CHARLOTTE – The Charlotte’s preparation for COVID-19 is similar to its approach for the flu, but the senior living community has also taken extra precautions.
Residents and staff are screened daily. Staff has additional paid sick leave to ensure they’re not coming to work sick. Social activities have gone virtual. Delivery and take-out have replaced traditional dining. Visitation is off limits unless essential, even then, you’re going to be screened for symptoms and required to wear a mask.
“We are doing everything in our control to prevent and prepare for this pandemic,” Executive Director Leslie Hall said. “We are committed to ensuring the safety of our residents, their families, and our team members.”
Short-term rehabilitation and long-term care facilities have been on high alert since the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state made national headlines in February for being one of the first COVID-19 hot spots.
Randy LeMaster, who serves as a board member for the North Carolina Assisted Living Association, said it’s the biggest issue affecting his industry right now. LeMaster works as regional director of operations for Waltonwood Senior Living.
Waltonwood Cotswold and Waltonwood Providence follow guidelines set by the local health department, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They also spend time reviewing best practices with staff.
“Education is the most important thing we can do,” LeMaster said.
While three in four of the 951 reported COVID-19 cases through April 12 in Mecklenburg County have been between the ages of 20 and 59, older adults were four times more likely to be hospitalized. The first 12 deaths were older than 60 with underlying chronic conditions.
Gibbie Harris, public health director for Mecklenburg County, said two long-term care facilities have confirmed coronavirus outbreaks, which she defined as two or more individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.
Harris said another facility was under investigation.
“The facilities that have had outbreaks have been doing what they need to do to protect the rest of the individuals in their population,” Harris said during the April 8 media briefing.
The NCDHHS recommends long-term care facilities with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to isolate infected residents in their own rooms with private bathrooms.
Cabarrus Health Alliance confirmed April 12 that the Five Oaks Rehabilitation in Concord had 67 COVID-19 cases, prompting the testing of more than 300 patients and staff at the center on April 9 and 10.
Harris said Mecklenburg County had been working with long-term care facilities for a month or two on safety guidelines.
“We worked with our long-term care facilities in this community to restrict visitation and do the things that we know will help them maintain the safety and health of their population,” Harris said. “They have been doing this in very strict ways.”