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 those outlined in the section below.
We do have evidence that the 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 three of our eight Era Living communities. While one positive case is too many, we are encouraged by the number of negative tests – at least 341 across all Era Living community residents and staff as of April 8.
We continue to advocate for broad testing at all of our communities, as we feel it will give us the opportunity to provide assurance to many and identify additional targeted measures to protect our communities. 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. This was a very unusual precaution done in partnership with the University of Washington Medical Center. The situation in our area has evolved rapidly since then, and King County Public Health has pushed back on additional broad testing because of resource constraints in the medical community, as well as limitations in personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for performing tests. We continue to push aggressively for broad testing in The Lakeshore and The Gardens at Town Square, where there are more recent new positive cases. We will also continue government and public health outreach to advocate for our other communities and the broader senior living industry.
Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Order
On March 23, Governor Jay Inslee announced a “stay home, stay healthy” order for everyone in the state of Washington. This means that you are to stay home except for essential needs. Essential needs include getting food, caring for a relative or friend, getting necessary health care, or going to an essential job. Essential needs also include taking a walk outside and gardening, as long as you are practicing social distancing during those activities. If you go out, keep at least 6 feet of distance from others.
Non-essential businesses will be closing within 48 hours to comply with this order. Note that our community, grocery stores, pharmacies, and doctor’s office are essential businesses, and the governor encourages the public to not hoard supplies.
All of our community staff are considered essential workers and will be able to continue to report to work and help ensure our residents’ needs are met.
Here is a summary of other actions taken to date at all Era Living communities:
- 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).
- 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, cough, and shortness of breath.
- You have recently visited or come into close contact with someone who has visited the Life Care Center of Kirkland or any other location associated with a known case of positive or presumed positive COVID-19.
- You have recently returned from travel to any country with a CDC-issued Level II or Level III travel advisory, such as China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, and most of Europe. Visits should be delayed for at least 14 days after return to the US, and you can confirm no symptoms of illness such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- 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 via cruise ship or to a CDC issued Level 2 or 3 travel advisory 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:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain associated with breathing
- Feelings of exhaustion or weakness
- Loss of energy
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, 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
- 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.
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.