CHAMPAIGN — As women sat around, needles in hand during the crochet club at Stevick Senior Citizen Center on Wednesday, they discussed the day’s news like they usually do.
And while the worldwide spread of COVID-19 came up, it wasn’t with panic or even personal concern. It was simply spoken about as news of the day. The same went for the men’s coffee club the next morning. Aside from a few elbow bumps replacing handshakes, not much was different than normal.
“I hear them talk about using more Purell and they’re taking precautions, but they haven’t stopped going anywhere yet,” director Karen Kraemer said. “They don’t seem all that concerned.
“They talk about it, of course, because it’s in the news, and I haven’t seen anybody say it’s taken out of proportion.”
Some senior-living facilities across the area, though, are taking measures to protect residents, who are highly vulnerable to complications stemming from the virus compared to the rest of the population.
Among over 44,000 cases of the disease in China as of Feb. 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatality rate was 14.8 percent for those over 80, 8 percent for those 70 to 79, and 3.6 percent for those 60 to 69. While there have been no confirmed cases of the disease in Champaign County, the goal among some area senior living facilities is to head off the spread.
Current CDC guidelines tell long-term-care facilities to post signs at the entrance to inform visitors of symptoms, ensure sick policies for employees and assess symptoms of residents admitted.
Under 18? For time being, stay away from facility
While several facilities refer to these guidelines when speaking about their policies, that can mean different things.
For Clark-Lindsey, that meant all outside community events that happen at the Urbana facility, including groups and clubs that meet there. Clark-Lindsey is also asking for visitors under 18 to stay away for the time being.
Stop signs greet visitors with information about symptoms and hygiene. Those who do enter are asked to answer a questionnaire with symptoms.
If they answer “yes” to any of the questions, they’re asked to leave. Finally, before they’re allowed past the entrance, they’re asked to wash their hands in front of an attendant.
Employees are also screened and have their temperature taken upon entering the facility.
“We want to keep the population here at Clark-Lindsey and the older population in Champaign-Urbana as healthy as possible, so that’s why we’re not only doing this inside our walls, but we’re doing it externally as well,” Clark-Lindsey marketing director Karen Blatzer said. “Because the population that we serve is most at risk.”
‘Enhanced cleaning schedules’ in Savoy
Last Friday, Hawthorne Inn in Danville began limiting those entering the facility to essential visitors, which include family caretakers and hospice nurses, regional director Lisa Miller said.
At Windsor of Savoy, residents are simply being reminded of good health habits, including proper hand-washing technique, and to carefully consider traveling or going to large gatherings, spokesman Aaron Seidlitz said.
The facility is “enhancing cleaning schedules” for apartments, common areas and transport buses, Seidlitz said, and providing in-room meal delivery service to sick residents. People with symptoms of respiratory illness are asked not to visit. Outside events at the facility are still going on as planned.
‘It changes every day. It changes so quickly.’
This could be just the beginning of restrictions for area retirement homes. At Clark-Lindsey, Blatzer said she could see a day when visitors aren’t allowed and residents won’t be able to exit.
“It could definitely come to that point,” she said. “It changes every day. It changes so quickly. ... I just think we have to be flexible and adjust as the information comes in. We’re really monitoring the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health and going on their recommendations.”
For now, some residents are beginning to hunker down for what could be a lengthy period of time. At least at this point, they seem to be fine with it.
Hawthorne Inn residents “don’t seem affected by it at all, kind of like when you have a snowstorm,” Miller said. “I’ve been with the company for 20 years, so I’ve been through plenty of snowstorms, where you just buckle down and have plenty of activities and games going on and it’s a little bit more relaxed atmosphere. ... But I’m sure if it continues to go on, it’s going to get a little bit more difficult because snowstorms take a day or two.”