FANWOOD, NJ -- Chelsea Senior Living has conducted more than 23,000 COVID-19 tests of residents and staff since June 1st, nearly eliminating infections in its 21 assisted living residences.

As the nation reels under the rise in infections and hospitalizations this fall, Chelsea has maintained a steady level of zero community spread among residents and employees. A handful are believed to have acquired the virus outside our buildings. The employees quarantine at home as required by CDC guidelines, then return to work after testing negative. The very few residents who have tested positive were isolated in their apartments until they, too, tested negative. Nursing staffs continue to monitor all residents' vital signs once a shift. COVID-19 testing is available on-site.

"We've had no COVID-related hospitalizations and no community spread since June 1st," said Pat Banta, RN/BSN/MA, Chelsea Regional Health Services Director. "Our employees are now well-versed in the use of PPE and social distancing. Our visitation policies require family members to schedule visits in advance, complete a pre-visit questionnaire, wear masks and stay six feet from their loved ones. These measures have helped keep our buildings virtually infection free." 

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In keeping with the latest recommendations by state and federal health experts, Chelsea is urging families not to remove their loved ones from their assisted living residences to come home for Thanksgiving. Holiday gatherings, even in private homes, are seen as a primary source of infection.

"Since the initial peak of the pandemic last spring, the entire senior living industry has learned much about prevention and control," said Roger Bernier, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chelsea Senior Living. "As a result, we've instituted strict safety protocols at all of our communities, and that extends to every aspect of day to day life including meals, recreation and family visits. Our protocols are published on our website and anyone with questions or concerns can always call us." 

While federal funding partially paid for the thousands of tests administered by Chelsea, it only accounts for a small portion of the cost.

"It's not enough," said Mr. Bernier. "The federal and state governments have been behind the curve on COVID from the start. We were on our own in obtaining PPE and testing. To a large extent, we are still on our own."

Chelsea plans to continue its safety protocols indefinitely as preparations continue to manufacture and distribute vaccines. Experts believe at-risk seniors and their front-line caregivers will be among the first to obtain a vaccine.

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