Opinion: One year later, pandemic fear erased at Chelsea communities

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Chelsea Senior Living, living roomPHOTO COURTESY OF CHELSEA SENIOR LIVING
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Chelsea Senior Living, bedroomPHOTO COURTESY OF CHELSEA SENIOR LIVING
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Chelsea Senior Living, living roomPHOTO COURTESY OF CHELSEA SENIOR LIVING
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Chelsea Senior Living, bedroomPHOTO COURTESY OF CHELSEA SENIOR LIVING

It was March 12, 2020, when COVID-19 arrived and our assisted living communities locked down. Visitation was stopped, residents had to be isolated in their apartments, marketing was suspended. Supporting the communities through the COVID-19 pandemic became a 24/7 focus.

The pandemic has impacted all of us – residents, staff, families and our health care partners. And although we deeply feel the pain of every loss in our communities, there is a sense of pride in knowing Chelsea did push forward through a most difficult time with a deliberate, professional and compassionate focus to minimize the spread of this infection and utilize emerging technologies and treatments to provide state-of-the-art care.

Early on, Chelsea clinical leadership informed our mitigation strategies, while operations leadership ensured every community had the equipment needed to safely care for residents. Finding personal protective equipment became a full-time task in itself, a task for which we received zero assistance from the government until much later.

Furthermore, the actions, or inactions of a small number of substandard long term care facilities cast a shadow over everything we did in the eyes of the government, the media and some members of the public.

Today, with a strong infection control program and our embedded mitigation strategies, we are proud to report that as of the end of last week, we had only one COVID positive case among residents. The majority of our 22 buildings have been COVID-free for months. Any residents who test positive may now receive monoclonal antibody treatments right in our buildings, thus eliminating major symptoms and illness. We are vaccinating our residents on an ongoing basis. Our families have shown infinite patience with our safety measures. Our staff is now accustomed to our protocols, which have become almost second nature.

We are cautiously optimistic that the worst may be over. We are still bound by the regulations of the New Jersey and New York departments of health. But the CDC has already issued new guidelines that allow people who are fully vaccinated to have family gatherings without masks. We foresee a day, hopefully soon, when we can do the same in our communities. We urge the state health departments to consider relaxing some of the protocols for those who are vaccinated.

Chelsea Senior Living continues to offer safe, homelike living environments for older Americans. In-person family visits are allowed in our buildings that are disease-free. Our buildings are open for visits by prospective residents and new residents have been moving in without incident since late summer of 2020.

The pandemic isn’t over yet, but we have the tools and the confidence to stay out of its way.

Tom Kranz is the director of Communications for Chelsea Senior Living.