Dear Acts Residents and Employees:
As June now comes to a close, we will soon be entering into our fifth month of COVID-19 oversight. We are confident that all of us can agree it has been a long journey that we are all committed to see through until the end. Over the past several weeks, we have enjoyed the opportunity to lift many of the previously implemented restrictions. However, know that we are well aware and remain vigilant to the rise in confirmed cases in many of the states where our communities are located. We are closely monitoring, by zip codes, those areas surrounding our communities and the rates of confirmed cases. If warranted, restoring certain restrictions may become necessary to limit exposures to our residents and employees. We do highly encourage everyone to remain vigilant, responsible, and consistent in protecting yourself and others from exposure. This becomes of even greater importance, as many of our communities are in, or will soon be entering, Phase 2 of Acts’ re-opening plan. We will continue to provide all the same services, including concierge services, so that you may continue to limit campus departures.
We will continue to embrace mass testing to drive our direction and decisions. Understandably, routine testing is burdensome and at times uncomfortable, but it has proven to be very necessary. Your cooperation and participation in this process is greatly valued and very much appreciated. To date, we have administered over 35,000 total tests across residents and employees. Currently we have only 16 positive resident cases in 6 communities, and 52 positive employee cases across 12 communities. Most of the residents and employees that are currently positive have no symptoms at all; supporting our strategy to conduct regular testing to identify asymptomatic individuals.
In support of our commitment to increase testing, we have been investigating advances in technology that will provide more immediate results. We are pleased to announce that we have entered into a contract to obtain our own diagnostic testing machines projected to be delivered beginning in mid-July. These testing machines are new to the market and we will cautiously evaluate their reliability in our initial trials. We do know these machines have some limitations but will provide us instant insight that could clinically indicate the need for additional lab-based testing or self-isolation. Beyond COVID-19 testing, these machines can provide diagnostics for the common flu, strep throat, and certain other illnesses. Our nurse practitioners will be able to order and administer these tests as clinically indicated, including tests required for returning from vacation / overnight stays in accordance with our policy.
Clearly, our primary and collective focus this year has been on the challenges related to COVID-19. However, we have not lost sight of our responsibilities and commitment to provide high quality services, amenities and care to our residents, while preserving and utilizing our resources responsibly. Many residents have asked about the financial health of the organization, and the impact of COVID-19. This is addressed within this week’s frequently asked questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have we received any financial aid to WillowBrooke Court from the $5.4 billion aid out of the package from the congress for nursing homes?
Per the CARES Act, we have received financial aid from the Federal Government in recognition of the increased operational expenses within our skilled nursing centers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date we have received over $16 million in payments that are used to offset increased expenses and loss of revenue from the pandemic.
Who or what agencies are paying for the mass testing that we’re doing? Is the testing covered by the federal government?
The cost of testing is being paid for from several different sources. In some of the states where we operate, the state has provided and borne the entire cost of the testing. In other states, they have only covered the cost of skilled nursing resident testing. In prior months, we had a few communities who were tested by the national guard at their expense, not ours. Where states or the federal government are not supporting the costs of testing, we are submitting the cost of testing of our residents to Medicare and their HMOs. As for employees, we are billing the employee’s insurance coverage for the cost of testing. If no source of testing payment exists, Acts incurs the actual costs and can apply proceeds from the CARES Act to cover these expenses.
Are we still required to wear a mask in the common areas?
Yes, masks are required to be worn in all community interior common areas. The wearing of masks while on the campus grounds (outside) is not required if (6) feet social distancing is observed. We do highly recommend that you wear your mask at all times when you exit the campus and visit the greater community.
The COVID-19 expenses must be significant, should we expect a very high rate increase next year? How is Acts doing financially?
Like most businesses across the nation, our financial performance has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, our inability to accommodate new resident move-ins has negatively impacted us. In addition, increased clinical staffing, overtime, use of nurse agencies, critical pay incentives for the clinical team, personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, as well as other expense centers have exceeded our initial operational budget allocations.
Fortunately, our organization concluded 2019 in a very sound financial position and the first quarter of 2020 showed financial performance as favorable. We have since developed a revised 2020 operating budget that adjusts for COVID-19 related expense increases and revenue reductions. This revised budget was recently reviewed and approved by our Board of Directors. The revised budget imposes expense reductions focusing on previously approved new employee positions, hiring restrictions for noncommunity positions as well as a variety of cost containment measures for the remainder of the year. While we have seen a reduction in our revenue and cashflows as a result of limiting new resident moveins since March, we remain hopeful that during the remainder of the year we can prevent further losses by responsibly and safely moving forward with new resident move-ins. Our future residents are looking forward to joining the Acts family and we are excited to have them.
Know that we work diligently and responsibly each day to assure the financial health of the Acts organization. A component of which is to control costs and keep our annual increases as low as possible. In full transparency, to expect that there will not be an increase in 2021 is not realistic. But, please be assured that we will work responsibly to control the increase in 2021 to the lowest responsible amount. We do recognize the unpredictability of the financial markets and the concerns of residents. We will begin meeting with resident association leadership in the month of August to discuss preliminary thoughts on the 2021 budget process and assumptions.
As an organization, and as individuals, we have gained many insights and learned many lessons throughout the past several months. As we managed through these unprecedented times, certain things have been in our control; yet others we have had no control. Each of us has relied on our knowledge, commitment, and faith to guide us. We have not been alone in this journey as God has given us wisdom, strength, perseverance, and each other to confront any and all difficulties before us. Just as we are making this journey together, God has walked with us and, at times, carried us through these challenges. May God’s countless blessings continue to shine upon each of us.