DVP Requirements Corner: Screening for COVID-19


Question: Can DVP-funded organizations screen clients for COVID-19 symptoms? 

Answer: DVP has not received specific guidance from FVPSA about screening for COVID-19. However, DVP recognizes that FVPSA intends for advocacy to be inclusive and non-discriminatory. A person cannot be denied services on the basis of medical information, including COVID-19. Inquiring about symptoms requires consideration of timing and impact. For example, if a person is asked PRIOR to eligibility being determined, it could be seen as discriminatory and have a chilling effect on survivors seeking services. If a person was determined to be eligible and then was asked voluntary questions and would be served equally regardless of their response/choice to not respond, then the questions wouldn’t be excluding otherwise eligible folks. 
It is important to remember the limitations of symptom screening given that this illness appears to be transmissible even when a person is asymptomatic. It is also important to have a genuine plan for serving people who may state they may have had exposure to or are having symptoms of COVID-19.
A resource from the National Network to End Domestic Violence offers some context as to if/when asking about COVID-19 symptoms may make sense - not as eligibility/service screening, but to inform additional service provision - can be found by clicking here
Certainly, universal precautions are recommended given the potential of asymptomatic spread. Learn more about this by clicking here.
As with other sensitive and potentially chilling questions (such as inquiring about substance use, documentation status, sexual orientation, etc.), organizations can provide ambient messages in the workplace to signal that the services are welcoming. Additionally, advocates can frame the questions with their purpose for asking, accepting when a person declines to discuss the topic and offering meaningful resources/referrals when a person does choose to share such information. For COVID-19, this might include warm signage offering to provide information on accessing free testing centers. DVP would love to hear from organizations as they find ways to include COVID-19 responsiveness into their advocacy and environments.
In addition, organizations should look to public health authorities for guidance as to what measures are recommended to maintain the safety of staff and residents as the ADA requires non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation unless doing so would endanger the health, welfare, or safety of employees or others. If an organization were to require a mouth/nose covering, there may be individuals who have respiratory conditions that make them unable to wear a mask. In such a case the organization may make a "reasonable accommodation" for the disability, such as offering to provide shelter in a hotel or separate room and offering advocacy support by phone or video conferencing. Organizations are not required to provide the specifically requested accommodation, such as meeting in person without a face covering, if doing so would be deemed to pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.