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Mayflower announces zero COVID-19 cases in a hazardous senior care landscape

A Mayflower staff-member in a face shield speaks with residents of the Mayflower. Photo contributed by The Mayflower.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in nursing homes and senior centers throughout Iowa, the Mayflower Community and Health Complex reports that there are no cases of coronavirus on its campus. In an environment where nursing homes and health complexes are the hardest hit by COVID-19, the Mayflower stands as an example of what could happen, with careful planning and perhaps some good fortune, if all members in a community respond efficiently and responsibly to a crisis.

For the 280 residents that live within the Mayflower, each day is filled with new caution and uncertainty. The all-clear announcement came just five days after a resident tested positive for COVID-19. That resident’s follow-up test came back negative, though, and they are still being isolated as per protocol and remain asymptomatic. While a late June press release sent out to family and friends of residents stated that a Mayflower employee tested positive for the novel virus, that employee has quarantined and no further cases have been detected in the staff.

Jean Lewis and Dorothy Christinson bump elbows instead of shaking hands at the Mayflower. Photo contributed by The Mayflower.

The Mayflower has fared relatively well in comparison to other retirement communities. As of July 27, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 21 active outbreaks of COVID-29 in the state’s long term care facilities. Within the town of Grinnell, St. Francis Manor battled its own outbreak in April, eventually reporting 74 cases.

According to Kellie McGriff, BSN, NHA, who serves as the associate director and administrator of the Mayflower Community, much of the community’s success is due to the precautions taken by its residents.

“Any amount of PPE is only good as the compliance of the person using it,” said McGriff. “I really do think that we have incredible residents that are passionate about protecting the lives of each other and themselves.”

For Bob Mann, director of sales and marketing at Mayflower, this level of respect and responsibility is especially impressive for the independent living residents. “They could go to a grandchild’s ballgame, for example, and be around people … who don’t wear masks and who could be asymptomatic. But they have been very, very careful about that. And for that reason, there have been no cases diagnosed among independent living residents.”

McGriff also attributes the wellbeing of residents to the Mayflower’s quick response to the pandemic. Despite nursing homes already being “heavily regulated facilities,” the staff went out of their way to take extra precautions. Besides state-mandated PPE, staff also use face masks when in contact with residents, creating a “double barrier.”

Signs at the Mayflower instruct residents on proper COVID-19 safety protocol. Photo contributed by Sarina Lincoln.

“The healthcare field is learning right along with this virus,” said McGriff. She explained that as the summer and the pandemic continue, they are adjusting the accommodations in order to keep residents both mentally and physically well.

The Mayflower is currently evaluating potential new precautions against COVID-19, including incorporating a mandatory Plexiglas shield between residents and their visitors for the time being. While McGriff and Mann acknowledged that the process does get tedious, they said that Mayflower staff understand that every little decision they make affects many other lives.

“There’s the fatigue [that comes with] doing this all the time. So, when you’re outside of work, you’re like ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ But knowing that the next day you come back and your choices outside of here will directly impact lives here … makes a difference and I just really commend our staff for their commitment to our residents,” said McGriff.

Ultimately, although the Mayflower’s initial response to the pandemic may have been, according to McGriff, “conservative and assertive,” the community’s ongoing success will continue to rely on its residents.

According to Mann, this shouldn’t be a problem. “They’re smart enough to know that they’re just not going to take a chance.”

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