May 22, 2020
Re: Covid-19 Update and Phased of Easing of Restrictions
Dear Residents, Families and Staff,
The last few months have been a challenging time for us all. At Cogir, we have been responsive to the extraordinary recommendations by public health officials and diligent in our enhanced safety protocols in an effort to prevent the potential impact of the novel coronavirus in our communities. I am proud of how we have come together as a team of residents, families and staff rising to this moment. We have been diligent in our safety measures, and while they have been necessarily restrictive, we have received incredible support from you in recognition of our efforts. Our primary goal throughout this time has been and always will be the safety of all that live, visit, and work within our communities.
But this experience enforced our strong belief that active precautionary asymptomatic situational testing was key to tracking down potential carriers and preventing further spread. It also shows how effective the combination of disinfecting, PPE and testing can be to tackle even a small outbreak, stop it in its tracks, and keep a community safe. Through diligent means, we were able to contract with multiple testing firms enabling widespread testing in our communities. We have been testing when we believe that a resident or staff member has tested positive outside of the community or has come in close contact with a positive carrier of the virus. To date, this approach has resulted in us conducting over 600 tests, and we will continue to conduct testing when we have indications that warrant it.
As a result of this approach, beyond the 27 positive cases noted earlier, we have only experienced 11 other positive cases in our company which has over 2,300 residents and staff. This is less than one half of one percent of our other residents and staff members. In fact, 50% of our communities have yet to see a single case. This is a tremendous result and truly a testament to the remarkable heroes working in our communities, coupled with a highly effective combination of protocols, use of PPE, disinfecting and testing.
While Covid-19 has been disconcerting for us all, we have found that the traditional protocols that we implement for flu and norovirus work exceptionally well when combined with our new enhanced safety protocols. Some of these protocols have included:
- Residents staying in rooms as much as possible
- Dining room closing and food delivery
- Limiting visitors to essential personnel
- Screening of all staff, visitors and residents
- Increased the cleaning and disinfecting in our buildings
- Requiring all visitors and staff to practice handwashing or sanitizing as they enter and exit the community
- All staff in all positions wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Widespread Covid-19 testing as needed
As we start to consider our new normal and look into the future until a vaccine is widely available, it is becoming clear that each of our buildings will experience varying levels of infection control protocol at times. As a result of these recent experiences with coronavirus, we know that if we see an active case in a community, we have demonstrated the ability to implement situational controls like we have experienced in the past during a flu or norovirus outbreak.
We take comfort in the fact that our measures have allowed us to avoid positive cases in half of our communities, only isolated cases in several others, and stop the spread of Covid-19 where we experienced it first with quick and decisive action. We are convinced that our residents and staff are safe in our communities and challenge the media’s perception of seniors housing. We are an active voice throughout the industry and stay in very close contact with the scientific community throughout the country. This enables us to remain highly informed about the most effective practices as more is learned about the virus, treatments and protocols. While Covid-19 is going to continue to have an impact not only on us, but on society at large, we remain confident in our ability to limit its negative impact on our residents and staff.
Because of the seasoning and experience gained over the last several months, we are confident in our staff’s ability to handle and manage infectious disease as we consider recalibrating our safety protocols. Broad phased “reopening plans” are being discussed by local governments and public health agencies. As a result, we too are taking steps to begin lifting restrictions in our buildings. Socializing is critically important to our residents, and we consider this a high priority along with the critical safety measures that will continue. To be clear, we will not be going back to business as usual for quite some time, but rather we anticipate loosening our restrictions in phases that will initially improve physical movement for our residents within the community and promote safe socialization opportunities while maintaining adherence to strict social distancing. In later phases, we will reopen our dining rooms and enable regular nonessential visitors back into the community when public health departments deem appropriate. Throughout these phases, we will follow our new rallying cry of “Space, Face and Trace.” Maintain strict spacing to adhere to social distancing requirements, ensure all residents and staff wear face masks when appropriate, and trace interactions with residents and staff so as to track contact in the event we do have a positive case necessitating tracing back to those individuals that may have been exposed.
All of our restrictions will remain consistent with or, in some cases, more aggressive than public health departments and local government recommendations. We are following local public health department guidance and sharing our plans with them so we can proceed with gradually loosening restrictions appropriately. Each of you will receive an update from the Executive Director in your community in the next week or so which will provide a road map for that building when we begin to loosen some of our restrictions.
Our commitment in managing the dangers of Covid-19 as well as the very real need for all of us to be social will be accomplished with the stepped lifting of our restrictions. We also know that with new information or unforeseen reemergence of the virus may necessitate that our best laid plans change. As we move forward, we will continue to communicate as anything changes or as we modify to our phased plan.
At Cogir, we have the safety of all our residents and team members at heart. We simply cannot be successful as a community fighting Covid-19 without you and your partnership. You have been so cooperative and understanding throughout this time, and we truly thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts.
All the best and stay safe,