July 15, 2020
Dear Residents and Team Members,
It has been more than four months since coronavirus and COVID-19 became part of our every-day conversations. For many, the initial adrenaline, fear and excitement have given way to anxiety and fatigue. In these challenging times we continue to experience hope through inspiring moments.
My purpose in writing today is to bring you up to date on how ECS continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and how that response is shaped by what we have learned and continue to learn about the virus.
When the virus first landed on the West Coast in Washington State, we did not understand how serious it was and how challenging it would become. Today, mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is our organizing principle. Our whole team begins work every day knowing that keeping everyone safe is Job #1.
In early March, ECS was not fully stocked with a pandemic level of personal protective equipment or food supplies. Our orders for food and protective equipment were not filled or were diverted to the military and hospitals. Through sharing of supplies and concentrated purchasing efforts, today all of our communities are reliably supplied with a margin of safety.
In the beginning, we didn’t know what all the symptoms of COVID-19 were. The CDC had provided a very short list. To obtain a coronavirus test required a doctor’s order based on symptoms. Today, we test all staff members on a regular basis, as well as offer and encourage resident testing. Most test results are now received within 24 to 48 hours.
Common sense has dictated for over a hundred years that we wear masks as part of our defense against infectious diseases. It is no surprise that we are reminded of the positive benefits of simple precautions such as wearing masks, washing our hands and maintaining appropriate physical distance. By adhering rigorously to these precautions, we can look forward to more interaction and connection with neighbors, friends and family.
We once thought that a coronavirus diagnosis meant hospitalization, but we find that by having an effective COVID-19 isolation plan we can safely accommodate most residents without requiring a dangerous trip to a hospital.
We work daily to make life more palatable for residents by taking steps like creating outdoor spaces for visits with friends and family, implementing communication tools enabling audio-visual connection, and supporting neighborhood organizational efforts/campaigns. We bring this up in every staff meeting.
However, there is no substitute for our wonderful communities and the caring expressed by and to each other. During this time of isolation and separation, residents and staff are reaching out on a regular basis, looking out for each other. This is the value of living in community.
Each of you has done your part, either by creating or participating in fun exercises like the Memorial Day paper airplane contests or the wonderful ukulele orchestra that accompanies residents singing from balconies. Some of the fun innovations will probably become part of routine life in our communities.
It seems, though, that we take two steps forward and then one step back as with the governor’s message yesterday closing a number of public areas. One thing is for certain - this invisible enemy uses our love, kindness and resulting need for physical closeness against us. So now, we have to slow down our plans to safely open beauty salons and gyms; however, we are prepared to quickly reinstate those plans when possible.
What we all have done together has worked and likely saved lives, but we cannot become complacent.
This summer and fall will have their own sets of challenges and complications, and I want to thank all residents and team members in advance. You have worked tirelessly and diligently, often under very trying circumstances, to keep everyone safe. None of you volunteered for this. And yet you have made all our lives more tolerable by your patience, your understanding, and your continued positive attitudes.
One day we will look back on this time, and we will see heroes and role models, friends and colleagues who stood together in the face of uncertainty and hardship.
Stay safe, stay strong and may God continue to bless us all.
James S. Rothrock
President & CEO
May 13, 2020
It’s safer to stay at home. COVID-19 has not changed. – Dr. Barbara Ferrer, May 10, 2020
With many businesses reopening and more people out and about, it would appear conditions in Southern California are improving. The news, however, paints an all but certain picture.
Last Sunday the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which governments rely on for projections of where the pandemic is going, increased the projected number of deaths in California through August to 6,086. That’s an increase to the original projection of 1,420.
On Monday Governor Newsom announced that 70% of California’s economy had reopened, and L.A. County reported that daily new cases and deaths were below the seven-day averages. And yet on Tuesday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced a three-month extension of safer-at-home orders. It’s very confusing, as you can see.
What is certain, though, is that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people 65 years of age and older, with L.A. and Orange counties reporting 75% and 70% respectively of total COVID-19-related deaths coming from that group.
Absent a vaccine and/or medication to treat the disease, the most effective defense we have is testing. Testing provides a snapshot of where we are at the moment, identifies asymptomatic carriers, and informs our decisions regarding the reintroduction of services and programs. But test results are not always accurate and should not provide a false sense of security. Furthermore, testing does not prevent someone from immediately contracting the virus after receiving a test.
As you know, ECS has done lots of testing on its campuses. We will continue to test staff members, and I hope that every one of you will take advantage of the opportunities to be tested when they are available. To date, the tests have identified four non-symptomatic COVID-19-positive team members and agency staff, who, without those tests and through no fault of their own, would have continued to work, potentially spreading the virus to residents and fellow team members. We are monitoring these team members and praying for their safe return to work.
We are truly in this together, and though some decisions are mandated by regulatory agencies, many come about through collaboration with residents and team members. In our weekly resident leadership Zoom meetings, we discuss the latest guidance and gain insight into specific issues affecting resident life. We know you want this to be over. We all do. For now, the most powerful tool we have is to be tested.
Fatigue is a natural consequence of isolation and anxiety, and I am so sorry you’re having to go through what you’re going through. I encourage you, though, to remember the words of Francis of Assisi – Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
James S. Rothrock
President & CEO
April 2, 2020
In fierce storms we must do one thing…we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there. – old seaman
Although we receive additional information every day, and sometimes minute by minute, two activities continue to provide the best defense against the coronavirus – maintaining a distance of six feet from others and washing our hands after touching any surface that may have been exposed to the virus. As in a fierce storm, we must stay the course by maintaining these vital preventive measures throughout the crisis.
We all see how the numbers go up every day. Reality says that this virus will touch us. Already we have had one employee test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. I am happy to report, this employee is at home recovering and seems to be doing well. But this is not likely our last case.
Over the past weeks, we have worked to limit the transmission of the virus while at the same time preparing for potential cases within our communities. We have sought to explain the actions taking place to contain the spread of the virus and to care for those affected by it through the Frequently Asked Questions, updates on the ecsforseniors.org website, and printed sheets placed under residents’ doors, near timeclocks and throughout our communities.
While your safety is our paramount concern, so, too, is your mental and overall physical health. The need to have mental stimulation and, frankly, fun doesn’t go away because of an out-of-control virus.
Life Enrichment departments continue to advance new virtual programs –fitness, cooking, education, and worship. If you haven’t already explored these opportunities, please do. They can help turn this time of social remoteness into a time of growth. And, if you need assistance connecting with loved ones and friends, please contact your Life Enrichment department. Six months ago, few of us were aware of Zoom. Today people across America are using it to have birthday parties, family reunions, and to spend meaningful time with loved ones. We can help you with that. Let’s work together to find the positive in this sad and chaotic situation.
Finally, I thank each of you for your personal contribution to the safety and well-being of not only yourselves, but those around you. The seas are rough! But stay the course, and eventually they will calm.
Please take a moment to view a caring, compassionate and encouraging message from the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. John H. Taylor to the ECS family.
James S. Rothrock
President & CEO