Brownsburg fire helps senior living facilities prepare for possible coronavirus cases in Indiana

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BROWNSBURG, Ind. – It appears the coronavirus is more dangerous for seniors and people with certain underlying health conditions. That is why nursing homes and other facilities in central Indiana are preparing now.

As of Thursday, there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Hoosier state.

The CDC says the immediate health risk from the virus is low for most of the American public. Senior living facilities still believe it is important to be educated and prepared.

In a room full of seniors at an independent living facility in Brownsburg, the town’s fire marshal, Steve Jones, took on a different safety plan. He encouraged residents to wash their hands and tell their loved ones to not visit if they are not feeling well.

“I wanted them to be educated beforehand rather than waiting until it is here. Then that way they will understand what is going on,” Jones said.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, is doubling down on infection control for thousands of nursing homes across the country. It comes after a coronavirus outbreak at a facility in Washington State that killed several people.

According to CMS’ guidance, nursing homes should screen visitors if they have traveled to restricted countries within the last 14 days, show signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, or have had contact with someone with or under investigation for COVID-19.

If visitors meet that criteria, facilities may restrict their entry to the facility.

“At our ages, and I am 91, we need to watch out for things like that,” said Patricia Hughes, a resident at the independent living facility.

Hughes lives at Northfield-Senior Living Redefined in Brownsburg. That facility does not have to follow the same guidance as nursing homes. Yet, employees continue to clean every surface in common areas.

The owner of Northfield-Senior Living Redefined, Marci Seal, said crews are not doing that in response to the coronavirus. She explained that it is something they do every day already.

“Anytime someone has coughing, fever, even upset stomach, we encourage no one to come to dining,” Seal said. “We will take their meals to them.”

Seal said she can not restrict visitors at her independent living facility. She does encourage family members and loved ones to stay at home if they are not feeling well.

“Knowing the facts versus the hype and the panic is very important,” she said.

Hughes carries a bottle of hand sanitizer with her at all times. These are small steps to take as the CDC prepares for a likely widespread transmission of the coronavirus.

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