Osprey Village, an independent living facility on Amelia Island, can boast of an increasingly rare accomplishment: As of Wednesday, June 24, none of its staff or residents had tested positive for the coronavirus.
As part of a movement across the country to reopen, the independent and assisted living community had loosened its guidelines over the past couple weeks, but with a recent surge of cases in Nassau County and Florida, the facility has again enacted strict rules to keep its staff and residents safe.
“We have gone back to Phase 1,” said Matthew Barger, executive director at Osprey Village. “We decided it would be a shame to be lax, after having no cases.”
There are just over 3,000 assisted living facilities in Florida, according to the Florida Health Care Association. Those facilities have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are especially susceptible to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Guidelines set by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration require employees of assisted living facilities be tested every two weeks for the virus.
As cases of coronavirus in assisted living facilities have been a problem in Florida, Osprey Village has been proactive in its efforts, and the results speak for themselves. The facility has 159 residents in its independent living facility, another 44 who receive care services and memory care assistance, as well as 103 staff. While residents are not required to be tested, the tests of 39 who have been are negative, as all required staff tests have been.
“We attribute it to being a trailblazer in the lockdown process,” Barger said. He explained the process, which has been put back into place, includes allowing only essential workers such as health care providers into the facility, and necessary visits from family members, such as to bring medicine. A staff member at the front gate of Osprey Village screens anyone coming onto the property and another staff member screens those entering the residential sections. Packages go no farther than the front gate, where staff sanitizes them before they are brought onto the property. The Retreat at Osprey Village, which is the area that provides care services, receives weekly, unannounced visits from the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Strike Force, which has confirmed Osprey Village’s precautionary safety efforts – including limiting the dining room to 20 residents at a time – are effective.
Barger said the facility went above and beyond to ensure people did not have to go out and risk infection. A small store was set up at the Oaks on Amelia Island Plantation, where products such as toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, and some grocery items were sold at cost. Residents called ahead, orders were put together, and people drove through to get their purchases. That store had closed, but with the stricter guidelines back in place, the service will resume. Barger said it is another way the community members are supporting each other “while maintaining being six feet apart.”
He also said combining official guidelines with Osprey Village’s own has protected the community. “We continue to adhere to the CDC (and) the WHO as well as state and local authorities in conjunction with our own internal policies,” Barger said. “Our intention is to maintain the successful measures we have put in place that ensure the health, safety, and well-being for our members in the areas we can control.”