In the final week of November, there was a 7-day average new Covid-19 case rate of just over 95,000 per day in the United States. In the subsequent month, that number has exploded to 188,000, according to data from the New York Times and Our World in Data.
This surge is due in large part to the omicron variant, which has put the nation — and globe — back on high alert. Within the senior living industry, several large providers report that they are proceeding with caution but so far have not experienced dramatic obstacles related to omicron.
Omicron infection trends
= Discovery Senior Living is not seeing staff call out in larger numbers than usual due to omicron, although VP of Operations Jeff Floyd expects the number of workers to miss work as a result of infection to rise.
“Vaccination rates are not as high among team members [as they are for residents], and they do not appear to be anxious at this time,” Floyd told Senior Housing News.
Bonita Springs, Florida-based Discovery operates a portfolio of more than 70 communities across the United States.
The low level of anxiety might be due to the fact that the omicron surge is just the latest spike in infections, after nearly two years of the Covid pandemic.
“Team members and residents seem to be conditioned to another wave of Covid,” said Floyd.
The same is true for Hickory, North Carolina-based ALG Senior. Right now, most people inside communities are relieved that infections from the omicron variant have been relatively mild for vaccinated persons, according to ALG Senior Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin O’Neil.
“We have had some increase in resident infections following the Thanksgiving holiday, but a very small percentage,” said O’Neil.
ALG requires employees to have both Covid and influenza vaccinations and reports that the majority of residents have been fully vaccinated.
“Most of our staff embrace the 4 Cs of what I believe makes a great associate: character, compassion, competence, and commitment,” said O’Neil.
Louisville, Kentucky-based Atria Senior Living — which opeates a portfolio of more than 430 communities — also has a staff vaccination mandate in place.
“We continue to monitor the omicron variant in our fully vaccinated environment, and so far are not seeing dramatic differences in either symptoms or outcomes,” Atria CEO John Moore said in an email to Senior Housing News. “In the cases we’ve seen, symptoms generally remain mild if they are present at all.”
While providers are confident in the protection afforded by vaccinations, they are reviewing and in some cases tightening their Covid mitigation protocols, while adhering to public health directives.
Discovery had planned to relax some guidelines in the coming weeks prior to the rise of omicron, but Floyd said, “Those plans have been put on hold as we maintain close observation of its impact as well as CDC, state and local guidance.”
Atria also is tightening up certain protocols.
“Some states do not allow restrictions on the number of outside guests, but we still ask that upcoming holiday meals be shared with residents in their rooms and not in public dining areas,” Atria CEO John Moore said in an emailed statement.“In other states, we are limiting outside visits to two guests per resident.”
Atria also is working to provide booster shot access across the enterprise, and is maintaining other measures such as masking, visitor screening and social distancing.
Brentwood, Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living, the largest U.S. senior living provider with nearly 700 communities, provided the following statement:
“We remain cautious and continue to take precautionary measures to help contain the spread of the virus, including any variant that occurs. We continue to refer to the guidance of local and state health authorities, state licensing agencies (where applicable), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to specific protocols.”
ALG Senior’s protocols have never relaxed throughout the pandemic, and they have been reinforced through company-wide channels such as a newsletter and a monthly video presentation. Along with a continued commitment to protocols, O’Neil warned against complacency and emphasized vaccination:
“The single most important thing we can do to protect our residents, coworkers, families, friends, and ourselves, is to get vaccinated.”
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