The entertainment industry’s retirement homes on the East and West coasts, which were hit hard by the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic, are faring well despite the latest Covid-19 surge that has swept through rest homes across the country. They’re also preparing to be among the first to receive vaccines for residents and staff as soon as they’re available.
The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s nursing home in Woodland Hills, CA, which early on saw six residents die from the virus, didn’t have any infections among its 240 retirees since April, until a resident came down with the virus the day after Thanksgiving. “Based on MPTF’s contact tracing, the likely source of the infection was the resident’s private caregiver, and so MPTF is expecting that this will be an isolated case,” MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher told Deadline. “The resident is asymptomatic and resting comfortably. MPTF is and continues to retest all residents, per state and county guidelines, and there have been no additional positive cases.”
He added: “The entertainment community is blessed to have the greatest caregiving team imaginable looking after our industry’s seniors. They’ve done an amazing job keeping our campus – our residents and themselves – safe, and their positive, can-do spirit has kept the morale of all very high. Between the 14,000 COVID tests we’ve done on campus, the proper use of PPE, and a high level of vigilance around distancing and wearing masks, we’ve managed a safety record that’s pretty outstanding.”
ON Wednesday, the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ, which saw the deaths of 10 residents in the early days of the pandemic, reported that none of its 140 residents have tested positive since April 21, though an asymptomatic staffer tested positive last week and now is out of the facility until a mandatory negative test result comes back.
“As things continue to surge in New Jersey, specifically in Bergen County [where the home is located], we are very concerned about outbreaks that we are hearing about in other long term care facilities and hospitals; and what will happen over the next 14 days following the Thanksgiving weekend,” Jordon Strohl, the Actors Fund Home’s administrator, said in his latest update. “Fortunately, here at the home, last week’s Covid-19 testing resulted in no new positive residents.”
The facility, he said, will begin participating in a pilot program initiated by the New Jersey Department of Health, which uses the Abbot Binax Now test to test all staff every other day. “This pilot program will only test the staff and any essential visitors – doctors, lab technicians, hospice personnel – that must come to the facility,” Strohl said. “The goal is to test everyone that crosses the ‘threshold’ of the front door every other day for two weeks; and although not mandatory, the Actors Fund Home will participate with the supplies that we were given by the State of New Jersey. Unfortunately, we only received a limited number of test kits, but we will participate until we run out of the supplies. I do want to caution that the Abbot Binax Now test is an Antigen test and not a PCR test; and when I discussed this test with our infectious disease doctor, Dr. Ashwin Jathavedam, he said that it is a ‘50-50’ test and does not put a lot of stock in the results either way. Needless to say, things will certainly be interesting over the next few days as we work through this pilot study with the NJ DOH. Additionally, the facility will continue its normal weekly testing of all residents and staff on Thursday even with this pilot study going on.”
As of Wednesday, he said, the facility has taken the added precaution of ending outdoor visits for the winter “and moved completely to our version of ‘Window Visits’ for the foreseeable future. These visits will have the resident in the inside of the facility and the family member or friend on the outside with no actual contact. The one requirement that the facility does have is that visitors continue to wear masks on The Actors Fund Home’s property at all times, even during these visits with you remaining outside. We will be closely monitoring the demand over the next few weeks and will make adjustments as necessary.”
Noting that the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has now given approval for long-term care residents and healthcare workers to be given first access to Covid-19 vaccines once approved for use, Strohl said that “it is believed that New Jersey will begin to receive at least 100,000 vaccines by the third week in December. Accordingly, over the next week, the facility will begin working with residents, family members and powers of attorney to begin retrieving the consent forms. The facility wants to be 100% ready when that vaccine is available for distribution.”