PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than half of the 134 COVID-19 deaths in Oregon are connected to senior living and care facilities.
As of Wednesday, 31 senior living communities across Oregon had recorded COVID-19 cases with the majority of those facilities located in Multnomah County. But one center within the county has had no cases of the virus—and the director says it’s due to their quick response.
The staff at Laurelhurst House gathered as much personal protective equipment as they could and enacted strict visiting and cleaning protocols weeks before they received guidance from the state.
Laurelhurst House Executive Director Jenny Abeling said everyone working at the facility helped put together strict measures for every department. They then went to work on an educational program for the residents to help them understand why the measures were necessary.
“Let me tell you, it was not popular and making courageous decisions are not popular and so we continuously had to reeducate residents, families, staff about why we need to continue to do this,” said Laurelhurst House Executive Director Jenny Abeling. “And we are still doing this today.”
Laurelhurst House has 38 residents and 20 staff members. Procuring PPE is still an issue at the care facility. They’re working with the county’s health department to supplement their needs.
“There are so many scams out there right now for PPE. I’ve been scammed on Amazon trying to buy masks that I am never going to receive,” said Abeling.
Abeling said her staff is spending more time with their residents, making sure they have the comfort they need since loved ones can’t visit.
“We are like hawks—we stand by the front door. I watch every single person that comes into the building,” she said. “I need everyone reporting, I need everyone watching, any package that comes in the building—I need it stopped in the lobby.”
Abeling said cleaning staff disinfect all shared surfaces like elevator buttons and hallway rails.
“The little things you don’t think about need to be cleaned daily,” she said.
The White House strongly recommended to governors Monday that all residents and staff at nursing home facilities be tested for the coronavirus in the next two weeks. Abeling told KOIN 6 News she thinks it’s a great idea but there are complications to consider.
“I think the logistics will be very difficult because we know if you have contacts outside of the building then you could change from being positive to a negative in a day and in a minute,” she said. “Testing gets us ahead but it’s not everything.”
For now, Abeling said people should continue to wear PPE and social distance.
Under Oregon’s guidelines, people who live or work in residential care facilities—and who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19—are prioritized for testing. While OHA currently does not recommend COVID-19 screening of asymptomatic people, including health care and other essential workers, their guidelines allow residential care facilities the discretion to prioritize testing for staff and residents without symptoms when clinical labs have sufficient testing capacity. Should statewide testing capacity increase, we may revisit this recommendation, particularly for residents and staff of residential care facilities.
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