Affordable Housing Providers and the Coronavirus

Legislation | February 27, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

We know that flu-like viruses are disproportionately risky for older adults, and the coronavirus is no exception. Because older adults with housing instability are especially vulnerable, preparedness is critical at this stage. Here are some tips for LeadingAge affordable housing members to help prepare communities, residents, and staff.

We know that flu-like viruses are disproportionately risky for older adults, and the coronavirus is no exception. Because older adults with housing instability are especially vulnerable, preparedness is critical at this stage. Here are some tips for LeadingAge affordable housing members to help prepare communities, residents, and staff.

Providers of affordable housing for older adults are in a unique position to help stop the spread of infectious diseases like the coronavirus. Practitioners can take steps now to develop preparedness and response plans to protect against infection.

What is Happening?

Global health leaders are responding to an outbreak of a novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan City, China, in late January 2020. The virus, which causes respiratory disease and is now known as COVID-19, has been declared a global health emergency.

What are the Symptoms?

Reportedly, people who have coronavirus have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath; many develop pneumonia in both lungs. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including fatalities.

I am an Affordable Housing Provider. What should I do?

  • Acknowledge the current situation with your staff and residents but share only verified facts.
  • Publish the CDC’s Coronavirus resources in your common areas; “What to do if you are sick,” “Stop the spread of germs,” and other CDC posters are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
  • Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home when they are sick or need to care for a sick family member.
  • Establish a point of contact with your local health department in order to receive and share information, and to report the number of residents who are showing symptoms of the illness in the event of an outbreak.
  • Refresh emergency contact lists for staff and residents, including contacts for family, caregivers, and health care providers.

How Can We Prepare Our Residents?

  • Encourage residents to stock up on important items, such as soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, and disposable facemasks.
  • Get people thinking about what to do if schools and other public institutions are closed, and reassure residents that this is a similar approach to weather emergencies – something they are more familiar and comfortable with.
  • Leverage existing telehealth tools to direct people to the right level of healthcare for their medical needs.  
  • Refer residents to organizations in the community that can help in case of an outbreak in the area, such as organizations that provide mental health or counseling services, food, and other supplies.

How Can We Prepare Our Staff?

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home, and develop a plan for your teams to accommodate staff shortages.
  • Consider waiving the requirement for a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick, as medical facilities may be busier than usual.
  • Remind staff to practice good hand hygiene, as well as good sneeze and cough etiquette, and to limit close contact with residents.
  • Continue routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces, and visit the CDC website for additional cleaning recommendations.

Where Can I Learn More?

Here are additional resources that you can review to prepare your housing communities for a Coronavirus outbreak: