Senior housing facilities confirm positive COVID-19 tests, discuss procedures

Residents enjoy a Father's Day barbecue in 2019 at Oakmont of Santa Clarita in Valencia. Signal file photo
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Both Oakmont of Valencia and Atria Santa Clarita, two Santa Clarita Valley senior living communities, reported this week they have residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Oakmont officials confirmed Wednesday seven residents and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and are symptomatic; Atria officials confirmed Tuesday they had informed their residents and families of a single case in their Lyons Avenue facility.

“All of our symptomatic residents are living and being cared for in an isolated neighborhood within their community,” said Margie Veis, executive director at Oakmont of Valencia. “And since March 30, our community has been in a full isolation protocol.”

Isolation protocol, Veis said, means that residents are self-isolating in their individual apartment rooms and the Oakmont staff are providing them with care, providing engaging activities and helping them stay connected with their families.

These two facilities are not the only ones in Los Angeles County dealing with this issue, however. On Wednesday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said those who are 65 years or older make up 44% of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 and there are currently 131 institutional settings countywide that have at least one confirmed case or more.

“As a reminder, they include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living and correctional facilities,” said Ferrer.

Veis said that Oakmont staff have increased their standard cleaning procedures and that staff are wearing personal protective equipment.

“Our staff is all wearing masks right now,” said Veis. “And if (a resident) is in isolation, (staff) go into full PPE gear.”

Following similar practices at their own facility for the last few weeks, Atria officials confirmed the single case in a letter to their families and residents on Tuesday, according to Mike Gentry, senior vice president of care at Atria Senior living. He said staff and residents had been operating under quarantine protocols previous to the news of their first diagnosis.

“On March 4, we began actively screening all visitors and prohibiting anyone from working in our communities if they are unable to pass our screening or develop an illness while working,” said Gentry. “We took additional steps on March 9, including eliminating all excursions to public places, and on March 12, including limiting visits to only essential visitors such as immediate family members and critical medical providers.”

And while they have informed their residents that the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has not recommended blanket testing, as of Tuesday, for all residents, staff would be wearing gloves, a mask with face shield or eye protection and a gown around any resident who has tested positive or is suspected of being positive and is in the community.

By March 22, residents at Atria were being tested twice daily and staff were screened three times per shift, Gentry said.

Residents and their families at both locations are being encouraged to check in regularly with one another through email or by the phone, and staff would be communicating with families regularly.

“Everything from puzzles and games to Skype and Facetime, we’re trying to keep them connected,” said Veis.

Atria said they would be setting up “window visits,” so that families could also communicate with one another through the use of a notebook and paper to write messages to one another from the ground and/or apartment.

“I have nothing but nice things to say about them,” said one family member whose 88-year-old aunt and uncle currently live at Atria. “They really have been trying to protect these people and they’ve had them in quarantine for like three weeks, probably before any of us had the stay at home order.”

“Our primary concern right now is on supporting the resident, and the rest of our residents and staff,” said Gentry. “We will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

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