a doctor. Others who may have had contact with the infected individual are immediately informed and required to be quarantined for 14 days.

Along with looking for symptoms of COVID-19, Chancellor said, staff are being “extremely cautious” of any sickness.  
“We serve hundreds of clients across more than twenty counties and employ hundreds of workers to do that, some in facilities, and others out in the community.  Anytime we suspect illness or have a failed health screen, we take immediate action to test and quarantine that individual, client and staff alike,” he said. “As many clients and staff as we have across the state, we often have someone in quarantine. That doesn’t mean they have Covid. People still get sick with many other things, but under the current situation we can’t take chances and have to act as if they have Covid until we have confirmation that they don’t.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 46 total positive cases in Hot Spring County with 12 of those cases being active.
There have been no reported deaths. More than 1,300 people in Hot Spring County have been tested for COVID-19 and received negative results.