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.