Soon there will be hugs, but for now getting back to normal is a gradual process after senior living facilities were hit hard by the coronavirus last year.
Local nursing home and assisted living facility directors say plans are being made to loosen restrictions on visitation when it is deemed safe to do so.
“We’ve had all our patients vaccinated except for 10,” Park Place Nursing and Rehab Facility Administrator Ken Murray Jr. said on Wednesday. “And those will be vaccinated on Friday (March 26).”
Murray said the facility at 1865 Bold Springs Road in Monroe has partnered with Walgreens to administer the Pfizer vaccine.
“They just did a super job,” he said.
According to Murray, there are no current cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff.
Murray acknowledged Park Place had suffered losses last year due to Covid, but preferred to focus on the progress that’s since been made to mitigate the virus.
“Things are looking up. The sun is coming out a little brighter,” he said.
Murray said half of Park Place’s staff has been vaccinated and personnel are tested twice weekly. Employees must continue to wear a facemask and goggles or a face shield, he said. Walton County’s positivity rate for coronavirus has trended downward and is currently at 8.4%, according to Murray.
“That means we can start doing porch visits next week,” he said. “Of course the families are excited about that. It’s been so hard on everybody not being able to see (their) loved ones.”
Only one visitor is allowed inside Park Place; a petite four-legged love sponge named Stella. Stella is a miniature poodle owned by Park Place clinical administrator Michelle Santangelo, Murray said.
“She lifts everybody’s spirits,” he added.
Park Place is a 165 bed skilled nursing facility that opened in 1962. Murray’s parents, Kenneth and Jean Murray, established the facility. It is considered to be one of the first licensed nursing homes in Georgia.
Murray’s younger sister, Melinda Dally, is the administrator for Great Oaks Senior Living in Monroe. The assisted living facility is at 920 Highway 138 NW.
“Our guidance comes from the department of public health,” Dally said. She explained the state criteria for loosening an assisted living facility’s restrictions is based on such factors as the Covid positivity rate, the vaccination rate and any possible outbreaks.
As of last week inside visits were allowed at Great Oaks, according to Dally. However, visitors must follow strict guidelines such as wearing masks. Hand sanitation and social distancing is required after brief physical contact when greeting a resident, she said, and visitation is only permitted in designated areas.
Earlier last year the facility did allow window visits between residents and family members and some carefully supervised visits outdoors were permitted in 2020 when the weather was still warm.
“We tried to keep residents and families in front of each other as much as we could,” Dally said.
Dally said she is now working to revise visitation policies that can eventually be shared with residents’ families. She predicts residents can have in-room visits and be allowed non-medical forays for safe activities outside the facility once public health conditions further improve.
“The goal is to keep everybody safe,” Dally said. “Things will get back to normal. It’s a process.”
Ninety-eight percent of Great Oaks residents and 38% of staffers were vaccinated as of Thursday, according to Dally. She said personnel must continue to wear PPE.
Like Park Place, Great Oaks worked with Walgreen’s to immunize residents with the Pfizer vaccine.
“Most residents tolerated it really fine,” Dally said.
When the pandemic spread to Georgia last year, many senior care facilities became Covid hotspots.
The Georgia Department of Community Health issues a daily report that tracks the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in licensed nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes of 25 beds or more. These statistics are based on data reported by the facilities to DPH as of 2 p.m. on the date of the report. Bear in mind these numbers represent coronavirus data since reporting began in early 2020.
As of March 24, DPH reported Park Place had a total of 35 resident deaths attributed to Covid with 85 residents having recovered from the virus.
Great Oaks had a total of 13 resident deaths attributed to Covid with 50 residents having recovered from the virus.
The Retreat at Loganville had a total of 6 resident deaths attributed to Covid with 33 residents having recovered from the virus, according to dch.georgia.gov.
The Retreat is located at 580 Tommy Lee Fuller Drive.
The Pearl at Loganville, a memory care facility associated with The Retreat, had a cumulative number of 5 resident deaths attributed to Covid with 28 residents having recovered from the virus, according to the public health report.