The extraordinary steps taken to combat the coronavirus at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s nursing home in Woodland Hills are paying off. While six residents died in the early days of the outbreak, there have been no deaths there due to the virus since April 23, and no residents have tested positive since April 12. The last caregiver tested positive on April 30, and none has died.
A key tool in keeping the virus in check, said MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher, is lots of testing, which was not available in the early days of the pandemic. But even that, he said, is “no silver bullet.”
“Not only is there no silver bullet, but, worse, there are random and invisible bullets – in the form of asymptomatic caregivers – being sprayed at you and it’s hard to defend yourselves against that,” he said. “In terms of changes we’ve made, the biggest single transformative thing is testing. We’ve done close to 2,000 tests in the past six weeks of residents, staff, and private caregivers. We’ve just completed our second round.”
Going forward, he said, “We will be testing direct caregivers every two weeks and the rest of staff and residents every month. While we’d like to do it more often, this is still very useful. Additionally, every day we are building up our culture of ‘community cares’ – the simple but powerful concept of ‘I don’t want to be the one to get others sick so I will take all precautions to keep myself safe, and in so doing, keep my family safe, my friends safe, my co-workers safe, and my residents safe.’
“This is so critical now that the city is ‘opening up’ a bit,” he said. “We can only control our staff when they’re on campus. What they do at home is their choice and we want to educate and remind that those choices can have a big impact – and staff has seen six people die – on others. We are also very fortunate to be able to do things for staff like feed them for free when they’re on campus, provide meals donated by Amazon Studios and prepared by Jon & Vinny’s every night when they go home; provide hard-to-get groceries curated by Morrison Senior Living, our hospitality partner on campus; provide household goodies from an amazing donation we got from a relief fund in Ohio – all of them good for staff’s households and good for keeping them out of grocery stores.”
Across the country in Englewood, New Jersey, The Actors Fund’s retirement home is also reporting success in battling the virus, with no new cases in nearly a month after losing 11 residents in the early weeks of the contagion.