This past week has been a sobering week for all of us. COVID-19 infections are at an all-time high and the scenes we witnessed in Washington DC are shocking. As we move forward, we ask for your collective strength and confidence as we navigate these troubled waters together.
The insurrection and chaos we saw in real time this past Wednesday were appalling. The lawlessness and destruction that occurred at the Capitol is the antithesis of democracy. The peaceful transition of power is the cornerstone of our democracy, and I was so proud of our nation’s leaders as they resumed the electoral vote count and restored the tenets of our democracy. The violence that occurred on Wednesday night does not reflect who we are as a nation of people. This tragedy reminds us that words do matter. I have strong hope that we will come together as a country to reinforce the values and ideals that unite us.
The coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, and particularly in Arizona. One in four Arizonans who are tested for the virus are confirmed positive for COVID-19. This rate of infection has surpassed all other states. This trend will most likely continue for at least the next few weeks. I implore all of you to mask up, avoid large gatherings and shrink your circle to only those you live with and avoid large gatherings. We will get through this together.
The coronavirus vaccine rollout across the country has gotten off to a rocky start. In Arizona, the pace of getting the vaccine into the arms of people is picking up. Arizona has received 456,000 doses of the vaccines, and, as of today, is still in Phase 1A (health care workers, emergency personnel and long-term care residents). Overall, Arizona’s vaccination rate was 1,405 per 100,000 people, which puts us in the “middle of the pack” for vaccination rates across the country. The State of Arizona and Maricopa County are working to ramp up vaccine distribution, and Maricopa County is expected to move to Phase 1B (essential workers, adults over 75, adults living in congregate settings) on Monday, January 11. This is a rapidly evolving situation. Please understand that we will communicate with you as soon as we know any details. We are working rigorously with the state and county and with our pharmacy partner, CVS, as well as with LeadingAge, to ensure that our residents and staff have access to the vaccine as soon as possible.
As I stated last week, on December 29, we administered 133 first-dose vaccines (Moderna) through CVS, to our residents in Skilled Nursing and Advanced Memory Support, staff and designated essential visitors to Skilled Nursing. These individuals will be receiving their second dose of the vaccine on January 26, as well as first doses for residents/staff who were unable to attend the vaccine clinic in December. Last evening, we received information from Maricopa County that vaccine clinics for Assisted Living residents and staff would begin in mid-January; however, we have not received a specific date for the vaccine clinic.
Our Independent Living residents qualify for Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution. Maricopa County will begin to schedule vaccines at Point of Dispensing sites (PODs). The vaccine at these PODs is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. You can access all information here and schedule an appointment at a POD: https://www.maricopa.gov/5651/Phase-1B. I urge everyone to read the information from the county as it pertains to Phase 1B. On the webpage, there is a very comprehensive Question and Answer section. Please know that if you choose this option, you must schedule and return to the POD site for the second vaccine.
I urge our Independent Living residents to register with Maricopa County to get their vaccine. At this time, you must register online; you cannot register by phone. If you don’t have access to a computer, please let your family or a friend help you register. At this time, our staff does not have the capacity to register you or to use our transportation services to drive you to a Point of Dispensing site (POD). Although we are continuing to work to get a vaccine clinic at the campus for Independent Living, we do not have confirmation as to whether it can happen. Please don’t wait and register with the county.
At our regularly scheduled mass testing on Monday, January 4, 315 staff were tested for COVID-19 and all were negative except four (1% positivity rate). This week, we have had several residents and staff recover from COVID-19, and we are thankful for their return to health. We are reporting 70 cases of COVID-19 among staff and residents. Forty-three residents live in Plaza View Assisted Living and nine residents live in Independent Living. Among staff, four work in the Health Care Center (three direct health care staff and one support staff), eight work in Assisted Living/Early Memory Support (six direct health care staff and two support staff), 13 work in Independent Living/Administration/Home Services/Support Services, and two are contractors. We have contact traced all cases, and all are in quarantine, in the COVID-19 Unit in Agelink or in the hospital. We are sad to let you know that one resident in Plaza View has passed away, and we pray for comfort and healing for the resident’s family and friends. Please keep all our residents in your thoughts and prayers.
Due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Assisted Living, we proactively asked the Arizona Department of Health Services and Maricopa County Department of Public Health to audit our infection control procedures in Plaza View and to assist us in identifying any areas we may have overlooked that may have caused the spread of the virus. After hours of monitoring our procedures and reviewing our protocols, both governing bodies determined we were following the highest infection control practices and protocols and had no additional recommendations. Both agencies agreed that spread of the virus within the campus is a reflection of the highly infectious nature of this particular strain of COVID-19 and that the campus is managing the spread to the best of our abilities.
This week, we closed our managers’ meeting in prayer, always remembering that we receive bursts of God’s light in the storm and asking for strength as we meet the challenges of this time. Please join me in praying for peace and resilience amidst the chaos. May the God of hope blanket you with love.
Michelle Just, President and CEO