BY DEAN MOSES
Flushing’s Main Street is once again awash with foot traffic. Self-quarantine is coming to an end for many, but the threat of COVID-19 still lingers. It is with this in mind that VillageCareMAX, located on 41-80 Main St., reopened on July 8 to ensure they can remain a trusted ally for clientele.
Serving a primarily elderly customer base, this nonprofit organization facilitates patrons with information and the enrollment process regarding Medicare, Medicaid and those who need long term care service. This is imperative for immigrants who require help translating medical documents and letters from English to their native language. While VillageCareMAX has continued to supply support remotely via phone and video chat throughout the pandemic, there is simply no replacement for one-on-one contact, especially for those who already have limited social interactions, explained Sherry Dong, the director of cultural market development.
“We help seniors who need assistance so that they can safely stay in the community. Our customers were incredibly happy when we reopened. A lot of time they are home alone, so when we reopened, they felt so happy that they can walk out the door and find someone to help them. There are so many seniors who have been staying home and feeling lonely with this virus. Now they can go out and speak to us,” Dong said.
Opening the doors once again was not an easy feat for staff or clients, the risks of coronavirus is an ever-looming dark cloud that triggers anxiety in addition to health concerns. Combating on both fronts, VillageCareMAX is taking extra precautions to safeguard all involved. Visitations are by appointment only, with a maximum of two clients inside at once. Likewise, stacks of paperwork had to be completed to guarantee they met all requirements first before opening. They also installed an air purifier/refresher and apply alcohol disinfectant sprays to clean each chair and desk after use. Not only that, upon entering the storefront individuals must fill out a questionnaire concerning the state of their health prior to having their temperature taken. For Dong and the rest of the staff rushing to reopen was not an option, it is important they took time implementing preventive measures to make everyone feel safer.
“Before we reopened, we did quite a lot of preparations following CDC requirements with all the documents and necessary protections for the office. We keep six feet apart. We have extra chairs, but don’t let anyone sit close,” Dong said while pointing at the desks, which are now protected by plexiglass on three sides. “This protection helps prevent close contact and we set up a table to provide gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. We follow the state guidelines very carefully. If the staff is not feeling well, we have them stay home and not come in,” Dong said.
As this location deals with the elderly and disabled (many of whom have compromised immune systems) they also employ daily cleaners to properly sanitize the environment. Work personnel drive to the storefront as an alternative to taking public transportation to additionally reduce risks. There is also a plan in place if a visitor arrives with an elevated temperature, or if they exhibit warning signs.
“If they have any symptoms, we will have them leave right away and tell them to contact their physicians. All of these precautions are for the staff as well,” Dong said.
For those still cautious about venturing to the onsite location, VillageCareMAX is still offering remote aid and rotates workers in daily shifts. Those who are not in the office are still working remotely assisting customers. The staff also must fill out the same information sheets as the visitors daily, and their temperatures are also taken.
VillageCareMAX is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more visit villagecaremax.org.