Dear Acts Residents and Employees:
We hope this week’s letter finds you doing well and enjoying the easing of restrictions within the Acts community and our local greater community as well. As our country continues to cautiously re-open, we seek to provide a balance of restored freedoms with responsible restrictions and protocols remaining in place. When we began this journey, we generally applied universal protocols to guard against the unknown threats that the coronavirus posed. As we ease restrictions, we do so with a focus on each community and an evaluation of the specific circumstances unique to it and the surrounding geographic region. As we all continue to guard against a COVID-19 rebound, please remember to protect yourself by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, limiting travel, and avoiding known “hot spots”. We encourage you to monitor the New York Times website (nytimes.com) which provides extensive tracking on COVID-19 cases in the United States. The areas where new cases are the highest per population currently include the following areas which are in states where an Acts community is located: LaGrange, GA; Valdosta, GA; Oxford, NC; Montgomery, AL. In addition, a number of counties in FL are experiencing a large rise in cases over the past 14 days, including: Brevard County, Orange County, Seminole County, Lake County and Pinellas County. While no Acts community is in these specific areas, please take extra caution if traveling to or through these areas.
We are hopeful you all had an opportunity to watch the video message last week announcing changes to our phase 1 and phase 2 guidelines. The questions and feedback we received are very much appreciated, and we are pleased to provide you this week’s update on our COVID-19 activity and answers to frequently asked questions.
We continue to embrace testing to guide us in our decisions and pace of re-opening. A calendar of resident and employee testing has been established through August. To achieve this, we have contracted with several labs and continue to evaluate their efficiency. Labs that do not meet our expected turnaround time (from testing to results) have been replaced. We have also instructed one of those labs to halt their processing as the results were of no clinical value since too much time had passed since the date of testing. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank all of our FL residents and employees for repeating the mass testing. As we seek to reduce our reliance on outside labs, we have undertaken extensive conversations with national laboratory equipment manufacturers and suppliers to obtain our own rapid testing devices. We are actively evaluating options, with the objective to purchase testing machines that will be located at each community that can provide immediate and accurate results.
COVID-19 Active Cases
Thanks to the efforts and partnership of all Acts residents and employees, the majority of our communities continue to have no active cases. Currently, 21 of our 26 communities have no active COVID-19 cases amongst residents, which compares favorably to last week’s count of 18. Total active cases are currently 22 residents (a decrease compared to 42 residents last week). The majority continue to reside in WillowBrooke Court; however, the mass testing did identify a few asymptomatic independent living residents. There are currently 59 active cases amongst our employees. Most of these individuals are asymptomatic, with many re-tests currently pending. In total, the number of active cases represents just under 0.5% of our total resident and employee population. These are outstanding results, and we continue to be grateful for and proud of our success. Let’s be sure to keep up the great work and remain diligent in protecting ourselves and each other!
Re-opening of Acts
Our continued success, positive trends and mass testing schedules are assisting us in making modifications to our phasing guidelines and in moving communities to phase 2 of our re-opening. Currently, all communities have entered phase 1, seven have moved into phase 2, and three communities are pending phase 2 approval based on this week’s mass testing results. There are no current changes to announce in our phase 1 and phase 2 guidelines since last week; however, we continue to explore opportunities to safely reinstate certain amenities (i.e. beautician services, limited communal dining) in OakBridge Terrace (OBT) and WillowBrooke Court (WBC), while meeting all federal and state requirements.
Other Acts Updates
We are pleased to share with you some added important and exciting news. In some of our previous letters, we have commented on the number of infection control surveys across the Acts campuses, and our success in achieving positive outcomes. As an update, since the onset of the pandemic, 18 Acts communities have had a collective 35 total surveys from local, state, federal and CDC officials. While deficiency free surveys are not common, especially in today’s heightened focus on quality of care, all 35 Acts surveys were concluded with no deficiencies! This is a true testament to the talent, dedication and commitment of our employees and the support they receive from each other and our residents. Congratulations to all! Please accept our deepest gratitude for an outstanding achievement!
The past few months our operations and our campuses have endured significant changes. But with all the adjustments we have had to make, and all the changes we have had to accept, many things have stayed consistent. These include our commitment to our mission, our culture and each other. They also include our focus on maintaining the financial health of the organization, through each and every challenging economic cycle. We are so pleased to inform you that, as of today, Fitch Ratings has affirmed the A- credit rating for the Acts obligated group (which includes 20 of our 26 Acts communities that are part of the legal entity of Acts Retirement-Life Communities). This too speaks highly of the strength of the organization and our commitment to all of you to protect our long-term financial viability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Consistent with prior weeks, below are some additional questions we have been asked to address:
When can we have family members visit overnight?
In the original Acts phasing guidelines, visitors were not permitted until phase 3 (consistent with the federal guidelines that recommended no visitors to senior living communities until a phase 3 re-opening of the respective state). Since visitors to independent living is not specifically governed by any regulation or law (as is the case with OBT and WBC), we updated our visitor policy to allow limited visitation for communities that are in phase 2. We are looking to take incremental steps in easing our restrictions and were pleased to make this recent modification. As noted, the current visitor policy does not yet permit overnight visitation. It is our current expectation that this would be permitted in phase 3. Our overnight visitation restrictions in phase 2 recognize the increased exposure related to extended visits.
Can residents play cards, dominos, or other games where they are sharing these items, if they wear masks, socially distance, and sanitize playing items after?
Yes, but in addition to wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and sanitizing game items after, please be sure to also sanitize your hands frequently while playing. In addition, as much as possible, please limit the sharing of individual game components.
Please clarify the overnight protocol and when testing will be required? Is it three nights, so on the fourth day you need to potentially self- isolate?
Domestic overnight stays in excess of 3 nights require testing the day of return, unless you prefer to self-isolate for 14-days upon return. Travel to a known “hot spot”, travel outside of the United States or travel by cruise ship requires self-isolation for 14 days.
In phase 2, can we start playing water volleyball again?
Each community pool differs in size and capacity. While water volleyball is not prohibited, the number of players should not exceed the established pool capacity. In Phase 2, this is currently capped at 25%.
We appreciate moving into Phase 2, but are we moving a little too quickly, given that more than 20 states are still seeing a rise in new cases?
While restrictions are eased in phase 2, we have not relaxed our infection control protocols and other precautionary measures to reduce exposures and the spread of COVID-19. These include social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing common areas and high-touch areas, wearing of masks, daily health screenings and frequent testing. Clearly, any increase in cases is a concern and we do evaluate the areas in and around where our communities are located. We have confidence that all of us will continue to responsibly protect ourselves and judiciously follow all protocols so as to minimize personal exposure and the potential exposure to others. We would certainly be prepared to re-implement certain restrictions if needed. If you are highly concerned about exposures, please know that we will continue to provide the same personal services as we did in phase 1, so that your need to leave the campus and your living unit are as limited as possible.
How long will the meal delivery program continue?
We have always provided meal delivery with an associated delivery charge. Currently, we have waived the delivery charge and will continue to do so for some time. Our culinary and support employees have done a great job adjusting their production and delivery systems. Many lessons have been learned and we anticipate future take-out options to be enhanced as a result of this experience.
As we all start the weekend, we join with you in celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday. We celebrate our own father and we celebrate the privilege of being a father. For many of us this day brings reflection and cherished memories of the fathers that have gone before us. While we are unable to embrace them and thank them for their love, leadership, and sacrifices, we will forever hold them dear in our hearts. To the fathers amongst us, your responsibility is awesome and endless. Thank you for your commitment and daily demonstration of God’s true love for all his children.
MAY GOD BLESS ALL OF OUR FATHERS