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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kisco Senior Living has taken steps to ensure that the safety of its residents and associates remains its top priority. Now, the senior living company has been taking it one step further with an innovative approach to COVID testing that’s being used by organizations ranging from medical and education systems to professional sports teams.

Using pooled saliva PCR testing, Kisco Senior Living is aiming to create a “safety bubble” to allow communities like The Cardinal at North Hills to resume operations with confidence again. The pooled saliva PCR test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July of 2020, and all residents at Kisco communities are tested once a week and all associates twice a week. The company is partnering with SiREM labs for the testing.

“We are the first senior living company to provide this service to our residents and associates, ensuring they remain safe and healthy while giving us the flexibility to return to a new level of normalcy at the communities. We pride ourselves as a company that goes above and beyond, and this is another example of how we are setting ourselves apart from the rest of the industry,” said Andy Kohlberg, chief executive officer. “We have seen the success the ‘bubble’ testing has had in the NBA and NHL, and we know this unique testing strategy will allow our communities to return to traditional five-star dining programs and more robust wellness programs. It also will ease many COVID-19 restrictions at communities while safely eliminating the need for quarantining a resident who leaves for a doctor’s appointment or other emergency.”

This new testing process offers a level of accuracy identical to the typical PCR test that has been the predominant method of testing in the United States to date. The way it works is pools of up to 100 people are created, then a few drops of saliva is collected from each participant and sent to a lab for PCR testing of the combined samples.

Results come back within 24 hours of testing. If the pool is determined to be negative, then all participants receive a negative result. If the pool receives a positive test result, PCR swab testing is then performed on each participant to determine which individuals are positive. By using this testing methodology, staff at The Cardinal can quickly determine if residents have COVID and take steps to minimize any potential outbreaks.

The frequent COVID testing provides a level of assurance that the presence of the virus can be identified quickly, and the approach is sustainable, relatively inexpensive and requires minimal extra work for staff. Before saliva testing, nurses were conducting individual nasal tests, spending upwards of 20 hours per week administering them. With the pool testing strategy, anyone on staff can collect the samples, giving nurses time back in their days to focus on resident care.