At Era Living, our number one priority has been helping to protect our residents and staff from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Following the news of the first death related to COVID-19 in our area, we moved swiftly to add additional measures on top of existing plans and infection control protocols related to preventing the spread of communicable disease. This situation has been rapidly evolving at our own communities and in our area, and we continue to vigilantly work with the CDC and local public health officials, residents, and staff to prevent this from leading to an outbreak in our retirement communities and beyond. We have taken a number of additional steps to help contain the virus, including but not limited to broad testing at all eight of our communities and other precautions outlined in the section below.
We do have evidence that broad testing combined with other precautions we’ve taken have been helpful in reducing the spread of the virus in our communities. To date, we have a limited number of positive cases in two of our eight Era Living communities. While one positive case is too many, we are encouraged by the number of negative tests – at least 2,398 across all Era Living community residents and staff (including retests).
Broad testing has been an important part of our strategy since the beginning of this public health crisis. We are very fortunate that we were able to test all residents and staff members after learning of a second positive COVID-19 case associated with Ida Culver House Ravenna in early March. The precautions, including the rapid, broad testing, have been highlighted as an effective strategy that helped prevent the spread of the virus in a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine and a paper released by the CDC.
This was a very unusual precaution done in partnership with the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) and with the support of the City of Seattle and Seattle Fire Department. The situation evolved rapidly in the days following, and it became much more difficult to secure broad testing in March and April, due to resource constraints in the medical community and limitations in personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for performing tests.
With the well-being and lives of our our residents and staff in mind, we accelerated outreach efforts to government and public health officials and the media to advocate for broad testing at our other communities and the broader senior living industry. In parallel, we identified our own test kit suppliers and were able to conduct broad testing at all eight communities as of May 20. This enabled us to identify and isolate asymptomatic people with COVID-19, further protecting our communities from the spread of the virus. We appreciate the support of King County Public Health and UWMC volunteers in administering some of these tests.
We are happy to see some recent momentum locally to prioritize broad testing for retirement communities and long-term care facilities.
- We are actively communicating with staff and residents regarding precautions they should take to protect themselves and the community.
- We have asked staff members to consider taking extra precautions in their personal lives given the vulnerability of the residents we serve. This includes, among other things, staying at home and avoiding large groups of people as much as possible.
- We continue to be diligent in maintaining a clean environment to help reduce the spread of germs and have increased the frequency of surface cleaning in common areas.
- We continue to follow our existing policies and procedures related to preventing the spread of communicable disease among residents and staff.
- We have urged all residents and staff to report upper respiratory symptoms (including fever, cough, and shortness of breath) or other any other sign of illness. We will conservatively treat any resident with any sign of illness as COVID-19 positive until they can be tested and we know for sure. We will ask any resident or employee with these symptoms to speak with their doctor, if they haven’t already. Staff may be asked to stay home from work based on that information.
- We proactively screen all residents for any symptoms of illness, changes in mental status, changes in sense of smell or tastes, and changes in appetite at least once a day.
- Effective March 18, we can no longer allow any visitors, including family and friends. This restriction does not apply to hospice and other end of life situations. It also does not apply to vendors who supply or work in our community, including 3rdparty paid caregivers. We recognize that this new rule may cause concern for residents who rely on family members or friends for caregiving or delivering and organizing medicine. Some exceptions will be permitted, and we encourage you to reach out to your Executive Director to discuss your situation.
- Prior to the “stay home, stay healty” order from the Governor, we had strongly encouraged residents to forgo unnecessary outings and practice social distancing. As of March 18, we initiated a screening process for residents when they exit the building and when they return. Based on answers to the questions, residents may be asked to take further precautions, including self-quarantining in their apartments for 14 days after their return. We ask all residents to consider the risks to their own health, the health of other residents, and the health of our staff and their families when they have a need to leave their apartments.
- We ask that everyone in the community practice social distancing, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others (except in the cases of caregiving that requires closer contact with residents).
- Effective May 18, we are requiring cloth face coverings in our retirement communities for all staff on shift, for any resident who leaves their apartment for an essential outing, and for any visitors. We strongly encourage all residents, staff, and family members to also follow the City of Seattle Health Officer Directive on mask use when you are outside of our building in public settings. Please note that certain exceptions will be granted for individuals who have health or other physical conditions that make extended mask use difficult. Please discuss any concerns with your Executive Director, or for staff, your supervisor.
- We continue to screen those who do need to enter our community, such as 3rd party caregivers and other vendors, to prevent higher-risk individuals from entering our community environment. Those who meet any of the following criteria will be asked to postpone their visit:
- You 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, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest pain associated with breathing, feelings of exhaustion or weakness, loss of energy, 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.
- You have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or someone who has been exposed to COVID-19.
- You 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.
- You 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.
- Starting March 10, we have been taking temperatures of staff at the start of their shifts and essential visitors. Those with temperatures above 100.4 degrees will be denied entrance and encouraged to speak to their healthcare providers. This practice was recommended by the CDC and other medical professionals and later mandated by Governor Inslee.
- We canceled bus outings to the grocery store. We encourage our residents to order groceries online or accept grocery deliveries from family or friends. We are happy to deliver groceries that family or friends bring to our front door. If needed, staff can help with ordering groceries online and add charges to the resident’s monthly bill.
- As of 3/16, resident activities and dining room meals are canceled at all Era Living communities. Prior to 3/16, we had taken a number of steps to help facilitate social distancing in our communities. This included canceling dining room meals and activities at several communities. At communities where they had not yet been canceled, we had implemented precautions to limit the number of people gathering and to help keep people further apart from one another.
- As of 3/19, the fitness and aquatic centers are closed at all communities.
- We request that residents who have a need to visit a clinical environment, such as a hospital, long-term care facility, or skilled nursing facility, discuss their planned visit with their community health team or Executive Director.
- Current and upcoming staff and resident travel out of state or visits to airports will be reported to senior leadership, and based on current information, we will make an assessment of appropriate actions and restrictions upon their return.
- We rolled out refresher training and supplemental training materials regarding cleaning protocols and infection control guidelines.
- If a resident currently residing in one of communities is positive, then we will enact strict isolation procedures for that resident.
- We will rapidly identify potential exposure and take appropriate action. We will ask all higher risk staff members to stay home. In our screening of staff members, we will find out if they are employed by or visit any other location that serves seniors and advise on additional precautions.
- We will increase the frequency of proactive screening of each resident to twice a day. We ask if they have any symptoms of illness and take appropriate action. We are conservatively treating any resident with any symptoms listed below as COVID-19 positive until they are tested and we know for sure. We look for symptoms above and beyond CDC recommendations, including:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain associated with breathing
- Feelings of exhaustion or weakness
- Loss of energy
- 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
- Muscle pain
- Bluish lips or face
- Unexplained falls or increase in falls
- Depending on when we last tested broadly and availability of testing supplies, we may test all consenting residents and staff. We will attempt to notify all resident primary care physicians (PCPs) on record and request that they order a COVID-19 test their patients who reside at our community. We will strongly encourage all residents and staff to advocate for a test through their PCP.
- We will ask residents to remain in their apartments. If they have a critical need to exit, we ask that they contact the front desk first to discuss.
- All other precautions will remain in place.
- We will follow any additional guidance from the CDC or King County Public Health.
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.
Media inquiries should be directed to our publicist, Natalie Quick 206-779-0489.