Coronavirus Updates

March 18, 2021

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Barring any significant developments, this will be the last official update from The Buckingham regarding our COVID-19 activities. Our first update appeared on April 3, 2020, and over the past twelve months we have posted a total of sixty-nine (69) updates. Through these messages, we have attempted to provide a transparent, candid look at our COVID-19 experiences, and our ongoing efforts to best protect our community and limit exposure to this virus. It has been an all-encompassing, all-out effort by everyone at The Buckingham that evokes a wide variety of thoughts and emotions. 

Initially, as the virus quickly rose from an unknown threat into a worldwide pandemic, there was both anxiety and uncertainty as to what we were dealing with and how we could best protect residents and staff. We took our first steps toward securing the community in mid-March 2020.  I am proud to say that our team moved quickly, securing scarce PPE via multiple sources, “locking-down” the community to reduce potential exposure, and providing information and education to our staff and residents about appropriate mitigation efforts.      

Given the breadth and intensity of our efforts throughout the past year, it is difficult to fully express how important and widespread the level of support, assistance, guidance and availability we have had from everyone connected to The Buckingham. The Board of Directors have been fully engaged and steadfastly supportive from the beginning; our management company, equally supportive and engaged, provided a constant level of expertise, guidance and support. 

Our staff, those on our front lines and those supporting them, stayed focused, working tirelessly to ensure we could respond quickly to a changing environment and implement new practices and processes, all while maintaining a high level of care. Particularly in the early days of the pandemic, there was considerable apprehension about COVID and its potential for harm. Knowing that, there was nevertheless great courage shown by many willing to stare down a virus with the known and unknown qualities of COVID-19. It was truly inspiring to see how the team rallied together and supported each other on behalf of the residents.

Perhaps most admirably, the residents also showed a noteworthy sense of determination, grace and perseverance throughout this past year. Being in the “high-risk” group undoubtedly helped focus their attention, but they went far beyond that with their cooperation, understanding and willingness to help us help them. It has not been an easy year for them, yet in dealing with this adversity, the residents displayed a wisdom, self-sacrifice and kindness that we would all do well to emulate.    

We also want to extend our gratefulness for the support and understanding from family members. They too have had a difficult year being unable to visit their loved ones. To help ease the isolation and separation, we introduced various virtual tools such as video calls. It wasn’t the same as being together, but it did help many residents and family members check in with each other. The number of positive comments, notes of gratitude and supportive calls we received have all been greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately, even with our constant and intense efforts, we did not escape COVID-19 and had a number of residents and staff contract the virus over the past year. Clearly the most difficult and emotional aspect of this ordeal has been the residents who passed away while harboring the virus. We felt the loss with each passing and still feel a sense of grief and sadness as we remember them. As I did for each passing, I would ask that you pause for a moment of solace, celebrate their memory and continue to appreciate and enjoy your and your loved ones lives.

One particularly important aspect of our response to COVID was the amount of testing we have done, from the very beginning, in order to identify positive cases. We purposely took an aggressive approach to testing. Doing so enabled us to identify positive cases more quickly, as many were asymptomatic, and have that person self-isolate and prevent them from infecting other staff or residents. To date we have conducted over 11,000 tests and will continue to test staff (and any symptomatic residents) for the foreseeable future. I have no doubt that our extensive testing helped limit the exposure to the virus and kept our resident cases lower than we would have otherwise experienced.

Finally, after the introduction of highly effective vaccines, we were among the first in Houston to set up vaccination clinics for residents and staff. We provided, in partnership with Walgreens, three separate vaccination clinics for residents, staff and other essential caregivers. The vaccines, above all else, will prove to be the greatest preventative measure. COVID has started to wane and as the reach and spread of the vaccination effort blankets more of the region and country, the virus and its impact should continue to lessen. We have responded to that encouraging result by reopening more of the Independent Living community and getting our operations close to back to normal.

Our licensed areas – skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care – still remain under the more restrictive regulations of the Health and Human Service Commission, but if the trend continues those areas too will begin to reopen. 

It is Spring, the season for reawakening and of new growth…a reopening on a natural scale if you will. It is therefore fitting for us individually and as The Buckingham overall to experience our own reopening this Spring. As the virus continues to recede, we have the opportunity to fully appreciate, enjoy, even embrace, our good fortune to have weathered this awful pandemic. It has been a long year; let’s now seize this moment and celebrate all that is good. 

Finally, while light is at the end of this tunnel and it is getting brighter, I must ask everyone associated with our community to stay vigilant, as COVID-19 is by no means a thing of the past.  Please continue to adhere to basic mitigation efforts to protect yourself and your loved ones – use masks in any public space, wash hands frequently, and maintain social distance from others, subject to CDC guidelines.

Thank you for your support. I wish you all the very best.

Take care and stay healthy.

Jamie Kneen,

Executive Director   


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Responses will be updated and questions added as appropriate

Is The Buckingham offering vaccination clinics?

We’ve partnered with Walgreen’s pharmacy to administer the Pfizer vaccine to residents and team members. To ensure everyone who wants the vaccine has access to the two required doses, we’re hosting three vaccination clinics on campus:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 5
  • Tuesday, Jan. 26
  • Wednesday, Feb. 17

Do residents and staff have to take the vaccine?

While we strongly encourage all members of The Buckingham family to register for the vaccine, this is not something we can mandate. Just as it’s someone’s right to accept the vaccine, it is also someone’s right to decline it – whether we as a community or employer agree with it or not.

Now that most residents have received the required two doses of the vaccine, they and team members who participated will be protected at a very high level. Additionally, proper PPE use among all staff will continue to help mitigate the risk this virus poses to our community.

With the vaccine now being administered, are there plans to reopen the campus soon?

Yes, discussions are ongoing, but right now our tentative target date is mid-March. By then, a significant portion of our community will be fully vaccinated, and the level of risk should be much lower, absent a COVID-19 surge.

Preliminary conversations remain focused on easing restrictions in more resident-centric locations on campus. Large group gatherings will likely still be some way off as we seek further guidance from authorities and health partners.

Are visitors allowed on campus?

Currently, we are welcoming visitors for independent living and those in The Plaza (skilled nursing, assisted living and memory support).

All visits must be by appointment only – admittance will not be allowed without one. Please call our Concierge at (713) 979-3100 to make your appointment and for additional visitor information and protocols.

As always, visitors must wear masks at all times while inside the community and maintain at least six feet of distance from others. Failure to follow these necessary safety protocols may result in a suspension of your visitation privileges.

If most residents and staff have received the vaccine, why are visitation protocols still being enforced?

Our visitation protocols are largely driven by state guidelines, which we are mandated to follow. These guidelines have not been affected by the vaccine as of yet. We follow any changes to these regulations closely and will notify families accordingly.

What are The Buckingham’s protocols for any COVID-positive residents and team members?

We have a separate isolation wing in our skilled nursing center for residents who have tested positive for the virus. We also have designated a special COVID Treatment Team that cares for and treats only those residents. Any team members who test positive self-isolate at home, per our protocols.

How are you ensuring staff from The Plaza aren’t interacting with other areas of the community outside their designated level of care?

We have restricted our care staff to work in only one level of care (e.g. skilled nursing, assisted living or memory care). There is no “crossing over” from one area to another. We have severely limited other staff (e.g. maintenance) from entering The Plaza except for essential or emergency service and repairs, and these individuals have very limited, if any, contact with residents. As always, all staff must wear appropriate PPE.

What is The Buckingham’s current testing policy?

All residents and team members in The Plaza – skilled nursing, assisted living and memory support – receive regular tests. Testing is also available to residents in independent living and other staff as needed or requested.

When is a COVID-positive resident or team member considered recovered from the virus?

When a person tests positive for the virus, they enter into a “recovery” time frame. That is a defined period of time, a minimum of fourteen (14) days plus at least three (3) additional days without any symptoms before they can be tested again. Once the person is retested and receives a negative result, we wait at least another twenty-four (24) hours and test again. If the second test yields another negative result, the person is considered recovered.

How can I stay informed of The Buckingham’s updates and release of information related to COVID-19?

There are three primary ways you can stay up to date:

  • The Buckingham website: we post all COVID-19 related updates here.
  • The Buckingham Facebook page: updates and more general information about The Buckingham can be found here.
  • Sign up at Updates@buckinghamhouston.com for email notices on when we post updates.

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