The Booneville Human Development Center, much like long term care and nursing homes as well as facilities like the federal prison in Forrest City with mostly immobile populations, have been concerned during the current coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.


“Our worst fear is our staff bringing it up here because the clients are safe,” superintendent Jeff Gonyea said last week. “That’s why we do all our screenings before they come to work.


“We’ve done all kinds of additional training on hand washing, universal precautions to reiterate what we do every day. And staff has been doing pretty good. We’ve got extra hand sanitizes that we’ve passed out. That’s not a solve everything, but it helps.”


So far there none of the about 125 clients or staff with any symptoms Gonyea said.


“We’re doing all the CDC recommendations as it applies to long term care and ICS Mars,” said Gonyea. “All our staff are wearing masks. We check everybody every day before they come to work.


“There’s a questionnaire and they have to have their temperature taken — anybody that’s running over 100.4 gets sent home.”


There have also been modifications to activities and meals to adhere to social distancing recommendations.


“We’ve changed the size of our class room. We still do lunch at the cafeteria but we’ve kind of had to change and stagger that as well so we don’t have too many people at once going through,” said Gonyea. “Once they get in the dining room we spread them out.


“We try to keep it as normal as we can because the clients we have are behavioral folks and they don’t like a lot of change.”


The campus is also shut down to visitors and, predictably, any of the typical client outings for eating or shopping in Booneville or elsewhere have ceased for the time being.


“(None) unless it’s medically emergency,” Gonyea said of departures from the center. “They’re not going to town and we’re not bringing anything up here. Any delivery people don’t come in the buildings. They call us and tell us they’re here, they drop the stuff outside the building and our staff goes and picks it up.”