By Susan Saldibar

A while back I covered an excellent webinar hosted by Aegis Therapies (a Senior Living Foresight partner). It featured Dr. James Avery, Pulmonologist and Visiting Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia. His expertise is senior care. The webinar aired towards the beginning of the pandemic and it contained some great, no-nonsense tips and best practices that impressed me enough to have my whole family sit down and view it.

Well, he’s done it again with a new webinar, “America is Open for Business: Considerations for Facility Operators”. And, as with the first webinar, this is anything but a fluff piece. It’s a solid, informative look at preparing to navigate the transition to a post-COVID-19 healthcare environment. 

Some points made during the webinar particularly stood out to me. Here they are (although you’ll want to watch the full 1-hour presentation.)

Revisiting How COVID-19 Is Transmitted

Now, more than ever, we need to constantly revisit how COVID-19 spreads. Dr. Avery presents an equation as follows:

Amount of droplets produced + time exposed = likelihood of infection

He then produced charts that show how many droplets are produced by talking, coughing, sneezing (sneezing is worst, by the way), and so on. The bottom line is that conversations without masks conducted within a 6-foot radius for over 10 minutes put you in the danger zone.

To illustrate this, Dr. Avery shared a true story about a pizza party at a senior living community. Apparently the staff had received a delivery of several boxes of fresh pizza as a thank you gift from a family. Here is what transpired:

All the staff flocked to the small break room to enjoy the pizza before it got cold. And, of course, they took off their masks to eat and chat. Unwittingly they had created the perfect storm for COVID. Between the poor ventilation, close proximity and prolonged contact, all but one of the caregivers came down with COVID within a week.

And, yet, even with stories like these, senior living communities are feeling the pressure to open up their doors again.

Opening Up Again. Are You Ready?

I’ve conflated these two sections because there is so much information packed into them, I can’t possibly include it all in this article. But to summarize Dr. Avery’s main points:

  • Evaluate risks constantly! As you get pressure to open up, look at your own situation and make judgments. You know the basics.
  • Use your situational awareness. Know what’s happening in your community, state, and with the CDC. Be aware.
  • Make sure you are doing baseline testing of staff and weekly testing of negative staff.
  • Educate your staff on the proper use of PPE, including doffing and donning, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette/cough etiquette, and social distancing (tell the pizza story). Go over this regularly.
  • Establish schedules for testing and for training and keep detailed records.
  • Get serious about ways to adjust your environment to accommodate safe gatherings:
    • Facilitate more outdoor dining.
    • Enable and closely monitor outdoor family visits using social distancing.
    • Consider building inexpensive plastic barriers where needed.
    • Put tape to show where people can stand/sit.
  • Re-establish group therapy, but make it outdoors with social distancing.
  • Minimize the use of equipment, especially that which is more difficult to disinfect.

He also stresses the importance of therapy and the need to have therapists onsite. “Therapy is so essential. It helps reduce pain and the need for surgery, improves balance, mobility, etc. Reduce readmissions. That’s key! Those who didn’t have therapists, [their] readmits increased,” Dr. Avery says.

Get the Facts

Finally, Dr. Avery urges communities to separate fact from opinion. “Gaining a fuller understanding of COVID-19, allows you to make educated, wise decisions,” he says. “This is a changing field, we’re getting new information continually. So monitor the CDC/CMS updates,” he adds.

There is so much more to this webinar — stats, best practices, tips on building a strong COVID-19 care culture — that I urge you to take an hour out of your day and watch it. And Dr. Avery’s insights on building a near-post COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 culture, really warrants a second article. So stay tuned. And stay safe!

For more information about Aegis Therapies, please visit their website