Berman Commons: No COVID-19 Residents

Berman Commons: No COVID-19 Residents

The experience at Berman Commons, where an escalating set of precautions were taken, demonstrated the difficulty of controlling spread of the virus.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Berman Commons Assisted Living and Memory Care
Berman Commons Assisted Living and Memory Care

Two months after its first positive COVID-19 tests, Berman Commons reports no cases of the coronavirus among its residents and only one employee currently testing positive.

In that time, the facility operated by Jewish HomeLife increased its cleaning protocols and requirements for the use of personal protective equipment by caretakers and staff. Other precautions, including a ban on visitors and a halt to communal activities such as dining, remain in effect.

Cheryl Chambers, executive director of Berman Commons.

“I am so pleased to report that Berman Commons has no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in assisted living or in our memory care neighborhood,” Cheryl Chambers, executive director of Berman Commons, wrote in a May 22 message to residents and families.

The last COVID-19 positive resident to test negative was one of the four original cases discovered in late March in the memory care unit, when five residents were tested after developing elevated temperatures. None of the four displayed other symptoms associated with COVID-19 and did not require hospitalization.

They may have been exposed to the virus by an employee who worked weekends in the unit but had not been in the facility since March 14 – 11 days before the last of the five residents displayed a high temperature. The employee informed Berman Commons March 26 that she had tested positive for the virus.

Shari Bayer said assisted living homes and the activities they offer help combat social isolation.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are locking down the entire community,” Jewish HomeLife spokeswoman Shari Bayer told the AJT on March 27. Residents in Berman Commons’ 32-unit memory-care wing and in the 58 assisted-living apartments were directed to remain in their apartments.

“This is an emotional time for all of us,” Jewish HomeLife president and CEO Harley Tabak told the AJT March 27. “We are doing everything in our power to bring the best medical expertise, testing and protective equipment to protect our most vulnerable population, to protect our staff who are on the front lines every day. We are not the first and will not be the last senior care community to face this crisis, and sincerely appreciate the community’s support in our efforts.”

The same day, Berman Commons tested all staff working in the memory care and hospice units, 11 “floaters” who work in both the memory care and assisted-living wings of Berman Commons, and support staff, such as those working in the laundry or housekeeping.

Residents and families were informed March 29 that six employees had tested positive for COVID-19. They were asymptomatic, meaning that they displayed none of the recognized symptoms of the virus. All six have since tested negative.

Though there had been no cases in the assisted-living wing, “we have implemented policies so the entire community will be treated as if there has been exposure, including isolating all residents in their apartments and using proper PPE [personal protective equipment] as appropriate,” residents and families were informed in a March 29 letter from Tabak and Jeff Gopen, JHL’s chief operating officer.

On April 21, an employee working on the assisted-living floor tested positive, again asymptomatic. Chambers wrote to residents and families the next day. “Therefore, today we are testing all residents who had any contact with this team member in the last 14 days, regardless of symptoms. We are also testing any team members who worked directly with this individual over the last 14 days.”

Of 43 total tested, three residents in the assisted-living wing then tested positive, again asymptomatically. All three have since tested negative.

The one employee still testing positive has been self-isolating at home and will be retested.

On any given day JHL cares for about 400 people in residential facilities located at three sites in the Atlanta area, and about 300 living in private residences. Jewish HomeLife also employs about 450 people at its facilities, including 110 at Berman Commons.

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