June 23, 2020 COVID-19 UPDATE

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) does a “Public Health Investigation” on every Skilled Nursing Facility in the state with at least one positive COVID-19 case in their building.  DHS also places those facilities on a list for the public to see.  This public list does not give the circumstance of each facility: it does not say when the positive cases were discovered; it does not say how many positive cases there are; it does not say if the positive cases are residents or staff members.  With this said, a listed facility may have only one positive case discovered 25 days prior & that case is a staff member  OR  a listed facility may have many positive cases discovered 5 days prior & they are both residents & staff members.  Listed facilities will come off the public list after 28 days of no active cases in their building.  The list is updated every 14 days.

As of 6/17/20, Congregational Home is no longer on the DHS public list.  We had been on the list in the past, from 6/3/20 – 6/16/20, for the following reason:  While off from work for several days, one of our non-caregiver staff members had decided to get tested for COVID-19, even though she had no symptoms at the time.  Her test came back positive.  Congregational Home was informed on 5/26/20, of this positive result.  It is a blessing that this staff member had been off work & out of our building since 5/15/20.  She remained out of our building throughout her recovery time and all Congregational Home residents and most of our staff were tested for COVID-19.  We are thankful to say that all tests were negative!  We are also thankful that this staff member had gone on to develop only mild symptoms while at home and that she is now fully recovered and back to work. 

In addition, every skilled nursing facility in the country must undergo a Special Infection Control Government Survey with a focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19.  We are pleased to announce that Congregational Home completed this special survey on 6-23-20, and we passed with no citations. 

To protect our residents from the threat of COVID-19, we continue to follow CDC and DHS guidelines and diligently work to keep this insidious disease out of our building.  We continue with social distancing, masks for residents & staff, Personal Protective Equipment (gowns, gloves, masks, eye protection) for staff when indicated, stepped-up disinfecting procedures and screening of each staff member & resident, including temperature screens.  Staff are screened before their shift starts, skilled nursing & rehab residents are screened 3 times a day during each shift and Assisted Living & Independent residents are screened once a day.  We continue to restrict all non-essential, non-medical visitors from entering our building, with the exception of certain compassionate allowances, such as end-of-life situations.  While the state has been re-opening, long-term care communities, such as skilled nursing & assisted living facilities, continue to be restricted due to the high vulnerability of their residents.  These restrictions are in accordance with federal & state guidelines issued by the CDC, DHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS).  Since Congregational Home is certified to accept Medicare payments, we are obligated to follow these federal & state restrictions. 

In addition, all newly admitted residents to Congregational Home are fully screened prior to admission and will be in “Admission Precautions” for the first 14 days of their stay so that staff can watch for any signs of COVID-19 during its incubation period. While in Precautions, residents must stay in their room; staff will come to them in full PPE for care & therapy.  We test for COVID-19 on day 14, and the resident may come out of Precautions on day 15, provided the test is negative.  Again, we have not had any positive residents in our building.

We are pleased that all of these measures have helped to keep COVID-19 out of our building, but we also realize the great hardship they cause our residents and their families, and we look forward to the day when the restrictions can be lifted.  With the beautiful summer weather, we are working on plans for visits in our outdoor areas, but we are still waiting for government guidelines on this topic, we anticipate getting them soon.  In the meantime, we are here to help our residents with video chats*  via Skype, FaceTime or other similar devices or apps (we have tablets available for resident use).  In addition, if your loved one’s personal room or apartment window is accessible, window visits* are permissible as long as the window remains closed.  If your loved one’s window is not accessible, we have designated public areas with floor-to-ceiling windows available for window visits*.  Traditional phone calls*, letters and cards are wonderful too – keep them coming!  Finally, a cart has been placed in the outer vestibule of our main front lobby (on Burleigh Road) for family to drop off essential items for loved-ones, be sure to label the items with the resident’s name; our staff will then deliver the items.

*If staff assistance is needed for phone, video or window visits, it has become necessary for residents / family to sign up for assistance due to the popularity of these types of visits and wanting to make sure we can help everyone.  To make an appointment for visit assistance, please contact our Life Enrichment Department between 8:00am – 4:30pm, Monday – Friday.  Please note that these appointments can only be scheduled through our Life Enrichment Department; they can’t be scheduled through the front desk receptionist or nursing staff.  Appointments must be made 24-hours in advance of your desired visit time.  To accommodate all residents, visits must not exceed 3 visits per week or 30 minutes per visit.  For residents whose personal windows are not accessible for window visits, you will not be able to leave your room for public window visits until after the 14 day Admission Precaution period is complete, but we still encourage phone calls & video visits in your room during this time.      

We thank you for your cooperation, support & well wishes!  Stay safe & healthy!