Dear Residents and Employees,
As we move through this mid-summer month, our nation, as well as Acts, continues to address the many challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has become a consistent theme in the evening news with reports that across the nation and throughout the world we continue to experience an increase in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Clearly, the virus remains very active. As an organization overall, Acts has been blessed to see only a moderate increase in recent cases. However, we have been challenged by an escalation in our communities in Florida, some of which are experiencing their first exposures of the pandemic. Responsibly, we have taking a pause in further lifting restrictions in place at this time and, if it becomes necessary, we are prepared to take a step back with imposed restrictions. We have already done so in our South Florida communities and will continue to aggressively monitor the situation there.
While our protocols have proven to be effective, it is clear that individual responsibility is key to controlling the spread of the virus. Throughout the nation, we have witnessed a significant increase in exposures in the younger population of Americans. For various reasons, their social interactions and lack of compliance with appropriate protocols appear to be contributing to the rising numbers. All are reminded that it is necessary to diligently and consistently practice prevention. Young or old, now more than ever, it is imperative that each of us routinely wash our hands, practice social distancing, shelter in place, departing only for essential travel to avoid unnecessary exposures, and above all, wear a mask at all times when social distancing is not achievable. Understandably, we are all burdened by these protocols and various restrictions and we long to return to a pre-COVID lifestyle. However, this virus is clearly not over and likely will not be over until a vaccine is developed and administered. While many well-respected medical professionals and organizations are working tirelessly across the globe to identify a vaccine, no one can predict when one will be available. Unfortunately, more and more scientists and clinicians seem to agree that it is unlikely that one will be available this year.
While Acts remains committed to our mission, we also recognize the important necessity of executing critical adjustments to our operation to ensure the safety and health of our residents and employees. Beyond our obvious responses to the pandemic, we have revised our Board Approved Strategic plan to address the challenges of the pandemic and responsibly put on hold various planned initiatives in 2020. Given the changing nature of our service delivery, the addition of pandemic-related expenses and delaying investment in new strategic initiatives, it has also been necessary to address the composition of our workforce at all levels of the organization.
Staffing adjustments have been made and will continue to be necessary. We have implemented staffing changes in a variety of ways, including temporary reassignments, employee furloughs, a hiring freeze on non-essential staff positions, and extended offers of early retirement to those who qualify. These actions are necessary to responsibly and strategically maintain our financial health and to ultimately keep our 2021 resident monthly fee increase as low as possible.
As we plan our activities for the month of August, our testing protocols have been adjusted to reflect our favorable testing experience and to recognize the virus hotspots in our various geographic regions and communities. Utilizing our own extensive testing data, along with other relevant statistics and clinical assessments, we are confident and comfortable with reducing the number of lab tests we administer and in embracing a more strategic focus of testing. To assist us in this, we are pleased to report that we have received our initial shipment of rapid testing machines from our medical supplier. These machines, made by Quidel, have been strategically positioned in each region. Once operable and training has been completed, these rapid testing machines will allow us to more readily test those demonstrating symptoms, verify resolved cases, confirm asymptomatic positive test results, staff returning to work and residents returning from extended off-campus stays. As previously communicated, we have ordered (1) machine per community to further enhance our testing efficiencies and are awaiting additional deliveries.
Currently, we are encouraged by the fact that 19 of our 26 communities have no active resident cases of COVID-19. We are vigilantly focused on our southern communities and specifically Florida. We have 31 resident cases and 81 employee cases in our (4) Florida communities at this time which represents approximately 75% of total active cases across the organization.
Our frequently asked questions for this week are addressed herein:
Why can’t we open a secondary gate to exit the campus?
We are committed to controlling the flow of residents, employees, guests, and vendors entering and exiting our campus. Having the one point of access provides us with control of who is on campus, for what duration, and in addition, controls who is off campus and for what duration. With this information, we can enhance contact tracing, if necessary, and initiate testing for those resident’s traveling outside the community for more than (3) days.
When will entertainers be allowed back on campus?
Once a community enters Phase 3 of Acts Reopening Plan, we will begin allowing entertainers to return. We understand that many are appreciative of the virtual entertainment being provided but the return of live entertainment will be welcomed by all.
When will the planned capital projects that have been put on hold resume?
We have continued to attend to all emergency and essential capital projects throughout the pandemic. Some of our projects have been put on hold as state and local regulations prohibited construction activity in some of our locations. Other projects have been placed on hold as we have responsibly adjusted all of our community capital budgets.
Can family members visiting OBT bring food to share with their loved-ones?
Absolutely. You may dine inside, if permitted, or outside, if not (Some states do not permit inside dining in assisted living environments at this time). Please check with your executive director. If dining is permitted, and you would like to do so, please contact the staff in OBT before your arrival. We encourage you to do so as we recognize the importance of reconnecting with family following the prolonged absence. Please use disposable containers, plates, cups, and utensils when possible.
How can an Independent living spouse dine with a spouse who is living in OBT or WBC?
Where visitation is permitted inside OBT, we will gladly provide opportunities for spouses to dine together. Simply advise OBT staff before your arrival. We will do the same for outside dining in states where inside dining is not permitted. Regulations do vary by state and change frequently so please verify with your executive director. Unfortunately, WBC regulations continue to restrict visitation, allowing for only end of life and compassionate visits. Therefore, dining with a spouse would not be permitted in any WBC at this time.
Can a visiting family member bring a pet for their resident visit to IL, OBT, and WBC?
Pets on leaches(sic) would be permitted for outside visitation.
If OBT residents are permitted to walk outside, can they engage with ILU residents who are participating in recreational activities?
Yes. If walking outside, we ask that you simply maintain a 6-foot distance between others and if that is not possible to please wear a mask.
Can residents run bazaars and resident run sales if their community is in Phase 2 of Acts Reopening Plan?
Yes. However, a detailed plan must be submitted to your executive director for review and approval to include at a minimum:
- Days and times of operation
- Number permitted in the space at one time
- A reservation system designating an allotted time to shop
- A requirement that masks be worn by all at all times
- Appropriate social distancing observed at all times
- Shoppers to be limited to residents and employees. No “outside” shoppers
- Detailed and frequent sanitation schedule illustrated and performed
- Other considerations per the specific location and function being requested
Finally, we’d like to once again acknowledge the dedication, flexibility, and professionalism of our employees continues to be nothing short of remarkable and truly inspirational. Our employees have made countless personal sacrifices to provide loving care and services to all our residents throughout this pandemic period. Further challenges may lie ahead for many of our employees to navigate the potential of children not returning to school in the fall to name just one. Please know that each of you are valued and appreciated for all that you do. If Acts can assist you in any way, we stand ready to do so. Our residents, as well as employees, join in solidarity to remain patient, supportive, and committed to manage through the current circumstances. We all look forward to returning to our pre-COVID lifestyle. We remain committed to using all available resources to provide the best possible care and services to our residents. We give thanks to God for providing us with the strength, wisdom, and perseverance to continue his work here on earth.
May God continue to hold us all in the palm of his hand.
With warm regards,