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Sandy Journal

Senior communities take proactive, streamlined approach to COVID testing

Jan 18, 2021 03:27PM ● By Stephanie De Graw

By Stephanie DeGraw | [email protected]

Cedarwood at Sandy and Sagewood at Daybreak are reopening and allowing visitation. They are also restarting group activities through unique testing designed to keep residents, families and associates safe through utilizing rapid, "pooled" COVID-19 testing. These senior living communities are taking a page from a sport's playbook to create their version of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Bubble.

The NBA successfully implemented a bubble to safely finish out their 2020 season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports facility in Orlando, Florida. "Their strategy included restricting anyone into the bubble except for those deemed necessary, including players, coaches, certain media personnel and referees," Wade Vest, executive director of Sagewood at Daybreak, said.

Vest hopes to create their version of the NBA bubble. The new testing strategy is sustainable, inexpensive, and doesn't require extra work for the staff. The Cedarwood at Sandy and Sagewood at Daybreak communities are partnering with SiREM Labs for the testing.

There will be two pool sizes depending on the size of the community, Vest said. The small pool will be up to 50 people, and the large pool will be up to 100. Suppose there is a positive test in the collection. In that case, everyone in the pool will be Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tested to determine the positive individual. By doing this, each community will find out who has COVID, including asymptomatic spreaders. 

This new testing allows communities to ease restrictions safely and eliminate quarantining if a resident has to leave for a doctor's appointment or other emergencies. "Frequent testing provides a level of assurance that COVID can be identified quickly," said Ed Ward, vice president of operations of Kisco, the parent company of Cedarwood and Sagewood. "This approach is sustainable, relatively inexpensive, and requires minimal extra work for the staff. Before saliva testing, nurses were conducting nasal tests and spent upwards of 20 hours per week administering the tests. With this new testing strategy, anyone on staff can collect the samples, giving nurse's time back in their days to focus on resident care."

Families have two options to visit their loved ones. First, they can come in without a test and stay in an area set up by our team with extra safety precautions in place, including a plexiglass screen and social distancing in place. Visitors and residents will be required to wear a mask during these visits. Visitors will also have their temperature taken.

The other option is for visiting family members to take a PCR saliva test. The saliva test is non-invasive and straightforward. "After providing a saliva sample, we send the test to the lab, and it returns the results to the family and our community. Once results are received, the family member has a 24-hourwindow to visit their loved one. This type of visit takes place in a common area but does not include a plexiglass barrier," Vest said.

The senior communities, Cedarwood at Sandy and Sagewood at Daybreak, are completing pooled saliva testing for all residents weekly. For those considered high risk, the pooled saliva testing will be twice a week. "The saliva samples are gathered, and we receive the results either the next day or 48 hours later," Vest said. "This pooled saliva testing is completed twice a week for all staff."

Other safety measures for visitors include a temperature check upon entry and the following questions: Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 30 days? Are you experiencing cough, fever, chills, body aches, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, or  any other symptoms? Have you experienced prolonged close contact with someone who has tested positive for  COVID-19 in the past 30 days?

One challenge is that staff members go home to their families at the end of each day. Another risk is when their residents need to attend to essential visits outside the community. "This innovative and unique strategy also allows communities to ease restrictions safely and eliminate quarantining if a resident has to leave for a doctor's appointment or other emergencies," Vest said.

The senior communities have been proactive in developing an aggressive testing strategy. "Testing as frequently as we do allows us to safely continue operations and make adjustments as necessary if we do have positive test results," Vest said.

There are around 300 people tested every Tuesday in these senior communities and another 150 on Thursdays. A large pool would be 100 samples or less, and a smaller pool would be 50 samples or less. Those tested provide a saliva sample, and it's all pooled into one test.

"If all results are negative, we continue to go about our day-to-day operations including wellness programming, dining, salon services, etc.," Vest said. "If one of the pools tests positive, we do two things: First, we isolate those who are part of the positive pool. Second, we test everyone in this pool with an individual test. The rapid return of these results allows us to isolate the pool and help prevent the spread of the infection."

The communities have been doing PCR saliva testing since November. Out of 40 pools sent to the lab for testing over eight weeks, one pool returned positive. In this case, it was a pool that consisted of staff members. “The day we received the positive results, we were able to test all staff members and determine who was positive with COVID,” Vest said.

Another type of test they have access to is the Point of Care tests. Having these testing supplies on site has been very effective. The communities can frequently test if any of the staff or residents of Sagewood are showing symptoms.

Austin Sorenson, the associate executive director of Sagewood at Daybreak, helps manage testings. "Our residents have been very thankful for the proactive approach we have taken as a community to do our best to keep them safe," Sorenson said. "It is a lot of work to carry out the testing process each week, but invaluable as we work hard to keep everyone safe. Our parent company, Kisco, has made substantial investments in these testing tools and resources. As a community, we have been very adaptive as we work to navigate through these challenging times."