It’s a busy time of year for senior living communities, with families coming to visit loved ones and celebrate the holiday season. But unlike last year, which saw most people isolating due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year indoor visits are allowed at long-term care facilities under North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidance. That’s why The Cardinal at North Hills is putting precautions in place to ensure the everyone can enjoy safe holiday visits from family and other loved ones.
Cardinal at North Hills Executive Director Tom Ford said there’s been at least a 75-80% jump in visitors the week of Christmas and New Year’s. He also said The Cardinal has already seen about a 40-50% increase in visitors in recent weeks. “Everyone wants to come visit, and that’s great, but we wanted to make sure it’s safe,” Ford said. “Holidays are about family. We’re so happy and proud that we can get back to that new normal.”
To be allowed in, all guests must present proof of vaccination, wear a mask indoors, and go through a COVID-19 screening that takes their temperature. Visitors are also encouraged to go straight to a resident’s apartment and not to stop in any of the common areas around the community.
Last Christmas, The Cardinal at North Hills only allowed outdoor visits. Resident Charles Wallas said things were lonely before residents were able to get vaccinated. “Really, during that whole period of time when we were unprotected we basically were hiding out,” Wallas said. “We wore masks. We couldn’t have visitors. It was very isolating. ”
Statewide, about 87% of senior living residents are fully vaccinated and about 54% of them have received a booster, according to data from the CDC. Ford said 99% of his residents have received a booster shot. Vaccinations, including booster shots, are required for staff.
“We saw about 5% of our workforce decided not to get the vaccination or booster, and that was their choice. And unfortunately, that means they could not work with us any longer,” Ford said.
Ford said weekly testing is also required for staff, and a majority of residents get tested voluntarily, as well.
Wallas said the COVID-19 protocols and knowing the vaccination status of others make him feel safe during the holiday season.
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