Helen holds a sign showing she received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Remaining COVID-free during a global pandemic, according to the leader of a Wichita, KS, assisted living community, took a group effort of strict adherence to infection prevention protocols.

Prairie Homestead Assisted Living credits the community’s zero COVID-19 cases over the past year to staff members and residents meticulously wearing masks and following social distancing and sanitation best practices, as well as sticking to quarantine measures for new residents or anyone who left the community and then came back. Also, staff members, visitors and anyone else who entered the building completed a COVID screening questionnaire and was asked to take a rapid COVID-19 antigen test.

“We locked the doors — pretty much no one in or out except for the employees, unless it was medically necessary,” Yvonne Loftis, director of sales and marketing, told McKnight’s Senior Living. Staff members continue to be tested weekly, and visitor testing is ongoing. 

With 17 residents, the community kept up many of its activities — including exercise, bingo, Bible studies and hymnal sing-alongs — to try to maintain everyone’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Skyping and courtyard visits with family members were added as community spread decreased, and scheduled indoor visits now are available.

Loftis credits the actions taken by staff members with keeping coronavirus out of the community.

“A big part of what kept / keeps us safe is not only what our staff is doing while at the facility, but also what they are doing once they go home,” she said. “The staff have been very responsible with what they are choosing to do outside of work to not bring anything back to our residents.”

All Prairie Homestead residents now are vaccinated, and 75% to 80% of staff members are vaccinated. 

Loftis said the past year has been a long journey with much learning. “For the most part, we try to take it one day at a time,” she said.

Sigh of relief

Washington Manor Personal Care Home in Butler, PA, also is breathing a sigh of relief after the community’s 25 residents received their second vaccine doses recently. Like Prairie Homestead, Washington Manor also remained COVID-free throughout the pandemic.

Facility owner John Dougherty told KDKA in Pittsburgh that he went above and beyond buying cleaning supplies and masks in January and February 2020, “hoping a vaccine got there before the worst comes.”

With a bit of luck and the diligence of his staff, he said, the senior living community “kept it from getting through the front door.” Staff members also made sacrifices in their own lives to ensure that they were not bringing the virus into the community, Dougherty said.