Dozens at Loudoun Co. senior living community not working amid coronavirus concerns

Dozens of staff members at a senior living community in Ashburn, Virginia, are not working their normal shifts over concerns about infecting their loved ones at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Loudoun County officials learned about the situation at Waltonwood at Ashburn on Tuesday night, and how the shortage has impacted the community’s memory care service.

Initially, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall told WTOP that 30 staffers “have chosen right now not to take the chance to bring this home to their families, and so they’re not working in the facility at this time.”

But Waltonwood at Ashburn clarified the numbers for WTOP.

Waltonwood at Ashburn Executive Director Christopher Leinauer said 23 staff members are on emergency leave and that 22 of the employees are part of the dining services team.

“The associates were mostly high school students who serve our fine dining experience. This has not impacted our dining room operations significantly, as we moved to in-room dining in March. We currently have over 130 active employees at our community. Our resident care team has not been impacted by the emergency leaves, in fact we have not had one resident care associate leave Waltonwood or choose emergency leave since having a positive COVID-19 case. Our number one priority during this time is the health and well-being of our residents,” Leinauer said in an email to WTOP.

Waltonwood has had one death in its memory care unit due to COVID-19 and two positive cases, one resident and one worker, according to Leinauer.

“All residents have been isolating in their apartments before the shelter-in-place was ordered in Virginia, and the community is working closely with the Loudoun County Health Department. The associate is self-quarantining at home and will not return to Waltonwood Ashburn until 14 days from the latest date of potential exposure and is symptom free. At this time, the origin of the exposure is unknown, and there are no other confirmed cases at the community,” Leinauer said.

Leinauer said admissions to Waltonwood stopped on March 16.

“Care teams are wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) when entering affected and/or suspected resident apartments and all employees are wearing masks.  Our community has adequate PPE and is using it in accordance to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” Leinauer said.

So far, there have been seven coronavirus-related deaths in Loudoun County. Randall said those deaths included people over the age of 60 and some in senior care facilities.

“We have quite a few senior facilities and many of them have at least one case,” Randall said.

At Falcons Landing, in Potomac Falls, some staff members have already tested positive, Randall said.

Randall said the county’s health department meets daily to plan PPE distribution and is in consistent communication with senior care facilities.

“The staff who work at these facilities are dedicated professionals, and if we can get them the proper protective equipment that protects them, thus protects their families, many of them — in fact most of them — would be willing to be at work,” Randall said.

The shortage of PPEs is seeing nationwide impacts. Nursing homes around the U.S. had already sounded the alarm on the shortage in mid-March.

“People who are working in our elder care facilities are absolutely essential workers,” Randall said, “they deserve the protective equipment, and we are all trying to get that to them as fast as we possibly can.”

If the county can get more PPEs to senior care facilities, Randall said she believed that would alleviate the staffing issues.

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WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. 

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Teta Alim

Teta Alim is a Digital Editor at WTOP. Teta's interest in journalism started in music and moved to digital media.

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