Where We Live: Residents stay COVID-free at Willamette View

Coronavirus

The facility uses FLIR technology to keep people safe

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The first big outbreak of COVID-19 in the Northwest was at a retirement facility in Kirkland, Washington. However, one of the largest senior living communities in Oregon is surviving the pandemic without any positive COVID-19 cases among its residents—and they’re getting help from an Oregon company to keep it that way.

Before the pandemic, Willamette View’s 27-acre campus was filled with activities and close interactions among its 450 seniors and 300 employees. Then, the virus came to town.

Campus map of Willamette View. 2019 (Courtesy Willamette View)

“I was very concerned at first,” recalled resident Ginny Seabrook. “I think it was quite scary to have something new like this descend upon us, especially being 78.”

FLIR technology at Willamette View. (Courtesy Willamette View)

There was good reason for concern.

There are about 31,000 residents, with 29,000 employees at a total of 683 long-term senior facilities in Oregon. Since the pandemic began in spring, Oregon has seen more than 3,600 coronavirus cases at those facilities, and more than 360 deaths, as of October 23.

But, Willamette View has not had a single COVID-19 case among its residents, and only two employees have tested positive.

“We literally kind of put a bubble around the community, with limiting programs and people coming on campus,” said Willamette View CEO Craig Van Valkenburg.

“And people certainly miss hugging their grandchildren,” said Seabrook. “I think that’s the number one thing I hear.”

Willamette View is using thermal imaging cameras and hand-held temperature readers, along with the mask requirements, social distancing, constant testing, and strict sanitation practices. The screening station by FLIR Systems, a Wilsonville company, can accurately take temperatures of up to 2,000 people a week.

FLIR technology at Willamette View. (Courtesy Willamette View)

“I think it’s pretty exciting, and I think the residents are fascinated with it,” said Seabrook.

This is Willamette View’s new normal for as long as COVID-19 is around.

“I think people are adapting to it,” said Van Valkenburg. “Takes a little while to introduce something new and different, but, so far, so good.”

Willamette View has been getting inquiries from senior facilities in other parts of the country about using the FLIR Systems technology.

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