On May 4th, the District released data on Covid-19 cases in long-term care facilities. Forest Hills of DC had two cases – one resident and one staff member. One Ingleside resident had been diagnosed. And at Knollwood in Chevy Chase, there had been 40 cases split between residents and staff. Six residents and one staff member had died.
The comparison doesn’t look good for Knollwood, but there’s a lot these numbers don’t tell us, such as how much testing is being performed at these facilities. We know that Knollwood is doing extensive testing, even of residents and staff who are not showing symptoms. And unlike other retirement homes in the area, Knollwood Military Retirement Community was already reporting Covid-19 cases and fatalities to the community.
I learned this through a a chance encounter with a staff member who told me that workers are provided with a full suit of armor: N95, goggles, face shields, full suit, gloves and hair coverings. What else was Knollwood doing? I checked its website and found a yellow banner at the top inviting visitors to “Get the latest info.”
The page contains details on testing and cases, and sadly, deaths from Covid-19. On April 23rd, Knollwood wrote:
Knollwood Military Life Plan Community has taken the aggressive action of testing the entire community starting with the skilled nursing residents and staff…. Knollwood took the initiative to work with an independent laboratory that was willing to support this aggressive testing, especially in individuals not displaying symptoms.
This effort to-date has resulted in testing for 350 people and shows a combined 43 positive cases among employees as well as residents in Assisted Living, as well as the Health Service Center and the Special Care Center, the two areas within the Skilled Nursing center where testing has been completed for 100% of the residents…
As reported previously, a resident in her late 90s with chronic medical conditions passed away, and it was learned posthumously that she had tested positive for COVID-19. A second COVID-related death occurred on Sunday, April 19 when a resident in her 80s who lived in the skilled nursing center passed away at a local hospital. A third resident in her late 80s, also positive for COVID-19 in the skilled nursing center, passed away on Monday, April 20.
All employees whose test results have come back positive are being directed to quarantine at home for at least ten days after receiving the test results, per CDC guidelines, and will be tested before returning to work.
On April 28th, Knollwood reported three more deaths and 15 cases among residents in the skilled nursing area. It also reported the arrival of a rapid testing system, which it said would be put to work testing asymptomic people who may be unknowingly spreading the virus.
In the days that followed, Knollwood added a data reporting table that details the numbers of tests, retests, active and recovered cases and deaths.
We checked in with other senior facilities in the area. Forest Hills of DC posted its first Covid-19 update on its website the day after we contacted them for information. Ingleside referred us to its blog, which mainly reports on Mayor Bowser’s orders and how they have impacted the residence community. Sunrise Senior Living, a national chain, posted a local update on its website.
None of these three reveals whether residents or staff have been infected or died, or specific information with respect to testing and PPE.
Ingleside responded to our request for more information with a statement from its president and CEO, Lynn O’Connor. It reads, in part:
We remain vigilant in addressing the challenges presented by this pandemic and are following procedures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and DC Department of Health. As a not-for-profit, life plan community with different levels of care, including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing, we are also working in collaboration with our professional associations.
We are continuing to provide updates to our independent living, assisted living and health center residents, families and staff during these ever-changing times.
Sunrise sent this statement:
Sunrise remains firmly focused on following our evidenced-based infection control protocols to protect our communities. We are also providing timely communications to our residents, families and team members on our response to and any impact of COVID-19. We are deferring to local health departments to share the information they deem necessary, due to the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our residents are people, not numbers, and our primary concern and focus right now is supporting our families and providing the best possible care we can to our residents, who need our full attention.
Knollwood could further improve its transparency by going into more detail about PPE and other protections for workers, since they are the ones going back out into the broader community. But it is setting what should be the standard in its transparency about testing and infections.
Transparency is important to the public’s health and decision-making. It was lacking from the District when we learned last month that the Days Inn at Van Ness is a quarantine center for people who either do not have a home, or cannot go home to isolate themselves. At the ANC 3F virtual meeting on April 21st, Council member Mary Cheh and community leaders voiced concerns about safety, and expressed dismay at learning of the site from a news report, not from the District.
Now that we know about the Days Inn, the District’s Covid-19 task force is providing more information about what is happening there. We hope also that the community can get updates from the senior residences. It is they, unfortunately, who are most at risk.