To: Residents of Covenant Village
From: Dale Melton, CEO
Date: July 30, 2021
Covenant Village is making both the COVID-19 and Influenza Vaccinations mandatory for Employees, current and new. Given the escalation of active cases and hospitalizations, as well as the growing impact of the Delta variant, COVID-19 Vaccinations remain the most proven effective intervention to protect individuals from the Virus. In making the COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment, Covenant Village continues to respond with a clear focus on positioning our Residents and Staff to mitigate this and future resurgences.
The sudden return of active COVID cases on campus after months of no cases prompted the action steps over the last two weeks. Covenant Village will follow the lead of major healthcare providers, across the State of North Carolina and in Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties, to require all Employees to be fully vaccinated. The decision is made as the highly contagious Delta variant has nearly tripled across the U.S. over the past two weeks and contributed to a 200% increase in hospitalizations — with hospitals reporting that among patients, more than 90% of those hospitalized in recent weeks have been people who are unvaccinated. In North Carolina, the Delta variant accounts for 50% to 60% of cases. That figure could swell to 95% by the beginning of August.
Additionally, the high number of COVID cases within our Village over the past 10 days motivated leadership of the Covenant Board of Directors and the Leadership Team to take the strong healthcare-focused approach to protect the well-being of all who live and work at Covenant Village.
Last week, we reported that 12 Health Center (HC) Residents tested positive for COVID. This week, two (2) additional HC Residents tested positive. All were vaccinated. Good news has also emerged as 10 of the original 12 HC Residents will come off “active case” status today. The remaining four (4) Residents have mild to moderate symptoms. No Resident has been hospitalized for COVID care.
Last week, we started with three (3) positive Staff cases. That grew to seven (7) by the end of the week. This week, our Mandatory Testing revealed two (2) new positive Staff members. One is in the HC, and one serves independent living (IL) Residents. At least two (2) of the Staff have needed to be hospitalized. All positive Staff cases were unvaccinated.
Though there was concern for potential exposure to IL Residents last week, no IL Residents have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID symptoms.
Due to continued new positive cases in both the HC and IL areas, we will extend the closing of Covenant Village to non-essential visitors. In a tight-knit community such as ours, we cannot risk the health of our Residents or Staff – and their Families – as the more contagious variants spread in this COVID resurgence. News this morning out of the CDC confirms the rampant spread of the Delta variant and there are alerts that a new variant is now in the U.S.
Therefore, we will begin the vaccination requirement among Employees immediately, with August 30th as the deadline for unvaccinated Employees to submit proof of the first dose of a COVID-19 Vaccine. There will be appropriate exemptions for those with medical reasons or as specified by federal or state law and consistent with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. Additionally, we are reaching out to area pharmacies to once again provide an on-campus Vaccination Clinic.
Opinions about the COVID vaccine are diverse and wide-ranging. As we move forward with this organizational mandate, we are all called to respect the personal views and decisions of every individual and respond with fairness and kindness. Questions from employees about the mandatory vaccination process should be directed to our Human Resources office.
As a reminder to our IL Residents:
- If you are vaccinated AND exhibiting NO symptoms, you should feel free to go about your normal routine and to move around the Village. The only exceptions are that meals are currently being delivered, and we have postponed organized group activities.
- If you go out for any reason—and you are vaccinated and not exhibiting any symptoms when you return—you do not need to quarantine.
- Everyone—Residents and Staff—should be wearing a mask while out on campus.
- If you start exhibiting any COVID-related or other symptoms, PLEASE CALL the Arbor Wing Nurse’s Station at 704.917.7857. Do not go down to the Health Center.
As part of our ongoing COVID mitigation, we continue to follow all local and state COVID protocols and to monitor all developments from the CDC, CMS, and DHHS—our governing and licensing bodies. This includes our mandatory testing protocols.
To confirm further evidence of our proactive mitigation efforts and after the support of our medical director, Dr. Todd Hansen—we are extending the process of testing antibody levels to our HC Residents. This process requires HC Resident and/or POA approval before the testing can take place. Dr. Hansen sees value in understanding the levels of antibodies in our HC Residents to help us evaluate why so many vaccinated Residents have tested positive. We are constantly monitoring the CDC and other outlets for developments related to potential booster opportunities.
In more than 60 Covenant Conversations, 50 plus community memos and posts, and just about any time I have the opportunity, I have stated that we are stronger together. This is a time when some might question what that really means and if it still holds true. I feel more convinced than ever that this is our vital truth. At such times of uncertainty and with so many unknowns, I look to three guideposts: Our core mission and the impetus for organizational decisions is our calling as a health care provider to older adults. Our COREST Core Value—represented in our CV CARES—is the Safety & Security of Residents and Staff. That lives in our DNA. And the center support is our caring and loving God, who guides our steps and who wants the best for our Village.
We remain resolved and resilient—even in the face of this unexpected and unwanted fourth surge. Our prayers go out to Residents, Families, and Staff impacted by these recent developments. Though we have come a long, long way, we all know that the Virus is still active and growing in the community, region, state, and nation. We must continue to be vigilant.
Please, let us all be careful when we are out and around others!! Wear your Mask and practice the physical distancing now. We can do this!! We are Covenant Village!! Peace, Dale
We will continue to provide the latest information via community memos; Covenant Conversations on Facebook and Wellzesta; the Covenant Village website (https://covenantvillagenc.com/); and on our Facebook page.