Living and working at a senior living community doesn’t look at all like it did just over 6 months ago. In the age of COVID-19, residents and employees alike move throughout the building wearing masks, keeping their distance and limiting interactions as much as possible.
Weekly COVID-19 testing at The Clare has also become part of the new routine. Whereas tests were hard to come by in the early days of the pandemic, testing is now much more commonplace, especially in settings with vulnerable populations.
Under the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), The Clare initially completed a baseline test in May of all employees and health care residents in The Terraces. This guidance quickly evolved into completing tests on a weekly basis for both groups and making tests available to Independent Living residents upon request.
While weekly testing has certainly been a tedious undertaking, it continues to serve its purpose in protecting the community.
“Regular testing allows us to detect the virus early,” says Monica Rusboldt, Administrator of The Terraces at The Clare. “If an employee tests positive for COVID, we can instruct them to stay out of work and quarantine at home. If it’s a resident, we can put them under quarantine and have nurses use the proper PPE so the virus doesn’t spread throughout the community.”
Since March, 18 employees and four residents in The Terraces have tested positive for COVID. The majority of cases have been asymptomatic, and there have been no cases identified in Independent Living. To date, The Clare has completed approximately 3,000 COVID tests in-house.
The Clare also has about 240 rapid tests available for use in instances where an employee or a resident demonstrates COVID symptoms or has been immediately exposed to the virus, and quick results are necessary. These allow The Clare to implement the appropriate steps in a timely manner to prevent the spread of COVID.
“I think there is a sense of security that comes with knowing you are COVID negative,” Monica says. “Residents feel safe at The Clare, because they see the efforts we’re making to ensure their safety.”
Testing employees, in particular, has been crucial to control the virus in the community. In a message about managing COVID, Executive Director Kyle Exline noted that employees presented the biggest risk of bringing the virus into The Clare, especially early on, simply because of their exposure coming to work and returning home.
And employees at The Clare have taken the testing protocol in stride.
“I was surprised at how accepting employees were of the weekly testing,” says Michael Plowman, Director of Human Resources. “They want to know whether or not they’re ill so that they don’t transfer it to their families or to the residents here at The Clare.”
Of course, The Clare, like the rest of the country and the world, isn’t in the clear quite yet. Weekly COVID-19 testing at The Clare will continue until further notice, and IDPH and CDPH recommendations will remain the basis for all best practices moving forward.
“While our community doesn’t have COVID cases today, that can change in an instant,” Monica says. “It is still important to keep up our infection control, wear a mask, wash our hands and stay socially distant.”