Generations battles outbreak just as COVID vaccinations began

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Publisher’s note: The information in the story below was up-to-date as of Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. As of Friday, Jan. 15, we received the following update from Generations COO and Co-Owner Aundrea Fuller: “We continue to test residents and staff daily and about two a day are testing positive. So far everyone is doing well and if things are still the same this weekend, we will begin moving the residents who first tested positive off of the isolation unit! This is great news!” This is great news. Continue to keep Generations of Red Bay’s residents and staff in your prayers. The original story is as follows:

Aundrea Fuller asked last week during an interview with The Red Bay News for area residents to keep the residents and staff of Generations of Red Bay in their prayers as the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations had begun.

Those prayers are needed now more than ever.

Fuller, COO and Co-Owner of Generations, said Tuesday that the Red Bay facility was now facing an outbreak of COVID-19 among patients and staff. When vaccinations began last week only two residents were still testing positive but were doing well in recovery. Now, 8 to 10 residents at the facility are believed to have tested positive since this weekend, as have some of the employees. The facility will know for sure once PCR testing confirms the diagnosis.

“We are testing all residents every day because they are testing positive and have no symptoms, though some do,” Fuller said. “We have brought in machines called ‘air scrubbers,’ which filter the air and have them placed on every unit of the facility. We are in touch with the Alabama Dept of Public Health frequently for guidance.”

Generations has protocol for treating COVID-positive residents and handling any employee quarantines that it has followed since the beginning and continues to follow those efforts now that an outbreak is at hand.

“We move the positive residents to an isolation unit, and we have dedicated staff on that unit who do not come into the rest of the facility,” Fuller said. “Right now, we are using some of our ancillary staff to help fill the voids such as our therapy staff, and several of our office staff members have prior work history of being CNAs, which helps. It is a daily rebalancing act. But so far, we have been able to plug the holes. Asymptotic staff who test positive must stay home for 10 days. CDC has guidelines for using positive staff members on the isolation unit (since they can’t infect anyone) but we haven’t had to use any of those strategies at this time.”

Fuller said getting the vaccinations in place when they did, even though it was only the first of two rounds, is key in this outbreak.

“The pharmacist said those who took the vaccine would have the benefit of the antibodies to boost their immune system earlier,” Fuller said. “It’s not the full protection until after we get the second injection, but we pray that this holds true.”

The COVID-19 vaccine that began being distributed late last month requires two doses, with the second coming three to four weeks after the first. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 9 million people across the United States had received the first vaccine dose as of Jan. 11.

During last week’s vaccination efforts at Generations, around 88 percent of residents and 59 percent of employees and staff received the shots.

“That 59 percent is not as high as I’d like to see it, but we have a second vaccination clinic on the 27th of this month for the people that took the first vaccination and on that second visit they will also be giving another round of first injections,” Fuller said.

Fuller said she and her staff have remained vigilant in the battle, even though it is wearying after almost a year. She had travel trailers moved to the property and has lived and worked there now for almost a year, steadfastly following strict testing and treatment protocols for residents and employees. 

“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to do,” Fuller said. “About 40 percent of COVID deaths have been in nursing homes. So far we haven’t lost a resident.”

She is quick to point out, though, that she knows what has meant the most in this fight.

“First and foremost, prayer,” Fuller said. “We’ve prayed around this building. We’ve walked prayer circles around it, and we have anointed and prayed over every room in this facility. So that’s our first level of protection. The second has been the intelligence of our staff and making sure that everybody’s doing what we’re supposed to do, that we use our hand sanitizer the way we’re supposed to, that we wear the correct and proper PPE eye protection and face mask, that we socially distance. It takes almost a policing effort on a daily basis of someone making sure all of these things happen. 

“I have a nurse that works with us on the corporate level and the two of us have campers out here right now so that we can be here on site pretty much 24 hours a day,” Fuller said. “I’m up at five o’clock in the morning to test the shift that comes in at 5 a.m. We’re here at 7 a.m. to test the shift that comes in at 7 and we do the same thing at night to test and catch anybody before they start their shift.”

Generations has also taken the added step of personally delivering to Birmingham all PCR tests, which Fuller described as the holy grail of testing and provides the most accurate results within 24 to 48 hours. This means someone from Red Bay meets a courier from the sister facility in Vernon or from Birmingham, or drives there directly, to get test results more quickly. This happens every time they receive a positive diagnosis from their in-facility testing.

A daily struggle, for a year

Fuller said as hard as this has been on her and her staff, it’s been equally challenging for the residents who have faced isolation from family members and the outside world.

“What makes it difficult is the separation from their families and their loved ones, and that’s something I feel like our community doesn’t really understand,” Fuller said. “Unless you have a loved one here you don’t understand how difficult this is.”

While the facility can allow outdoor visits, family members still have to maintain social distancing. Of course, outdoor visits were much easier when the weather was warmer.

“So, your loved one that you haven’t been able to touch and hug and love for a year – I mean, this is hard,” Fuller said. “We’re doing our best to fill that gap, but it’s not the same as someone that is your family member. My heart goes out to our families because it’s difficult on them, too.”

Fuller said the community can help in several ways, with the first being prayer – and the second being vigilant in fighting the virus in everyday life.

“When everybody else that we see around us is doing what they want (not wearing a mask or social distancing) it’s really heartbreaking,” Fuller said, “because they don’t realize their behavior in the community is keeping us locked down. We have a 20-percent positivity rate in Franklin County right now, meaning that one in every five people has it. So, when you’re at the store and you’re in line, someone around you probably has the virus. Just be diligent in wearing your face covering in public, socially distancing, using hand sanitizer and washing your hands.”

Fuller said she hopes, too, that as the vaccine is made available to more of the public that it will be accepted and taken.

“I highly encourage people to take the vaccine,” she said. “I would also encourage people if they’re going to fact-check the vaccine to look at reputable sources and not at some of the social media sources for information.”

Fuller said there is one more thing the public can do to help in the fight. 

“I would like to ask our community to join with us in praying over this facility,” Fuller said. “I would like to ask if there are churches or people in this community who want to come walk our perimeter and pray a prayer circle around this building to do so. If we started a revival out here on our premises, that’s okay with me too, but I would love to see people walk the perimeter in prayer over our facility or if they want to lay hands on this building to do it. This fight is not just our fight. We need people out here helping us.”