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Inside a nursing home facing COVID-19

Posted at 6:45 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 00:04:46-04

Some of the most vulnerable people in Arizona right now are the thousands of senior citizens living in nursing homes, senior living facilities, and those living in long term skilled nursing facilities.

The state of Arizona has not been transparent about which releasing which facilities have identified cases, and how they are monitoring these facilities. ABC15 is getting a rare look into what's going on behind closed doors in one group of Valley assisted living facilities.

Matt Johnson, the founder of Surpass senior living spoke with ABC15 via video chat to talk about how their company prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

The company runs four assisted living centers in the Valley, all under the name Mariposa Point. The facilities are located in Surprise, Gilbert, Phoenix and Mesa.

"I've been in senior living for 20 years, and I've never encountered anything like this," said Johnson.

He said the facilities started preparing for the pandemic in early March, from sanitizing, to educating staff and residents, and restricting visitor access into the facilities.

The company even hired an outside consultant to advise them and ensure the senior living facilities were complying with all national Centers for Disease Control, state, and county guidelines. Despite all the preparation, the pandemic has hit close to home.

"So far we have had 2 cases of COVID-19 in our Mesa facility," said Johnson.

The cases were several weeks apart.

The first was a resident who was 92.

"She was living in our secured memory care of Alzheimer's area. She made a full recovery," said Johnson.

He believed the second case was contracted by a resident who had gone outside of the facility.

"He is an 83-year-old man. In this case, this resident was going out almost daily for chemo treatments, so we do believe he contracted it outside," said Johnson.

In response to the cases, the facilities sent letters and texts to all residents and families, notifying them about the incidents.

All staff and residents were asked to wear masks and gloves within the communities, but like all other healthcare facilities, finding protective gear these days is a challenge.

Johnson said they had tried to make purchases from several different vendors.

"Where we're getting hung up is a lot of stuff that's coming from overseas is tied up in customs," said Johnson.

Like many Arizona facilities, Mariposa point facilities were also relying on homemade masks for protection.

In addition to that, Johnson said they checked residents' temperatures twice a day and screened all of their staff for health problems before they started their daily shift. For resident's safety, all meals are now served in their apartments or rooms.

Unless proper social distancing guidelines could be achieved, many activities were canceled. Johnson said while the safety of their residents was their first priority, he worried about the long term effect this could have on our seniors.

"Over the long term, we are concerned with the mental health of our residents as they're being more isolated, or forced into isolation right now," said Johnson.

The facility has reported its COVID-19 cases to the county as required by law. While the county had not visited the facilities, they had issued guidelines for them to follow.

Johnson said their guidelines were far more stringent than the county guidelines, so they continued to enforce those.

Johnson encouraged residents to sign up to Skype with residents. They allowed visits in public areas in some circumstances, but would only allow a visitor into the facility if their loved one's health was in critical condition. He added that many family members were also visiting loved ones by communicating with them through the glass walls of the facility.

The 83-year old COVID-19 patient at the facility is still in quarantine at this time. ABC15 is told he is getting around the clock care by the staff at Mariposa Point.