COVID-19 is spreading in the Roaring Fork Valley, and older adults are particularly vulnerable. One assisted living facility is already taking steps to help protect their residents.
Whitcomb Terrace Assisted Living in Aspen is implementing measures to keep residents and staff safe against the coronavirus outbreak, including monitoring staff and residents temperatures, and not allowing family members or volunteers into the building.
Maggie Gerardi is the director of Whitcomb Terrace, and spoke with Aspen Public Radio's Molly Dove about protecting staff and elderly residents.
MD: What is the current plan Whitcomb Terrace has set in place for their workers and residents?
MG: We are doing everything we can to be incredibly conservative acknowledging that we have an at-risk population here. We are remaining in regular contact with our colleagues at CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) as well as AVH (Aspen Valley Hospital) and Pitkin County. So we are getting a lot of good guidance and direction. We have limited our visitation to just essential visitors, so primarily staff. If there was ever an emergent or necessary visit from an external provider, we would certainly have that so the residents would have all their needs met.
But everyone who is entering, staff included, is wearing a mask and gloves to allow us to keep any possible germs or contagents that we have prevent us to spread it to residents. We are also asking residents to not to go out, certainly to any large areas where there are a lot of people. We’re not requiring people stay here, but fortunately residents and their families understand the risks and are concerned as well.
MD: So no family members or volunteers allowed inside the facility?
MG: Currently, we are asking family members not to come just because of what they could possibly be bringing in. Certainly, if there was any emergent situation, we would absolutely work with family members. To bring them in, we would ask that they wear gloves and masks, just like our staff is currently doing.
Our volunteers are a huge part of our programming here at Whitcomb Terrace, and we’re so grateful for them and the joy they bring to the lives of our residents. I think that is one of the most challenging things we are going through right now is not being able to have those volunteers come in. They of course all completely understand and support what we’re doing, but the residents are missing their friends who come in and volunteer.
So the staff is doing everything we can to add extra programming and activities (to) keep them happy during this challenging time period. We have iPads and iPhones where we can Facetime with family members and volunteers so residents can still feel that they are staying in touch with their friends outside of here and their family members.
MD: How would that plan change if a worker or resident were to show symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath?
MG: So staff are, prior to every shift, monitoring their temperatures. So if anyone has a fever, they are not coming in. So somebody else would fill in on that shift for them. They are very diligent about monitoring any symptoms as well.
We are also monitoring resident’s temperatures, and they are fully on board with that fortunately as well. This isn’t just a housing complex, we are here to provide protective oversight and help with activities of daily living.
If any of the residents present any fever, shortness of breath or any change in cough or sore throat, unfortunately we would need to go into a quarantine-type situation.
We are very grateful that we are a part of the Aspen Valley Hospital system. So we already have a lot of plans and protocols and policies in place to be able to get all hands on deck here if we needed that. I think that is a distinctive difference between us and different facilities that don’t necessarily have that direct pipeline or resources we do. So we are very grateful to be a part of the hospital system, and the fact that they treat us like family and are ready to help at a moments notice.