Recently, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued new recommendations on how long-term care and congregate living settings like Bethesda can safely begin to re-invite visitors within their settings. Prior to allowing visitors, each facility must weigh a number of factors, as well as clear certain MDH restrictions to advance to a higher level of activity.
At this time, Bethesda meets MDH’s visitation and activities Level 1, which allows compassionate care visits, Essential Caregivers, outdoor visits, window visits, and facilitated group activities with residents and tenants spaced at least six feet apart.
Based on MDH guidance and an assessment of our current coronavirus (COVID-19) status, Bethesda does not currently meet MDH’s Level 2 requirements and will not resume indoor visits within its settings at this time. MDH permits facilities to allow indoor visitors if the facility has not had any COVID-19 cases among residents or staff within the past 28 days. Bethesda has not met this threshold.
“We recognize and share in the disappointment of not being able to allow indoor visitors at this time. However, we will continue to offer outdoor visits, window visits, and virtual visits through Bethesda E-Connect, allowing residents and tenants to maintain connections with loved ones,” said Michelle Haefner, president and chief executive officer at Bethesda. “We will actively monitor our COVID-19 status and evaluate our ability to re-invite visitors within our settings. We all look forward to having families, friends, and volunteers visit again, as they are part of the fabric that makes our Bethesda community so special.”
Bethesda initiated weekly testing of all staff in May, as well as ongoing testing of residents and tenants. This has resulted in more than 7,000 COVID-19 tests administered throughout our system of care in Willmar and Olivia. “This has led to us swiftly identifying any asymptomatic cases among our staff, residents, and tenants,” Haefner said.
“We understand that weekly testing of staff can result in the awareness of more positive cases and may pose challenges in meeting the MDH re-opening guideline of 28 days free from any active COVID-19 cases. Still, we remain committed to this bold approach to testing, so long as we are able because we are confident it strengthens our protection against COVID-19,” Haefner said. “This proactive approach has proven successful in identifying asymptomatic carriers, thus restricting widespread transmission of the virus within our walls. It is one of our best measures of defense against this unseen enemy. Our top priority is, and will remain, protecting the health and safety of our residents, tenants, and staff.”
Bethesda updates its website on a weekly basis with test results for staff, residents, and tenants, as well as provides relevant COVID-19 developments and information. As of Aug. 26, Bethesda’s system of care includes the following active cases:
- Bethesda Club Suites: No active cases.
- Bethesda Grand: Four active resident cases, six active staff cases.
- Centennial Square: No active cases.
- Fairview Place: One active tenant case, no active staff cases.
- Park View Village: No active cases.
- Sunrise Village Assisted Living: No active cases.
- Sunrise Village Independent Living: Two active tenant cases, no active staff cases.
As part of Bethesda’s COVID-19 Response Plan, all active COVID-19 cases among Bethesda Grand or Bethesda Club Suites residents are promptly relocated to Bethesda’s isolated care unit.
“Our dedicated team of COVID-19 response personnel has been preparing for this possibility since the beginning of the pandemic, and we are grateful for their diligent planning and thoughtful preparations to ensure safety for all within our system of care,” said Ashley Bormann, administrator at Bethesda.
Bethesda is one of the 10 largest skilled nursing facilities in Minnesota, with 248 skilled nursing beds. In addition, Bethesda provides 182 senior housing apartments, with 50 in Olivia, and 132 in Willmar. Bethesda also is one of the largest employers in Willmar and Olivia, with approximately 500 employees.
“Our ability to keep a handle on this pervasive virus thus far truly depicts the dedication and adherence to our advanced infection control policies put forth by our frontline heroes. We credit this low rate to the weekly testing, strict infection control procedures we follow, personal protective equipment is worn, and our ongoing screening process of team members, residents, and tenants follow,” Haefner said.
“Now more than ever, we ask that all who live and work at Bethesda, and those who interact with any of our settings, to remain partners with us in fighting the COVID-19 virus,” Haefner said. “As we continue this journey together, we must remain vigilantly aware that this virus will not make time for rest, and neither can we. Our unity on infection control measures such as mask compliance, proper handwashing, social distancing, and testing will continue to be our best pathway back to a life where we are together again. Until then, please know that I could never be more proud of the incredible levels of patience, empathy, and understanding we have witnessed from our staff, residents, tenants and their families over these past several months. We thank you, for all you have done and all you continue to do to enable us to continue forward.”