Treatment and Testing to Beat COVID-19

Part of: Member Ideas and Inspirations: Coronavirus

Providers serving the most vulnerable populations are playing a crucial part in the treatment for COVID-19-positive people, and the testing that will help defeat the virus.

The Challenge: Treatment and tests for coronavirus infections are the keys to saving lives and eventually ending the pandemic. Providers serving the most vulnerable populations are playing a crucial part.

Member Story #3: A Unit to Nurse COVID-Positive Residents Back to Recovery
Member Story #2: A Partnership to Bring COVID-19 Testing to At-Risk Elders
Member Story #1: Transitional Care Center to Operate as a COVID-19 Post-Acute Care Center


Member Story #3: A Unit to Nurse COVID-Positive Residents Back to Recovery

Friendship Village Senior Services, St. Louis, MO, had already implemented aggressive measures when it discovered that its first resident and employee at one of its 2 life plan communities were COVID-positive (the other community has had no resident positives and 2 staff positives caught early).

Friendship Village repurposed a large activity space within one of its skilled nursing communities into a COVID Care Center (CCC), a unit that could accommodate 8 COVID-19 positive patients at a time.

According to Chief Strategy Officer Carmen Fronczak, the unit allowed isolation, stabilized staffing requirements by dedicating CCC-only staff (who received additional pay), and helped “reduce the burn” of PPE supplies. The staff infection preventionist was a 7-day-per-week presence on the unit, training and fit-testing PPE, and making staff feel protected.

“We have a lot of staff with long tenure, so there’s an added layer of dedication,” Fronczak says.

Social programs and activities keep the isolated residents engaged as a group, while maintaining social distancing. Chaplains and spiritual care teams interact remotely with these residents.

“We learned we could do some moderate degree of activities with this group,” Fronczak says. “That became a hidden positive—they weren’t totally isolated.”

Sadly, she says, 2 residents had died in the facility and 6 others while in local hospitals. Almost all of them had other significant health conditions and were on hospice and/or DNRs prior to COVID, and were affected by COVID symptoms.

As of May 14, Friendship Village believed it could be “back to zero”—COVID-free again by the weekend of May 16-17—as the 2 residents remaining on the unit are on the road to recovery.

Of the 18 staff who tested positive, 9 have returned to work and more are coming back soon.

In independent living, one resident on the same campus tested positive (and later died in the hospital), so a 14-day quarantine was instituted. No others had shown symptoms or tested positive during quarantine and it has since been lifted.

“We said we can’t force them to stay in their apartments,” says Fronczak, “but they did, and we have had zero additional positives. And today is the day they can now come down to pick up a continental breakfast, go out for a walk, or visit the fitness center one at a time.”

One noteworthy recoveree is resident Rudi Heider, who celebrated his 107th birthday on the same day he met all the benchmarks of recovery from COVID-19. (He celebrated with lemon meringue pie.). He has drawn media coverage on national television shows and articles around the world, and the day we talked to Fronczak, Heider was preparing for an appearance on “Inside Edition.” (Here it is.) It is thought that he is the oldest U.S. resident to survive the disease, though on the world stage, he is years behind fellow survivor Maria Branyas of Spain, age 113.

Member Story #2: A Partnership to Bring COVID-19 Testing to At-Risk Elders

LeadingAge members, along with LeadingAge Ohio, are helping to create a program to bring COVID-19 testing to at-risk elders in provider communities.

The new PARRT program (Post-Acute Regional Rapid Testing) launched this week in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Health and the Franklin County and Columbus health departments. Additional funding is provided by The Columbus Foundation.

PARRT offers COVID-19 testing within 24 hours of symptoms arising, and operates 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Teams of 2 technicians, including one skilled medical professional and an assistant, collect swabbed specimens at each site, then deliver samples to an Ohio Department of Health lab that turns around results within a day.

The swab teams, trained by The Ohio State University, are suited in full PPE, including a fit-tested N-95 mask, face shield, gown, hair covering, shoe covers, and gloves.

National Church Residences, Central Ohio Geriatrics, Ohio Living, and LeadingAge Ohio announced that the partnership will serve vulnerable older adults in post-acute settings, including 1,500 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Franklin and surrounding counties. Central Ohio Geriatrics is a private medical practice that specializes in senior care in central Ohio. It staffs medical offices in several members’ communities.

“For most individuals, the normal path to testing is a visit to a primary care physician followed by a visit to a testing site,” says National Church Residences Chief Medical Officer John Weigand, M.D. “This is impractical for at-risk seniors and we want to provide a more direct route to testing for our residents in skilled nursing and assisted living communities.”

National Church Residences is expanding its existing COVID-19 hotline to facilitate rapid testing requests with a dedicated line for PARRT.

LeadingAge Ohio, National Church Residences, and Ohio Living are providing initial financial support for the innovation and its application across regional facilities serving 15,000 residents. The Columbus Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund has awarded $100,000 to support the PARRT program.

“We hope successful deployment of PARRT in Franklin and its contiguous counties will pave the way for replicating the process throughout the entire state of Ohio,” says Kathryn Brod, CEO of LeadingAge Ohio.

Member Story #1: Transitional Care Center to Operate as a COVID-19 Post-Acute Care Center

Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), Roseville, MN, in partnership with Minneapolis-based Allina Health, is preparing to use one of its Interlude™ Restorative Suites locations to provide post-acute care for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Interlude, which has 2 locations on Minneapolis-area medical campuses, was opened in 2015 as a transitional care center. PHS and Allina announced that the Mercy Hospital - Unity Campus location in Fridley has received clinical, staffing, building, and equipment modifications to safely care for individuals on COVID precautions, and will begin doing so on April 20, 2020.

The services will be targeted at people diagnosed with COVID-19 who discharge from an Allina hospital, transfer from another PHS location, and as capacity allows, those who are referred by other health care systems. Interlude Fridley is managed by PHS and will be staffed collaboratively by PHS and Allina. See the PHS website for more details.

Visit our COVID-19 resources section for more resources.

LeadingAge wants to hear from you! Tell us stories of how your organization is adapting and innovating to manage with the coronavirus crisis. We are looking for stories about: staff management, worker welfare, and recruitment; childcare; care and services for residents and clients; personal protective equipment (PPE); communication; food services; advocacy; resident engagement; and more.

Contact Gene Mitchell at or 202-508-9424.