Senior living concerns over coronavirus

Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 12:06 AM EDT
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Senior living facilities in Chittenden County are on high alert after three people connected to Pinecrest in Essex Junction died of COVID-19. Now, people whose elderly parents live in similar communities are wondering if they’re safe.

Three women whose parents live at Taft Farm are worried about cross-contamination between Taft Farm and Pinecrest since they’re both owned by the same property management company, Full Circle.

Twin sisters Karen Jean and Sharon Miles, and their friend Lynn Reagan, are most concerned about staffers going back and forth between the two communities and putting their parents in jeopardy of catching coronavirus. They say COVID-19 feels too close to home.

“It makes me feel very, very uneasy for the safety of our parents and everybody that lives here at the senior housing,” Jean said.

Full Circle’s lawyer says they are taking appropriate precautions as laid out by the health department.

In a statement to WCAX News, Full Circle says staff visits are limited to dropping off notices and keys and addressing emergency health concerns.

Jean, Miles and Reagan think that’s still too risky.

“You just don’t know. You don’t know where you’ve gone or who you’ve been with that might have been with someone else. Everything is so unknown,” said Reagan.

Full Circle says no staff member is showing COVID-19 symptoms but as a precaution, they have asked staffers to work from home.

At a Wednesday press conference, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said two of the newest coronavirus deaths were elderly people in group living situations, such as nursing homes or senior living apartment complexes. He says the state has outbreak response teams that have gone to eight facilities so far.

“So that’s a number that’s growing. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone as COVID becomes more prevalent,” Levine said.

WCAX News also reached out to the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living about recommendations for senior living facilities in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Commissioner Monica Hutt says senior housing apartments like Taft Farm are independent and not regulated by the department.

However, they still recommend the same precautions that they offer to everyone else: wash your hands often, stay home and limit interaction with others and monitor your health.

Taft Farms is one of eight Vermont senior facilities the health department has dispatched a COVID-19 response team to, meaning they have at least one confirmed case.