Juniper Village at Brookline Testing All Residents and Staff for COVID-19
A State College senior living community is testing all of its residents and staff for COVID-19 as a proactive measure to protect older adults.
Juniper Communities, the New Jersey-based national operator of senior housing communities, said it began the testing on Thursday at all of its locations, including Juniper Village at Brookline in State College.
Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to severe effects of the novel coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control reported this week that about 80 percent of deaths in the United States from the virus have been 65 or older.
“We care for the most frail and susceptible population. Senior living communities are the first line of defense for 3 million citizens most at risk for complications and even death from this virus. They and their families rely on senior living to keep them healthy and safe,” Juniper CEO and founder Lynne Katzmann said in a statement. "Staff wellbeing is also a primary concern. Our associates come to work every day dedicated to providing care to the residents, and we want to minimize the risk to them and those they care for.”
Testing will be completed as soon as possible.
Juniper procured the nasal swab tests from private and commercial vendors under the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization and appropriate prescriptions from local health providers were obtained before ordering, the statement said.
“We are not taking needed tests away from state health organizations, medical providers or hospitals,” Katzmann said. “The opening of the pipeline by the FDA is making greater testing available to everyone.”
Results will be used to confirm symptomatic individuals for isolation, identify asymptomatic individuals for segregation and change staffing patterns to limit cross-contamination.
“For the time being we need to dramatically reduce the number of individuals who interface daily while maintaining our high levels of care," Katzmann said. "Testing data is absolutely critical for us to put additional precautions in place—ones which appear to have had success in other countries.”
Like most senior housing facilities, Juniper has been following CDC guidelines related to COVID-19, including limiting access to essential visitors only, screening and monitoring temperatures of staff and essential visitors, enhanced cleaning procedures, social distancing and self-isolation, and in-room dining service only.
Katzmann said the pandemic is "the greatest challenge we have ever faced," and expressed hope that full testing and greater precautions will limit exposure.
In Pennsylvania, about 20 percent of the 8,420 COVID-19 cases to date have been 65 or older. Among the 852 patients who have required hospitalization, about 50 percent are 65 or older. Of the 102 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state, the majority have been seniors as well, though the Department of Health has not issued specific age group percentages for deaths.
Centre County has had 32 confirmed cases as of Friday. Mount Nittany Health had 13 confirmed positives among the 300 tests it had administered as of Wednesday and Dr. Nirmal Joshi, chief medical officer, said during a Facebook Live discussion that none at that time were in the 65 or older cohort.
Senior living communities and nursing homes are a point of concern for public health officials.
"Seniors living in long-term care facilities — and that would include nursing homes but also personal care homes and assisted living facilities — are at great risk in relation to this pandemic of COVID-19," Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said on Friday. "They’re older and older individuals are more likely to suffer serious complications and more likely to have other medical conditions that would make them more vulnerable. They really are our most vulnerable citizens."
Levine said that the health department, Department of Human Services, and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are "doing everything we can to protect staff and residents" at nursing homes and other senior housing, including providing special guidance and contracting with a company that will assist with infection control in facilities that have an issue.
Juniper Village at Brookline has about 240 residents in senior living and personal care at its main campus on Cliffside Drive. It also has the Wellspring Memory Care Community on Whitehall Road. Juniper Communities operates facilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado.