New Community Extended Care Facility, 266 South Orange Ave., Newark, has taken numerous steps to prevent COVID-19 from entering the building in an effort to keep residents and staff members safe as the pandemic continues. The efforts have been successful with none of the facility’s residents testing positive for COVID-19 since June.
Members of the administration attribute that achievement to a combination of testing, screening, vigilance surrounding cleaning protocols and following recommended guidelines.
“Our team at the facility sprang into action immediately once the gravity of the COVID pandemic became clear to the medical community. Keeping the virus under control became priority one and the results are a tribute to the careful planning and execution of their infection control procedures,” said New Community CEO Richard Rohrman. “Residents have lived without a COVID-19 infection for over eight months. The residents also get a large degree of credit for their cooperation and perseverance under difficult circumstances.”
Screening is a major part of preventing infection. All staff members and service providers who enter Extended Care are tested every other day and residents are tested once per week. A rapid test is administered and if anyone tests positive, they are immediately swabbed for the PCR test and must leave the facility. Results from the PCR test come back in one to two days.
Extended Care Administrator Veronica Onwunaka explained that the frequency of testing done at the facility is the protocol when a positive case is detected, but she has authorized it as standard to ensure any infection is detected early and can be isolated.
COVID-19 vaccination has also been offered to residents and staff members of the facility. While the majority of residents and staff members have received the vaccine, prevention measures remain in place for everyone, including the requirement of face masks, social distancing and ongoing screenings.
“We continue to test so we can quickly identify and immediately isolate those who might test positive,” Onwunaka said.
The facility also checks the temperature of anyone entering the building. To provide the safest screening procedure possible, Extended Care has purchased a temperature scanning station from Medline. Those who enter the facility just need to position their face near the mounted non-contact tablet and the device reads their temperature and detects if they’re wearing a face covering. If the person has an elevated temperature or is unmasked, the device sets off an alert. A member of the Extended Care administration is notified and the person must leave the building.
Having the device is beneficial because it allows for contactless screening of employees and service providers, which further reduces the risk of close contact and potential virus transmission. It is also a quick process and negates the need for locating handheld thermometers, which can be misplaced.
While direct health care workers are often the first to come to mind as critical in the fight against COVID-19, New Community Chief Operating Officer Fred Hunter said many more are also essential to keeping everyone safe.
“There are many unsung heroes behind the scenes, like members of Housekeeping, Food Services, Laundry, Environmental Services and Security that contribute to our residents’ safe and comfortable environment,” he said.
During the summer, members of the New Jersey National Guard provided assistance to Extended Care. The service members engaged in a number of activities, including janitorial services, sanitizing common areas, making resident beds, distributing food to resident floors, encouraging residents to eat and providing some limited support to Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). When the National Guard departed in mid-July, Extended Care staff members maintained the level of services.
Cleaning and disinfecting are ongoing at Extended Care to further reduce the risk of infection and transmission. The facility was also fumigated, which Onwunaka said made a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
To ensure the facility keeps up its standards and does the most it can to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, Extended Care has a Pandemic Team made up of about 18 to 20 people that meets periodically to discuss what’s happening at the facility.
“We share information about what we’re doing and pick each other’s brain if there are more things we need to do to make sure that we keep everybody safe,” Onwunaka said.
Keeping COVID-19 infections out of Extended Care is a true team effort.
“We are grateful to have such a committed team dedicated to the safety of our residents and each other,” Hunter said.
New Community Extended Care Facility, 266 South Orange Ave., Newark, is a 180-bed skilled nursing facility that serves inner city seniors and disabled adults. The facility specializes in offering customized care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. For more information, visit newarknursinghome.org or call 973-624-2020.