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By Renee Allen

As a nurse and the current administrator at Lucy Corr, a long-term care facility in Chesterfield County, I have seen firsthand the staggering impact of COVID-19 on our industry. Our hardworking and devoted staff of caregivers provide services to more than 200 residents each day. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have faced numerous challenges together while striving to provide our residents with a community that enables them to maintain a high-quality of life.

We have fought to protect our residents from this highly contagious virus while providing essential health care services and a wide range of daily activities. And while our efforts at Lucy Corr have been very successful, over the past five months, we have had to adapt to a “new normal” in response to COVID-19. The devastating impact of the pandemic is beyond what anyone could have imagined, and long-term care facilities, as you may know, have been at the center of the battle.

Despite being faced with many challenges, our caregivers and staff at Lucy Corr have stepped up to protect residents from this virus. They have done so in spite of personal protective equipment procurement issues, frequently evolving guidance from public health officials and numerous negative stories in the media about our industry overall.

We have a long road ahead of us, but we are committed to keeping our residents safe. If there’s one thing that I think everyone should know, it’s the importance of educating oneself and others on ways we can work together as a community to contain this virus and mitigate its spread as much as possible.

We are dealing with a virus that can spread even under the most rigorous containment protocols. We must do all that we can to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 — a key driver of its spread. In fact, studies have shown that outbreaks in nursing homes mirror the broader community in which the facility is located. In other words, the severity of an outbreak in a nursing home is similar to the rate of the spread of the community in which it is located. Too many people assume that an outbreak inside a facility is somehow a failure of staff to do their jobs. We need to move beyond this kind of thinking and rally around our seniors.

Long-term care facilities across the state are doing all they can to prevent the spread of the virus, but unfortunately, asymptomatic cases have been a prominent driver in transmission. This is why it’s so important that we follow the guidance of public health experts — whether it’s wearing a mask or following social distancing guidelines. The virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but what we can do is follow those practices that will keep ourselves and those around us as safe as possible.

We’re faced with a new reality, which is why it’s also critical that Virginia’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have the resources to meet the needs of residents. Virginia’s nursing homes have been underfunded for many years, and the pandemic has only made the issue worse. We’re grateful to Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly for approving a $20 per day funding increase to support nursing homes across the commonwealth, but continued funding is essential in order to respond to the needs of facilities during this pandemic — whether it’s PPE, testing or staffing.

Our best asset and our biggest expense are the caregivers who attend to our residents’ needs. The residents and their caregivers deserve adequate supplies, testing resources and fair salaries to continue in this most challenging time in our history. If we fail, blame won’t bring anyone lost to this virus back. And if blame does anything, it unfairly pushes caregivers away from positions helping the elderly at a time when we need them so desperately.

When preparing for an outbreak, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we will be impacted. We must work together as a community, and lawmakers must ensure that nursing homes and other long-term care communities have the necessary resources and are prepared to fight an outbreak.

Renee Allen is a nurse and the current administrator at Lucy Corr, a long-term care facility in Chesterfield County.