Dear Residents, Families, and Sponsors of our Alabama communities: We are now into our fifth month of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Resident and employee safety are always the primary focus of Community Senior Life (CSL), and together with our Corporate COVID Committee and individual task forces at each community, we have worked each day with the single objective of keeping our communities safe. Most of the restrictive and preventative policies in place are federally or state-mandated, while others are protections created by CSL to prevent this virus from entering our communities. This season of pandemic has been emotional for all involved, difficult in every circumstance, and all-consuming for those of us entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions affecting you and your loved ones. Employees, residents, and families are becoming more and more frustrated with the visitation policies in place, exhausted with daily reminders of where to sit, what to wear, and irritated at the inability to direct their own access to the world beyond their campus.
We empathize and sympathize over these rules, but we know they are working! As of this letter, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the following:
With 800 residents and 500 employees, our communities have experienced 7 positive cases (5 employees, 2 residents) and one unfortunate death related to COVID-19.
Across the U.S., almost 20% of the cases reported are from people ages 65 and older. 79% of the deaths related to COVID-19 are of the same age range. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 40% of all COVID-19 deaths have come from long-term care facilities (nursing homes and assisted living).
This is the age demographic we serve. This is the generation we are responsible for safeguarding, and these are the lives we must protect. However, our residents are not the only ones at risk.
Across the states, 75% of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are between the ages of 18 and 64. This age range encompasses nearly all of our employees. CSL has had a low number of COVID-19 positive employees, which is a testament that our staff has continued to be socially responsible outside of our communities. However, COVID-19 has put a strain on our staffing. At the first sign of symptoms, our employees are required to quarantine away from the community and/or get tested. Like residents, they cannot return to the community until negative tests are received. This shortage of staff has caused many employees, already emotionally and physically exhausted, to work additional hours, and, at times, multiple days in a row.
Easing or lifting restrictive policies would be the easy thing to do at this point; however, the reward is not worth the risk. All three states where CSL has operations were listed as having the highest number of new cases within the last seven days.
All our communities are in counties the Department of Health deems “Moderate,” “High,” or “Very High” for risk of infection and a rise in new positive cases daily. With these statistics available to us, and consistent communication with our state Associations and Regulators, our Corporate COVID Committee is working hard to balance both a meaningful residence experience and a safe living and working environment for everyone.
While we have opened dining areas and group activities within the community, we are continuing to postpone any outside activities that require group transportation. Similarly, although we understand the need, we are continuing to delay salon services. Although beauty salons have opened to the public, our salon vendors were not unique to our residents. Meaning that the estheticians served other senior living communities and/or the general public. Allowing that vendor into our communities is a risk we cannot take at this time. We are, however, looking for and interviewing individuals interested in working exclusively for our communities, traveling amongst them, and serving only our residents. We hope to have the salon service matter resolved soon.
Community Senior Life is exploring more visitation options in the future, but at this time, we must continue with the policies now in place. We will monitor the positive cases in each county, and as the cases decrease in number, we will expand our visitation policies. As we gain confidence that exposure to the virus is minimizing, we will safely organize a return to some sense of normalcy. In an abundance of caution, however, and for the sake of everyone involved, we believe now is a time for patience and a tenacious vigilance.
We understand these are trying times. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. If you feel you need further discussion, please contact your respective Executive Director.