FAQs

Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions from residents, family members, staff, and vendors.

COVID-19 UPDATES

Have you had an outbreak? How many cases have you had?

Despite our aggressive actions to mitigate and control the spread of the virus, including proactive and where possible, broad testing, we have not been able to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our retirement communities completely. We have been fortunate so far that there have not been any large outbreaks. The most positive cases we had at once in one community was five residents and three staff members (at The Gardens at Town Square in late March/early April). We are committed to full transparency and will continue to maintain a detailed status of COVID-positive cases associated with our retirement communities here.

How many cases do you have currently?

The COVID-19 situation is changing constantly. We are committed to full transparency and will continue to maintain this detailed status of COVID-positive cases associated with our retirement communities. When we learn of a new case, we rapidly follow protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus. Please refer to this page for current information regarding any cases among our communities.

What agencies are you working with?

We have been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), King County Public Health, and Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

Can you tell us what floor the residents who tested positive were on? What information can you give out?

Unfortunately, we cannot release private and identifying information per HIPPA restrictions. We release all information we can give out without violating privacy.

SAFETY PRACTICES

How are you ensuring that staff and residents are fully equipped to handle the current COVID-19 situation?

We are talking to public health officials and experts at the University of Washington frequently, monitoring news and developments, and communicating with staff often. We are using the best information that’s available and evolving our precautions as we go.

What are your protocols when you learn that someone in the building has tested positive?

If a resident currently residing in one of communities is positive, we enact strict isolation procedures for that resident. Additionally, we:

  • Rapidly identify potential exposure and take appropriate action.
  • Ask all higher risk staff members to stay home.
  • Screen staff members to find out if they are employed by, or visit any other location that serves seniors, and advise on additional precautions.
  • Increase the frequency of proactive screening of each resident to twice a day.
  • Ask if they have any symptoms of illness and take appropriate action.
  • Conservatively treat any resident with any following symptoms as COVID-19 positive until they are tested:
    • Fever/sweating
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Runny nose
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Chest pain associated with breathing
    • Feelings of exhaustion or weakness
    • Loss of energy
    • Sleepiness
    • General body aches
    • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or bloody mucus
    • Presence of confusion or changes in mental status, such as confusion, loss of alertness, disorientation, defects in judgment, or strange or unusual behaviors
    • Changes in sense of smell or taste
    • Change in appetite
    • Red eyes
    • Headache
    • Muscle pain
    • Dizziness
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Unexplained falls or increase in falls
  • Test a targeted group of residents and staff or in some cases test all consenting residents and staff (depending on when we last tested broadly and availability of testing supplies).
  • Ask residents to remain in their apartments. If they have a critical need to exit, ask that they contact the front desk first to discuss.
  • All other precautions will remain in place, and we will continue to follow any additional guidance from the CDC or King County Public Health.

What kind of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) does staff use when assisting residents, whether or not they’re ill? Further, what kind of hygiene practices does your staff use in between residents so they do not transmit pathogens?

We are asking staff with symptoms to stay away from the community. We are also asking staff who work at other communities with positive cases to stay away from our communities. Where possible, we are trying to cluster care teams so that they aren’t traveling throughout the building. We have increased our supply of PPE, and we are doing ongoing staff training on how to properly use this equipment. We use gloves with all residents, and staff use new gloves with each resident/apartment. We have been selective about full PPE. We only use it if resident is symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19.

RESIDENT PRECAUTIONS

Are there restrictions on residents who want to relocate outside of the community?

The CDC recommends that people not relocate. One risk in doing so is that it could expose residents to people who may or may not be isolating themselves. We are encouraging the CDC’s recommendation; however, it remains the choice of residents and their families. If you do decide to leave, we request that you first discuss with the executive director or community health director.

How are you ensuring residents still have their independence and freedom?

All of our residents live with choice within our communities. We communicate often and urge our residents to consider their own safety, as well as the safety of their neighbors, our staff, and our staffs’ families when they make choices about their activities. We actively enforce compliance with any government mandates within our common areas to protect our residents and staff. However, we cannot control what residents do inside of their own apartments or when they leave our buildings. We screen residents upon their return to our buildings, and depending on the relative risk of their activity, they may be asked to quarantine in their apartments.

When residents leave the building, that puts everyone at risk. What kind of messaging are you sending to residents and families? How can you quarantine if it’s not enforced?

We are strongly urging residents to follow our quarantine measures in buildings with positive cases. In all buildings, we urge residents to follow the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and other public health recommendations for seniors. It’s important to note that we legally we cannot physically keep people from leaving the building. We are repeating the message that residents should stay in place and also reminding everyone about the importance of rigorous hand hygiene. Additionally, we are screening residents when they leave and when they return to determine if they should follow additional protective measures to protect our community on their return.

How can residents safely visit with friends and family?

At this time, we are offering outdoor visits with small groups of family or friends at all communities. To help limit the number of people in our gardens or terraces and allow time for surface cleaning, this option is available by appointment only. Please contact the front desk to schedule your outdoor visit. Visits may be temporarily paused in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in the building or if King County returns to an earlier phase of the Washington Safe Start recovery plan.

What should people do who need to go to other doctor’s appointments?

People should exercise extreme caution and only go if absolutely necessary. We recommend practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask, and not using furniture or touching anything while in waiting rooms.

If a resident at a building with positive cases is eager to move and walk, what should they do? Walk the halls, back garden?

Please speak to the executive director and/or community health team, who will help determine a plan for how to do this safely without potentially impacting other residents. At buildings without positive cases, residents may choose to go on walks, and are strongly encouraged to practice physical distancing while they do so (remaining at least six feet away from others), wearing a mask, and avoid touching surfaces.

Is it safe to live in a retirement community right now?

We’ve all seen tragic stories in the news regarding certain congregate settings, such as nursing homes/skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), where physical distancing is challenging, and the virus has spread widely and rapidly. Retirement communities with independent living and assisted living have distinct advantages over these settings given that residents have their own apartments. Residents are generally a lot more independent and have more space to themselves than residents of SNFs. SNFs are clinical, healthcare settings, while retirement communities are residential.

If you are considering retirement living for yourself or a loved one, we advise reviewing the company’s COVID-19 precautions to ensure appropriate measures are being taken in common areas and that the company has access to sufficient testing resources.

COVID-19 TESTING

Are tests available, and if so, can I get tested?

We have been able to procure our own supply of test kits and have now tested broadly at all eight of our retirement communities at least two times. As long as we can maintain our supplies, including adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), we will continue testing individual staff members and residents when we have reason to believe they were exposed to the virus or when they have any symptoms of illness. Additionally, we will continue testing broadly occasionally or as needed.

What does the test actually tell you, and how is it administered?

The test is only for COVID-19 and will give a positive or negative response. It will not tell you if you’ve had the virus in the past, and it is possible that someone contract the virus after testing. It’s similar to a flu test: a swab of nose and throat.

Do you test asymptomatic residents and staff? Is it possible that someone who is asymptomatic tests positive?

Yes, we have been testing broadly irrespective of symptoms as possible. This gives us a current snapshot at the time of testing. Someone could still contract the virus after testing. Yes, a person can be asymptomatic and test positive.

How long does the test take and how long until results are received?

Administering the test takes less than a minute. We have typically been seeing results within 24 to 48 hours of testing, but at times there have been backlogs in the labs.

Is there a test for antibodies? If someone has mild symptoms it would be helpful to know.

Yes, there are rapid antibody blood tests for COVID-19, allowing people to gauge a person’s immune response to the novel coronavirus. The serological test—which uses a finger-prick of blood and a small strip—detects two different types of antibodies produced by the body to fight off the infection. Available by prescription, this can be used to determine whether a person has been previously infected and possibly recovered. However, the test may not work in the first few days of an infection, before enough antibodies are produced as part of the immune system’s response. It is distinctly different from the diagnostic tests, which focus on finding active infections by sequencing the genetic material of the virus.

ADDITIONAL FAQs FOR STAFF

What is Era Living doing to protect our workplace from COVID-19?

As you know, the elderly residents we serve are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and we have taken swift, responsive action to protect our communities from the spread of this virus. We began implementing protective actions at the onset of the virus’s identification in this area. We have worked closely with local and federal health officials and adjusted our response as the situation has evolved.

How should I protect myself?

We urge you to practice vigilance both at work and in your personal life, to protect yourself, your families, your co-workers, and our residents. We ask that you:

  • Remain compliant with the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. When you are at work or other essential outings, stay at least six feet away from others when feasible, and wear a mask.
  • Practice recommended personal hygiene habits in and outside of work, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and coughing into a tissue or your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands.
  • While at work, do not engage in unnecessary contact with residents, such as hugging, hand holding, etc.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there, wear a cloth mask, and keep six feet away from patients.
  • Stay away from people who are ill.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first. Note: As a reminder, if you are enrolled in the Era Living healthcare plan, you can talk to a doctor 24/7 without leaving your home via Teledoc. Visit Teledoc.com/Aetna or call 1-800-835-2362 to enroll.
  • Practice self-care. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong. Take a break from social media and the news when you can, and do something that makes you feel good instead.

Do I have to be screened every time I show up to work?

Yes. Screening employees is an important precaution to ensure the safety of our residents, other employees, and their families. It’s also a requirement mandated by the governor.

Should I wear a cloth mask to work? Is it required?

As of May 18, a cloth face mask is required at work in our communities. Additionally:

  • Staff and residents are encouraged to obtain or make at least two non-medical masks each. The community will also attempt to source donation masks and place them at the front desk for those who may need them.
  • The masks may be re-used with daily washing with soap and water and drying at temperatures of at least 140 degrees F.
  • Ensure they fit you well and tightly cover your mouth, nose, and chin so that no air sips around the mask.
  • Homemade fabric masks or commercially made cloth masks may offer limited protection depending on quality. They should not be used in place of full personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for COVID-19 ill residents unless there are absolutely no other options. At this time, we have the PPE we need to care for residents.
  • Each community is encouraged to accept donations of non-medical masks and also allow residents capable of making these masks to do so by facilitating the work as a life enrichment activity from their apartments.
  • All new non-medical masks available for general use at the front desk will first be washed by housekeeping staff before offering them for use.

I’m concerned about my safety or the safety of others in our community. Who should I talk to about this?

It’s our goal that everyone feels safe and supported at this time. We encourage you to first talk to your supervisor or your executive director about your concerns. If you are still concerned, then we want to hear from you at the home office. You can email safety@eraliving.com with your concerns or report them anonymously by phone at 206-470-8012.

What should I do if I feel sick, or suspect I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?

It is required that you report any signs of illness or any suspected exposure to COVID-19 to your supervisor by phone. It is important that you not report to work until you have been authorized to return by your executive director or supervisor (who must receive authorization from Albert Munanga, Regional Director of Health and Wellness and Karen Nordby, Regional Director of Operations). Please visit this page for more details on what to do if you are sick. As a first responder in health care, you are eligible to use the University of Washington’s drive-through testing clinic. Please reference prior communications or contact your supervisor for instructions. Additionally, depending on test kit availability, you may be able to be tested by Era Living. Please discuss with your executive director. King County Public Health is also offering options for employees of assisted living communities if you have symptoms and are unable to obtain a test through your health care provider. Please fill out their online survey here to determine eligibility.

I have symptoms of illness and/or have tested positive for COVID-19. When can I return to work?

Employees who are sick and have been diagnosed to have COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 due to known or unknown exposure should stay home until the following conditions have been fulfilled:

  1. Follow-up testing has been completed and is negative, and all symptoms have completely resolved for at least 72 hours. OR, it has been at least 14 days from date of the last symptom without fever-reducing medications provided.
  2. The Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and Regional Director of Health and Wellness, Albert Munanga, have provided approval to your supervisor or executive director for you to return to work. A doctor’s note for an employee to return to work is not sufficient at this time.

Employees with other symptoms of illness who have tested negative for COVID-19 may return to work when:

  1. All symptoms have completely resolved for at least 72 hours
  2. The Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and Regional Director of Health and Wellness, Albert Munanga, have provided approval to your supervisor or executive director for you to return to work. A doctor’s note for an employee to return to work is not sufficient at this time.

I work at another senior living community or skilled nursing facility that has a positive COVID-19 case. What should I do?

All employees are required to report potential exposure to COVID-19 to their supervisor or executive director. If you work at another community, please notify your supervisor by phone as soon as you learn about a positive case there. It is important that you not report to work at an Era Living community until it’s been determined by the Regional Director of Operations, Karen Nordby, and the Regional Director of Health and Wellness Albert Munanga, that it is safe to do so.

What emotional support resources are available to me?

We recognize that the uncertainty of this situation is causing a lot of anxiety and angst. We encourage you to take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you would like any professional support through this. As a reminder, this is a free and confidential service available to all Era Living employees. Follow instructions given in previous memos or contact Human Resources for more information. There is a special resource section related to the coronavirus pandemic here. If you are finding yourself with heightened anxiety, you may find the “Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook”, published by The Wellness Society, helpful.

With schools closed, I am in need of childcare. Do you have any resources to help me with that?

If you are a resident of King County and in need of childcare, you should be eligible to apply for free emergency childcare for first responders and essential workers, announced by King County Public Health here.

Will I get paid while out for an extended time related to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure?

Your executive director or supervisor will have more information if you need to take time off because of COVID-19 health reasons. A Time Off Request Form will need to be completed.

In response to COVID-19, we have temporarily expanded our sick policy, to help alleviate potential financial and other concerns that employees have felt while quarantined from work. If you are out for up to 14 continuous calendar days for reasons related to COVID-19 outlined below, then we’ll provide additional sick time that covers whatever shortfall your sick bank doesn’t cover during those 14 days. If you’re out longer than 14 continuous calendar days, you will also have the option to take an advance of up to five days of sick time (HR will be providing more details on this policy). You will then draw from vacation, if hours are available in your vacation bank. This benefit is available if you need time off from work for any of the COVID-19 related reasons listed below:

  • You have tested positive for COVID-19
  • You are caring for a member of your household who is COVID-19 positive
  • Your healthcare provider has advised you to stay home because of one or more of the following: you are age 65 years or older, have an underlying health condition, or you live with a high risk person. You may be asked to provide a certification from your healthcare provider, if applicable.
  • You are asked by Era Living for the reasons listed below to quarantine for 14 days or until testing can confirm you are negative for COVID-19. We are referring to this as “ERA-Quarantine” on time off request forms.
    1. You are experiencing symptoms
    2. You were possibly exposed while at work at an Era Living community
    3. You were possibly exposed while at work at a different company
    4. You were possibly exposed by a member of your household

The number of additional hours available to you is dependent upon three things: your sick bank, how many hours you are scheduled for the time you are on leave, and the length of your leave (a leave could be shorter than two weeks). Click here to view examples of how this works.

This benefit is designed to help employees who would otherwise run out of sick time so that they can continue to be paid while being out. Further, it is designed to help employees from depleting their vacation banks. Please read about Washington State benefits available to you should you exhaust all your banked time, outlined below.

This benefit was announced April 22, 2020, and is retroactive to March 1, 2020. We will be reviewing Time Off Requests to identify those who took time off for the reasons listed above to pay them sick time they didn’t have at the time and, if applicable, replenish vacation hours. If you were absent for one of the reasons above and did not complete a Time Off Request, please do so immediately. If you have any questions about this benefit, please reach out to Human Resources.In the event that you are out for an extended time, and you exhaust all paid time off options available through Era Living, Washington State has also enacted a number of benefits to support people who lose income as a result of COVID-19. Healthcare workers who are sick with COVID-19 or who are quarantined may be eligible for unemployment benefits or L&I time loss and medical treatment benefits. Visit the websites for the Employment Security Department (ESD) or Labor and Industries (L&I) to learn more and apply for benefits. You may also try to contact them by phone, but hold times tend to be extremely long (ESD: 360-902-9500; L&I: 800-547-8367). It may be helpful to note that unemployment or other state benefits do not typically pay at 100% of what you would receive through the use of company-sponsored time off banks. Below are several scenarios:

  • I was directed to quarantine by Era Living. If this applies to you, you should apply for unemployment benefits after exhausting time off benefits outlined above. The ESD has indicated that employees who are quarantined as a precaution by their place of employment are likely eligible for unemployment benefits should they run out of banked time off. Employees should file with the ESD here.
  • I believe I contracted COVID-19 through exposure at work: If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and you believe you contracted the virus through exposure at work, then you should notify your supervisor and file a claim online through L&I FileFast. Employees in this scenario may be eligible for benefits that might include both time loss and payment for treatment. The claim process should begin as soon as possible starting the first date of quarantine.
  • I have contracted COVID-19, but did not contract it at work: If you have a non-work related diagnosis of COVID-19, then you may qualify for FMLA (unpaid) and/or Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (paid through state benefits). Eligibility is specific to your situation, so please communicate through your supervisor or reach out directly to Human Resources at the home office. The PFML program is also administered through the ESD, and more information can be found here.
  • My healthcare provider has advised me to stay home because I am age 65 years or older, I have an underlying health condition, or I live with a high-risk person. You should speak with your supervisor to see if there are alternative work assignments for you. This may or may not be possible, given the nature of the work the we do. If it is not possible, then you will be given a leave of absence that protects your job. Leaves of absence are only paid to the extent you have sick and vacation banks from which to draw, including the additional sick time outlined above. Should you exhaust your banks, you should apply for unemployment benefits.
  • Due to a decrease in workload, I have been temporarily taken off the schedule. You will be given the choice of using vacation or sick time. The ESD considers this a furlough and you should be eligible for unemployment benefits even though you are still employed. Note again that unemployment benefits do not typically pay at 100% of what you would receive through the use of company-sponsored time off banks.

You should note that employees are not likely eligible for benefits through more than one state program– Unemployment, Washington Paid Family Leave, and L&I—at a time. Ultimately, it is up to Washington State ESD and L&I to determine eligibility. If you receive benefits from more than one program, you may be asked to repay a portion.

What happens to my medical benefits if I have to take time off of work due to COVID-19?

Your benefits will continue uninterrupted, even in the event you exhaust your sick and vacation banks, if:

  • You have been quarantined by Era Living
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • You must stay home to care for minor children due to school/daycare closure
  • (Beginning April 13, 2020) You are high-risk as defined by the CDC and must self-quarantine

Any unpaid premiums will be put into arrears and withheld in future pay periods upon your return to work.

Have there been changes to other benefits that may help me financially?

401k – The CARES act allows for penalty-free withdrawals and federal tax deferrals for Coronavirus-Related Distributions (CRDs). It also allows required minimum distributions (RMDs) to be waived in 2020. Eligibility requirements apply. For more details, contact Voya at (800) 584-6001.

FSA – If you are enrolled in an FSA plan, then you can use those pre-tax funds for additional items. The CARES act reinstated over-the-counter medications without prescription to FSA plans. It also added menstrual supplies.

What else has changed with COVID-19?

There have been lots of changes and things are evolving rapidly. A few that may apply to you could include the extension of due dates for professional certifications (eg, CNA) or the temporary suspension of TB testing. Our goal is to keep you up to date. Please also reach out with questions. We are here to support you!

I heard that the federal government passed a law that gives employees more sick time. Does that apply to me?

No. The FFCRA, which went into effect on April 1, 2020, does not apply to employees at Era Living or any other senior housing provider. Healthcare organizations were specifically exempted from this law. Further, only small businesses are eligible. The positive side of this decision by the federal government to classify us as healthcare providers is that our industry has been listed as a priority recipient of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep our employees safe, and the classification enables our employees to access state benefits as outlined above.

ADDITIONAL FAQs FOR VENDORS

What communities have positive cases and how widespread is the outbreak?

To date, we have not experienced significant virus outbreaks at any of our communities. There are currently a limited number of cases across some of our eight retirement communities. You can view the latest information here.

What are you doing to protect your buildings from COVID-19?

As you know, the elderly residents we serve are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and we have taken swift, responsive action to protect our communities from the spread of this virus. We began implementing protective actions at the onset of the virus’s identification in this area. We have worked closely with local and federal health officials and adjusted our response as the situation has evolved.

What additional precautions are you taking in buildings with positive cases?

We continue to use our infectious disease protocol in an attempt to limit the spread of this virus and have strictly isolated those residents who have tested positive in our communities. Staff are self-isolating at home until it is safe to return to work. You can read more here.

How should I or my staff protect themselves when entering your buildings?

  • All visitors must wear a cloth face covering during their visit. We encourage everyone to follow the CDC’s recommendations and best practices on this. If a visitor needs to enter our building and does not have their own facemask, then if available, we will provide one for use during their visit. It must be returned to the front desk and will be sterilized before it is used again. We require vendors and other third-party workers to have a face covering given that many of them visit many senior living or clinical settings, which may increase their risk of exposure.
  • All visitors will be asked to wash their hands upon entering and leaving the community.
  • All visitors are asked to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from others, practice rigorous hand hygiene, and avoid touching their faces.

We strongly urge that everyone follow similar practices at other facilities and to exercise extreme caution and vigilance in your personal lives—following the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, the City of Seattle Health Officer Directive on mask use, and other guidelines from the CDC and public health officials.

What is your screening process for visitors? What if I or one of my staff members does not wish to complete it?

All visitors providing essential services are required to participate in a screening process before they are permitted to enter one of our buildings. If a visitor does not wish to complete this screening, then they will be asked to postpone their visit. All visitors must answer a series of screening questions to assess their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Those who meet any of the following criteria will be asked to postpone their visit:

    1. They have symptoms of illness or have been in close contact with someone with symptoms of illness, including fever/sweating, chills, repeated shaking with chills, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain associated with breathing, feelings of exhaustion or weakness, loss of energy, sleepiness, general body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody mucus, presence of confusion, change in mental status, red eyes, change in sense of smell or taste, change in appetite, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, dizziness, bluish lips or face, or unexplained falls or increase in falls.
    2. They have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or someone who has been exposed to COVID-19.
    3. They have recently visited or come into close contact with someone who has visited any other building or business associated with a known case of positive or presumed positive COVID-19.
    4. They have recently returned from travel outside of Washington state or you have recently visited an airport. Visits should be delayed for at least 14 days after return, and you can confirm no symptoms of illness such as those listed above.

Additionally, all visitors must have their temperature taken upon entry. Those with temperatures above 100.4 degrees F will be asked to postpone their visit.

Media inquiries should be directed to our publicist, Natalie Quick 206-779-0489.

Please note that these pages are not intended to be all-encompassing and should not be considered to be providing medical advice. In all instances, you should consult with a relevant expert for guidance specific to your circumstances.