Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

March 2022 Community Update

03/30/2022

The third wave of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant is on the decline in Epworth Villa’s community and in Oklahoma County. At the height of this third wave, in January, we had over 50 residents and 50 teammates with COVID positivity. Thankfully, all recovered except one resident who sadly was already in end of life and receiving skilled nursing and hospice services. Our health care teams have become experts in infection control with these last two years of COVID experience and we want to express how incredibly grateful we are for their service and fortitude. Laura Flood, RN, our Infection Preventionist, lead with professional excellence and an abundance of patience.

We have learned with each new variant and wave, “this too shall pass’, and with diligence to our infection control measures we continue to have excellent returns to health and effective isolation of the virus. We are happy to report, as of this date, all health care communities have completed outbreak testing requirements and currently we have no new positive residents or teammates in over a month. We have seen the gradual decline of positivity in the county and our Epworth Villa community, but we remain vigilant and ready in the likelihood of other variants.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services effectively implemented the timeline for mandated vaccination with allowances for a process to address religious and health care exemptions. Oklahoma deadlines for Phase 1 was 02/14/2022 and Phase 2 was 03/15/2022. We completed the required updates to our employee COVID protocols, educated teammates, formed exemption review boards, and provided additional assistance with vaccine clinics. We met the deadline of 03/15/2022 with all teammates fully vaccinated (apart from those who have been granted exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine or for those staff for whom the COVID-19 vaccination must be temporarily delayed, as recommended by CDC). At this time, a little over 80% of our health care teammates are up to date with COVID vaccination and the remaining have been reviewed and approved for a medical or religious exemption. Due to the likelihood of additional boosters in the future, and new hires, this will be an ongoing process of monitoring and documenting. Recording our COVID vaccine data for residents and teammates is required by CMS and they update their online site every 2 weeks for public viewing.

The Centers for Disease Control now provide reports to health care systems as well as the public/community on the impact of COVID-19. We are required to utilize the COVID-19 Integrated County View reporting for our regulated, heath care communities (Health Services and Assisted Living) and we are using the Community Levels reporting for our unregulated, Independent Living community. All reports are updated each week on Thursday evenings and are available to the public. Our signage across the campus is being updated in all areas to reflect the measures recommended by each of these reports and will vary with the level of COVID risk in Oklahoma County. For example, as of this date, both communities are in the “green” which indicates COVID-19 infections are low risk. As a result, masks are still required in the regulated areas but not in the unregulated areas. Testing is not required at this time unless symptoms or known exposure to someone COVID positive.

In closing and looking to the near future, the Omicron BA.2 variant is hitting hard in Europe and has made its way over to the US. This variant is spreading 80% faster than the prior Omicron. The good news so far, is that although very contagious, the BA.2 is not making people sicker than the first Omicron. As our immunities wane from the 1st booster, the 2nd COVID booster is now a topic of much discussion. Currently a 2nd booster is recommended 4 months after your first booster for those with impaired immunity. For guidance in this area, we recommend reviewing the CDC’s definitions of immunocompromised. EV will assist with onsite as well as assist with arrangements for offsite vaccination clinics for anyone who meets criteria for any COVID vaccine. We ask that residents make inquiries with the leadership in their community and that teammates speak with their supervisors.

 


January 2022 Community Update

01/17/2022

On January 14th, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released QSO-22-09-ALL providing guidance for the states impacted by the Supreme Court’s ruling on January 13 to move forward with the COVID vaccine requirement for health care workers of organizations receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding. This includes Oklahoma and, as a result, Epworth. A series of compliance dates will begin on February 14, stretching 30 and 60 days thereafter with increasing requirements. The memo states that “Within 90 days and thereafter following issuance of this memorandum, facilities failing to maintain compliance with the 100% standard may be subject to enforcement action.”

Epworth has already begun its efforts to comply with this anticipated requirement. We have provided on-site vaccination clinics, education, and support for those getting vaccinated, including paid time off for those who experience side effects from the vaccine. Because of these efforts, we do not anticipate losing a significant portion of our staff due to this mandate. Regardless, we have contingency plans in place to adapt to any unexpected staff shortages that might occur due to this mandate or other COVID-related absences.

Thank you for your continued support of our residents and staff as we work together against COVID.


January 2022 Community Update

01/14/2022

The recent surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has significantly impacted our daily lives here at Epworth and around the world. We thought now would be a good time to provide an update on where we stand.

On January 13th, the Supreme Court upheld the CMS COVID vaccine mandate for all health care workers serving in organizations receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding. What does this mean for Epworth? Epworth receives Medicare funding, so this means that all our staff will need to be vaccinated for COVID or have a legal exemption. We have nearly 80% of our staff vaccinated already, so we are well on our way to meeting this requirement. As of the writing of this update, CMS has not issued the exact deadline for compliance, but we will update this post when that information is available.

Ever since the Omicron variant became the dominant variant in Oklahoma, we have been experiencing a growing number of positive COVID cases. Since December 23rd, we have had 14 residents test positive for COVID in our health services and assisted living levels of care. We are not aware of any independent living residents who have tested positive. In that same time frame, we have had 46 COVID cases among our staff.

Sadly, early in this Omicron surge, a skilled nursing resident who was receiving hospice services contracted COVID and passed away. Since then, we have been thankful that no other serious illness has been caused by COVID among our COVID-positive staff and residents.

Epworth has not been immune to the staffing challenges caused by this recent surge in the Omicron variant of COVID-19. In this stage of the surge, we are experiencing almost 10% staff absence for COVID-related issues. Some have the virus, while others are out due to childcare issues.

We have continued our protocols for mitigating the risk of COVID. All employees and guests are screened each day before entering the campus. We continue with weekly testing for staff and residents according to the CMS guidelines. Visitation remains in place, but we do ask that visitors abide by our protocols and are especially sure to stay away if they are experiencing any COVID-like symptoms. We have also suspended larger activities and gatherings to mitigate the risk of COVID. Mask wearing is required for all staff and visitors and highly recommended for all residents. The healthcare staff are properly supplied with N-95 masks and other PPE. We are doing our best to keep the KN-95 masks, which are now in high demand, available to all our non-healthcare staff.

We appreciate the patience of our residents and the valiant efforts of our staff to continue this battle that is about to reach the two-year mark. All our Epworth family has been amazing.

Please keep those who are recovering from the virus in your thoughts and prayers.


December 2021 Community Update

12/1/2021

New CMS Visitation Guidance

On November 12, CMS issued a revision to QSO 20-39 regarding nursing home visitation, Epworth Villa’s visitation policies have been updated to include these changes:

  • Visitation is now allowed for all residents at all times.
  • Visitors who are COVID positive or currently meet the criteria for quarantine should not enter the facility.
  • Facilities must allow indoor visitation but can no longer limit the frequency, length of visits, number of visitors, or require advance scheduling of visits.
  • Visitors must still be allowed in the facility during an outbreak investigation.
  • Visitors are encouraged to be tested on their own before coming to the facility and the facility can encourage testing of visitors in counties with substantial or high levels of community transmission.
  • Compassionate care visits are always allowed.
  • Facilities must permit residents to leave the facility as they choose.

Please note that all COVID infection control strategies remain in place including:

  • Screening for COVID related symptoms and exposure prior to entry into health care areas. Visitation is prohibited for those who have had COVID exposure or currently have potential symptoms. Note: Please use our automated Advance Entry screening at multiple entrances in our community prior to entry to health care areas.
  • Masks are always required in health care areas; masks are strongly encouraged in resident’s room but not mandatory. Note: Health Care areas include all of Health Service
  • Visits to occur in resident’s room, outdoors or a designated area.
  • Space 6-10’ from staff and other residents.
  • Abstain from visits or entry in dining areas, kitchen, laundry.
  • If other residents are present during a visit, spacing and masks must be worn.

Employee Vaccine Mandate

09/12/2021 President Biden announced the “Path out of the Pandemic” and a 6-pronged approach which included mandatory vaccinations for all health care employees in facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs. The rules were accepted into the Federal Register on 11/05/2021. Epworth Villa’s employee COVID policies have been updated to include these changes:

  • Our Employee COVID-19 Protocols were revised to reflect the new rules and exemption forms.
  • Full vaccination of all eligible employees in health care areas is mandatory by 01/04/2021.
  • Exemptions from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination are based on specific medical or religious reasons. Employees have been given a deadline of 12/03/2021 to complete their vaccine consent or exemption.
  • Epworth Villa’s current employee vaccination rate as of 11/24/2021 is 70%. The national average is 60%.

Community Transmission and Staff Testing

  • Currently the Centers for Disease Control publishes weekly the county positivity rates for COVID as well as vaccination. These are available publicly via: CDC COVID Data Tracker
  • The CDC determines the level of risk for community transmission and provides a color coding which indicates the frequency of testing requirements.
    • High (red) or substantial (orange) community transmission: test 2 times per week.
    • Moderate (yellow) community transmission: test 1 time per week.
    • Low (blue) community transmission: routine testing is not recommended.

Routine testing frequencies for non-vaccinated staff are mandated for nursing facilities by CMS and are discussed in CMS COVID-19 testing memo, QSO-20-38-NH (Revised 9/10/21).

The CMS memo states:

  • If the level of community transmission increases, begin testing staff at the frequency shown above as soon as the criteria are met.
  • If the level of community transmission decreases, the facility should continue testing staff at the higher frequency level until the level of community transmission has remained at the lower activity level for at least two weeks.

Epworth Villa resides in Oklahoma County and our risk level has been at high/substantial for several months now.

Thank you for helping us keep everyone as safe as possible.


September 2021 Community Update

09/14/2021

  • Oklahoma county COVID positivity has been >20% for the last 3 weeks.
  • At this date, no known residents in Independent Living, Health Services or Assisted Living have tested positive. Health Services is testing all skilled and long-term residents weekly for the next 2 weeks which is called “outbreak testing” related to COVID positivity in staff.
  • We ask all visitors to our regulated Health Care areas of Assisted Living and Health Services to remember screening for temperature, symptoms, and exposure. Masks are mandatory, and visiting hours are 10 am to 7 pm.
  • The 3rd vaccine for the immunocompromised is now available at most Walgreens and many other pharmacies.
  • CDC Guidance on Moderately to Severe Immunocompromised:
    • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
    • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
    • People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.
  • The 3rd vaccine (often called a booster) is expected to be approved for use for all previously vaccinated on 9/20. The dosing recommendation is 8 months from the final vaccine.
    • For Independent Living, we have a clinic scheduled here at Epworth on 9/23 which will include the 3rd COVID vaccine and the Flu vaccines. Our usual partner, Passport Health, will be providing these vaccines.
    • For Health Services and Assisted Living, we will partner with the county health department and pharmacy to provide the 3rd vaccine.
  • This month we will be rolling out a digital screening system called Advance Entry. This will replace the guard at the gate for the COVID related questions on symptoms and exposure. These heavy-duty tablets also are equipped with an infrared thermometer and will print photo id badges for all visitors and vendors indicating they have been screened prior to entry into Health Services and Assisted Living.

    Four screening stations are spread across entrances into our community and will speed up the process of check-in while also giving us additional communication options to visitors, vendors, and staff.

 

Thank you for helping us keep everyone as safe as possible.


August 2021 community update

08/9/2021

  • Due to the rising COVID positivity rates in our county and the new CDC recommendations for masking, effective Monday, August 9, 2021, all staff, contractors, and visitors are required to wear masks indoors throughout the community, regardless of vaccination status.

 

Thank you for helping us keep everyone as safe as possible.