Senior facilities are priority in COVID protection | News
When the COVID-19 pandemic started locally, some of the earliest cases in western Kentucky were at a retirement community in Lyon County.
As the coronavirus spread, most of its victims were among the elderly. When vaccines were introduced, the first people to take the vaccine were the elderly.
While the average age of COVID-19 victims has fallen since March and April 2020, the elderly and other immunocompromized people are still susceptible to the disease.
Through the month of August in McCracken County, 143 people age 60 and older were reported to have COVID-19, with 56 of those cases coming in the last week.
For the first half of 2021, however, there were no new COVID-19 cases reported in any state-run long-term care facilities in McCracken County, with four COVID-related deaths at those facilities.
On Aug. 2, the state required universal masking in all state-run health care facilities, including veterans nursing homes. It also required all contractors and state employees working in the state-operated facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1 unless there is a religious or medical exemption.
Sara Tedder, the community manager for the privately-owned Jackson House and the W.B. Sanders Retirement Center, said staff members are going back to the same precautions taken during the pandemic last year.
“We’ve started picking back up on making sure that our sanitization — sanitizing doorknobs, bathrooms and keeping disinfectant spray within the common areas,” she said. “We’re trying to limit the capacity on elevators.
“We try to make sure that the social distancing — like if they want to hang out in the community areas or activity room — we try to keep them socially distanced at 6 feet.”
Tedder said the facilities have not made mask-wearing a requirement yet, but residents are encouraged to wear them.
“If it gets to the point where we need to start back with the mask mandates, we will,” she said. “Back when COVID first hit last year in March, we were full-force, wearing masks no matter what: in your office by yourself or in your apartment by yourself.”
Tedder said staff at both facilities are sanitizing doorknobs, elevators and the most commonly touched surfaces to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The Sun reached out to three other senior facilities in McCracken County and got no response.
Brent Carman is the associate director of the Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living with the Purchase Area Development District. He said the PADD office urges all senior citizens centers to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and to contact the local health department to keep apprised of local guidelines.
The Purchase District Health Department oversees the health departments in McCracken, Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman counties. Its website — purchasehealth.org — provides vaccine and test clinic information.
“We make sure that if congregate meals are being served onsite, that they are being done properly through social distancing and separation, masks and so on,” Carman said. “If that’s not possible, then home-delivered meals or a drive-by meal where a person can come by and pick up a to-go meal can make sure they get at least one meal a day.”
Carman said elderly people and age issues are among its focuses.
“We’re looking at the senior population as a priority right now,” he said. “We don’t provide direct services and such; that’s usually done through a contractor, contracted services.”