It is hard to believe August is already upon us, and COVID-19 continues to pose many challenges in our daily lives. Many families are now faced with the difficult decision to send their children to school or explore the option of online learning. I can appreciate the difficulty in making such decisions as everyone is trying to do what is best for their family and to stay healthy.

July had a tenuous start as Evans Memorial Home had its first COVID-19 “scare”. The facility underwent baseline Covid testing for all residents, tenants, and staff in preparation for the phased re-opening. On Friday, July 3rd at 7:15 p.m., the facility received a phone call from the local hospital reporting four positive individuals (3 residents and 1 staff). The news came as a complete shock. There were no symptoms and the positive staff member had no direct contact with the residents.

The ongoing education dating back to March prepared the facility for such an event and immediate action was taken to contain and stop the spread. All family members were notified by 10 p.m. that night. The assisted living tenants, their families, and all staff were notified the following day. Appropriate health officials were notified, and daily contact with local public health was initiated.

Fearing the worst, we waited for symptoms to appear. The symptoms never came. In fact, one resident stated, “I feel better the past three weeks than I have in over six months”. The lack of symptoms and additional inconsistencies noted through this process made us question the results. We reached out to the state hygienic lab where the tests were processed, and requested confirmation of the positive cases. A week after the crushing news, came a call directly from the state hygienic lab reporting the tests were re-run and all four returned negative.

We were fortunate to have a positive outcome; however, this “scare” has caused me to be hesitant in re-opening too quickly. The health and safety of each resident, tenant, and staff weighs heavily on my mind. As we see a continued rise in the number of cases in Howard county and the surrounding communities, it is worrisome; however, I also know the importance for emotional well-being and the significant impact felt through family visits.

The State of Iowa has issued guidance for the phased approach to safely reopen facilities for visitation.

Phase One:  Allows for compassionate care (end of life) visits, closed window visits, and virtual visits.

Phase Two:  Adds visitation options for residents nearing end of life or experiencing significant changes in condition.

Phase Three:  Adds limited in-person visits that comply with the facility's specific visitation policies. The in-person visits are subject to additional screening procedures, scheduling visits and the use of personal protective equipment while visiting.

The newest guidance allows for outdoor visits and open window visits in phase one if certain criteria is meet. The facility must have a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to follow conventional practices. This means staff discards the PPE after each encounter for those individuals on quarantine or isolation precautions. The struggle is the demand for PPE throughout the nation and the world continues to be greater than the supply available. We have worked to secure PPE in order to allow outdoor visits and barring any unforeseen complications we will be offering these visits soon.

The outdoor visits will have safety measures in place that we must follow. These measures include a screening process, designated visiting area, social distancing, and use of a facemask. The visits will be scheduled allowing time between for staff to clean. As plans are finalized, we will keep everyone updated. Follow us on Facebook – we will post when we can begin those outdoor visits.

Thank you for the continued support and patience during this time. As always if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out.

Amy Murphy, Administrator