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COVID-19 Information & Policies

Information will be updated periodically

UPDATED 8/3/21

LDA will be requiring face masks for all, at all sites, regardless of vaccination status, effective Wednesday, 8/4/21 until further notice.

On July 27th, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided updated guidance for people who are fully vaccinated, in response to the COVID-19 Delta variant.  Almost all new COVID cases are a result of the Delta variant.  The high transmissibility of the variant has led to the number of hospitalizations doubling over the past month.  The Delta variant spreads quickly, and even vaccinated people can spread it. 
      Here are the main highlights of the guidance: 
•    To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

•    Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk of disease or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area. 

•    You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance. 

•    If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive. 

•    If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. 

•    You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States. 

•    You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it. 

•    You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States. 

•    You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel. 

•    You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States 

In response to this updated guidance and Governor recommendations, LDA of WNY has made the decision to resume requiring face covering for all employees, visitors, persons receiving services/students across all divisions.  Please see the updated procedures below.  These procedures are effective tomorrow, 8/4/2021.  

Operational Procedures: 

1.     All employees must follow agency procedures based on Department of Health Guidance / CDC guidance, and all applicable guidance from oversight agencies (e.g. OPWDD, NYSED, OCFS, etc.). 
2.     Regardless of vaccination status, all employees must wear a face covering inside the workplace, when performing their job responsibilities in the community, and during the delivery of services with persons served.  Employees are to follow the requirements of other businesses and establishments. 
o    Employees may remove their face covering when they are working by themselves in a closed off work area (e.g. office) but must place the face covering back on if another person enters that work area or when leaving that closed work area. 
o    In cubicle spaces, fully vaccinated employees may remove their face covering but must place the face covering back on if another person enters their cubicle space. 
•    Face coverings may be removed for eating and drinking, and when outdoors.
3.     Department leadership is responsible with implementing strategies to help ensure that all employees and visitors entering the worksite are wearing a face covering.  Face coverings should be available at all locations.  Disposable face coverings should be available for visitors. Department leadership is responsible with coordinating the replenishment and distribution of supplies (e.g. contacting the finance department for procurement; contacting the facilities department for supply delivery). 

Persons Receiving Services – OPWDD - Day Services 

•    Regardless of vaccination status, persons receiving services should wear a face covering if they can medically tolerate one. 
•    This would include any underlying diagnosis where mask-wearing is contraindicated or for any disability which prohibits the person receiving services from keeping a mask on. 
•    If a person receiving services cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering, they should still be able to access programming / community inclusion, but the treatment team should consider how most safely accommodate the risk and document. 
•    Face coverings are not required when eating or drinking, or when outdoors. 



UPDATED 1/26/21

You can see who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine HERE:
To schedule a vaccine appointment if you want one you can go to the following links below and put in your information to find the nearest location. They are updating the links randomly so try and check back often. Appointments are going quick so it can be frustrating. Just keep checking back when you can. We are working hard to create other opportunities for LDA staff and the people we support so we will keep you posted.

Here’s another good resource about how one might go to schedule a vaccine appointment:

NYS's COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline to schedule vaccination appointments: 1-833-697-4829

Sign up to be notified of future Erie County Vaccination sites HERE

UPDATED 1/4/21


Important Information about the COVID-19 Vaccine for People with Developmental Disabilities

Plain Language Poster About Vaccine
Plain Language Video About Vaccine
Plain Language FAQ About Vaccine
Pfizer Vaccine Info
Moderna Vaccine Info
Vaccine EUA Consent Form
Message from Commissioner Theodore Kastner


A Message from Commissioner Theodore Kastner

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you are likely aware, the first doses of the long-awaited vaccine against COVID-19 have made their way to New York State. On December 14, Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse from Queens, made history as the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. All of us at OPWDD are grateful that a vaccine that can help protect the people we support, and our staff who care for them, is now in sight.

Governor Cuomo has announced a phased-in approach to vaccine distribution and people with developmental disabilities living in congregate settings, and the staff who care for them, will be among the first to receive the vaccine in Phase 1 of the distribution. You can find more information about the phased-in approach to vaccine distribution here.
At this time, I'd like to alert you to some materials we have made available to help you understand the vaccine distribution process and what it means for you. These include a video explaining the vaccine and a plain language document (Attached). All the materials about the COVID-19 vaccine will be found on the OPWDD COVID-19 webpage, including a copy of the NYS Department of Health Screening and Consent Form for COVID-19 (Attached). As new guidance becomes available related to the vaccination process, it will also be posted on that page.

While plans for distributing the vaccine are underway and are moving quickly, a lot needs to happen to ensure success. First, I would like to emphasize that the more people who are offered the vaccine and choose to take it, the better the public health outcome will be. As valued members of our OPWDD community, I appeal to each and every one of you to help educate others about the importance of vaccination and do your part to encourage widespread vaccination. Each person eligible for vaccination will need to consent to being vaccinated. OPWDD will soon be issuing guidance on the consent process and will be sharing it via our email delivery system and on our website.

While the vaccine's arrival in New York is welcome news, please remember that the threat of COVID-19 is far from over. The vaccine may not prevent people from catching COVID-19 and does not protect against any other viruses, but people who are vaccinated are much less likely to become sick after the vaccine. And if they do catch COVID-19 after vaccination, they are much less likely to feel sick or die as a result of this virus.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned repeatedly, COVID-19 can spread anywhere, even places where you feel safe, like your home. Please continue to follow public health guidance by staying at least 6 feet away from other people, washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask when you are in the presence of other people and avoiding crowds both small and large. If we take every precaution available to us, we will have the best chance of staying safe from this extremely contagious virus.

Please be certain that you are signed up for OPWDD updates. It is the quickest and best way to stay up to date about COVID-19 and all OPWDD news. Sign up here.

Please stay safe,
Theodore Kastner, M.D., M.S. 




UPDATED 11/13/20

Attention LDA Community:

Per Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, parts of Erie County have been designated as a "Yellow Zone." Learning Disabilities Association of WNY, along with other non-profits in Erie County are awaiting further guidance and clarification from county officials on testing requirements for individuals and staff. As soon as details are made available, we will be sure to communicate with you.

For Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) funded by Day Habilitation and Employment Services, the "Yellow Zone" designation does not affect the delivery of services at this time. If this changes, we will be sure to communicate with you. While in the "Yellow Zone" designation, it is expected that we will continue to follow the reopening safety plans for each location, while remaining heightened and vigilant with corresponding procedures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

We know there are going to be many questions going forward so we ask that you be patient as we work to gain clarification and guidance. If a question does arise, please feel free to send it to: If there are any changes to our instructional model or services, it will be communicated to you. 



​The safety of the individuals and staff is our priority. We are continuing our diligence by wearing mask or face coverings, utilizing proper hand hygiene, and ensuring our homes and buildings are clean and disinfected regularly.

OPWDD is recommending weekly testing of our employees and those we support while in the designated Yellow Zone. While this is not a requirement, we have communicated that proactive testing is available to our staffing and the people we serve.

There is no cost associated with testing if people go through the Department of Health testing sites. If they choose to go elsewhere, they may be charged a fee, this fee will not be reimbursed through the agency. Therefore we have suggested people go to Erie County COVID Testing Information Website or call the Department of Health directly to request testing based on the cluster initiative at 716-858-2929.

Please be advised of recent OPWDD Guidance on the Governor's Cluster Initiative. Certified IRA's visitation will be limited when an IRA falls into a Red or Orange Zone. Currently no sites fall within these zones as of this posting. 

Click here for easy and free COVID testing information.


UPDATED 8/31/20

Re-Opening Safety Plan for Starlight Studio & Art Gallery

For more information visit LDA of WNY Covid Resources Page 



UPDATED 6/24/20
Some links to important information regarding COVID-19

FDA Warns about toxic ingredients in these hand sanitizers

High Covid-19 rate in some Buffalo neighborhoods raises alarms


Pediatricians cite health impacts of racism and poverty



UPDATED 4/1/20

If you have COVID-19 related questions or concerns, please send your questions or concerns to 




UPDATE: 3/17/20
Starlight Studio & Art Gallery Day Program is closed starting Wednesday 3/18/20 until further notice. 

We are concerned about you and we will be checking in regularly over the phone.

Please call LDA of WNY should you have any concerns, 716-874-7200

1.    Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
2.    Cover your cough or sneeze with a disposable tissue and discard in trash immediately.
3.    Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
4.    Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
5.    Stay home if you are sick – unless it is to seek medical attention.
6.    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
7.    Wash your hands before and after handling food, using the restroom and coming into contact with someone indicating signs of illness.


UPDATE: 3/16/20
Starlight Studio & Art Gallery is closed to the public. 

TO:                  Employees, Program Participants

FROM:             Marc Hennig C.E.O., LDA of WNY Management

DATE:             March 12, 2020

RE:                  Coronavirus (COVID-19)


LDA of WNY is committed to the protection of the health, safety and welfare of all of our employees and individuals that we serve. Given the recent developments around the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, we would like to reassure you that your well-being is of utmost importance to us and that we are actively working on business preparedness and response plans. At this time we have NO known confirmed cases within our Agency.


LDA of WNY is currently implementing procedures to ensure our standards of hygiene and cleanliness within all of our sites align with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) recommendations to reduce exposure to and transmission of illness in the workplace.


As COVID-19 is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation, LDA of WNY Management is monitoring information being released by WHO, CDC, NYS’s Department of Health (NYS DOH) OPWDD, and other governmental resources, to ensure that we are up to date and in compliance with the most current recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to make all other informed and fact-based decisions. In order to mitigate the risk of infection, we ask that all employees, program participants and visitors of LDA of WNY abide by the following practices:


  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  2. Cover your cough or sneeze with a disposable tissue and discard in the trash immediately.

  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

  5. Stay home if you are sick – unless it is to seek medical attention.

  6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.

  7. Wash your hands before and after handling food, using the restroom, and coming into contact with someone indicating signs of illness.


Employees and program participants are asked to stay home if they experience any of the signs of illness associated with COVID-19, which are: fever, cough, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue/tiredness, sore throat, headache, and diarrhea/nausea. Employees should continue to abide by LDA of WNY’s PTO and Personnel Policies. Any exceptions to such policies must go through the employee’s immediate supervisor for direct approval by LDA of WNY’s CEO. Employees should feel free to contact their supervisor with any questions.


With regards to visitations to programs and certified sites including our residences, we are implementing visitation policies and procedures in order to minimize the risk of exposure to all of our employees and program participants. Specific information regarding the visitation policies and procedures will be released shortly.


Our top priorities are the health and safety of all of our employees and our program participants, as well as maintaining a high level of service to our program participants. As this situation evolves, we will continue to modify our plans as needed in order to deliver these priorities. 


We appreciate your continued dedication and support with assisting us in all of these efforts.


Attached are some general information documents issued by the CDC related to COVID-19. For questions, please contact your local department of health or the NYS DOH Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline at 1-888-364-3065. We also encourage you to keep up to date about COVID-19, its treatment and prevention by visiting the following websites:


  • CDC’s dedicated Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) website:


  • NYSDOH’s dedicated (COVID-19) website:     

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