Federal Way senior facilities on ‘high alert’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

Facilities that serve seniors are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of residents.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic that has so far hit five long-term care facilities in Washington State, Federal Way facilities that serve seniors are responding to minimize residents’ contact with the virus.

The Federal Way Senior Center in Auburn recently closed their doors.

Following the COVID-19 guidelines from the King County Health Department, the center will be closed until further notice, according to a notice on their website.

The center’s food pantry will continue operating from 8:15-11 a.m. Monday and Thursday.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments to issue visitation restrictions to all nursing homes nationwide, according to a March 18 statement from Life Care Centers of America.

The company, which has over 200 facilities including three Federal Way locations, has been on high alert since a coronavirus outbreak was reported at their Kirkland facility on Feb. 29. The Federal Way locations include Life Care Center of Federal Way, Hallmark Manor and Garden Terrace Healthcare Center of Federal Way.

There are now 35 total cases linked to the nursing and rehab facility as of Wednesday, making the Kirkland location the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

“The practice of social distancing to help control the COVID-19 outbreak has affected all of us in many ways,” according to the statement from Life Care Centers. “Although they are necessary, we understand that adhering to these safety precautions to protect our residents is particularly hard for the people we serve and their loved ones.”

Currently, all visitors, non-essential health care personnel and vendors are restricted from entering Life Care’s facilities. In addition, group activities and communal dining have been discontinued until further notice. Facilities are allowed to accept visitors for compassionate situations such as end-of-life care, but these visitors are subject to a health screening and must wear personal protective equipment, such as masks, throughout their time in the facility.

Life Care Centers also supplied all of their facilities with iPads to enable video conferencing between family members using FaceTime or Skype.

Other retirement communities are also restricting visitors and tightening standard protocols.

At Village Green Retirement Home, no visitors are allowed inside the community except for medical personnel, and all those personnel are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they are permitted inside.

Village Green Retirement Home Executive Director Kim Salas said they are not closing their doors at their Federal Way facility, but they are following standard procedure to keep their residents safe.

“We have a sign posted at our entrances telling people to not come in if they have symptoms,” she said.

They also have a nurse on-site who is assessing everyone, Salas said. All staff members are also screened at the beginning of their shift to ensure they are not symptomatic, and all residents are monitored daily as well.

Village Green releases consistent updates on the precautions they are taking to ensure their residents are not affected.

Their most recent update on March 16 stated that while their community has not been affected by COVID-19, they are taking every step they can to ensure this stays the case. These steps apply to both assisted living members and independent residents.

Some of these steps include the closure of the senior living facility’s dining rooms, snack bars and water stations. Meals are deliverd to the apartments, free of charge, according to the update.

Activities are also suspended during the pandemic.

Village Green is also continuing with their anti-infection protocols, incleading sterilizing any and all frequently used surfaces daily.

“In closing, let me restate that we are on high alert. I want to thank you for your cooperation in helping keep our residents safe,” according to the update. “As always, we are glad to serve you and will work through whatever challenges come our way.”

Brookdale is also taking precautions to ensure their residents are safe after guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heather Hunter, public relations manager for Brookdale, said that right now their focus is prevention.

Hunter said they are following the guidelines they have in place for influenza prevention including encouraging flu vaccines, washing hands with soap and water, and staying home when sick.

“We have a corporate emergency response team in place to provide support to the local teams,” she said. “Especially in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19.”

Hunter said that if a confirmed case were to occur, Brookdale would continue to act in full compliance with the CDC guidelines as well as local and state health authorities.