At Luthercare and most long-term care communities nationwide, the majority of residents have received the coronavirus vaccine. At the same time, the long-term care industry is working hard to reach a nationwide goal of getting 75 percent of its staff vaccinated by June 30.
Luthercare strongly encourages all of its team members to receive the vaccine to protect our vulnerable residents, but it is not mandatory at this point. We have received some questions regarding why Luthercare has taken this position, and we would like to share more information. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued only emergency use authorizations for the COVID-19 vaccines, which allows for its use in a public health emergency. The vaccines “have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in the U.S. history” and “have met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support the emergency use authorization,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website.
FDA approval of a drug means that data on the drug’s effects have been reviewed by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and been “determined to provide benefits that outweigh its known and potential risks for the intended population,” according the FDA’s website.
Once a vaccine receives permanent FDA approval, our organization will re-evaluate whether we will require team members to receive it. The combination of getting vaccinated and following the CDC’s recommendations for personal safety offer the best protection from COVID-19.
The vaccines represent a light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the emerging variants do create a challenge for our industry, and we have heard and seen that it’s possible for fully vaccinated individuals to be infected by the coronavirus and not develop symptoms or require hospitalization. For example, one of our team members recently tested positive for COVID-19 through universal testing despite being fully vaccinated.
Across our Luthercare communities, the following percentages of direct care team members have received the vaccine: Luther Acres, 59 percent; Spang Crest, 50 percent; and St. John’s Herr Estate, 63 percent.
Among residents, more than 95 percent of residents have been vaccinated across all three levels of living at Luther Acres; nearly 87 percent of residents have been vaccinated at Spang Crest; and nearly 95 percent of Independent Living and nearly 97 percent of Personal Care residents have been vaccinated at St. John’s Herr Estate.
In the meantime, as vaccine hesitancy remains a concern nationwide and we work toward reopening our communities more fully, we are continually educating our team members and residents on the importance of becoming inoculated. Anecdotally, we heard there were a number of team members who did not want to be first to be vaccinated, and they are now choosing to be vaccinated after seeing colleagues, friends or family members receive it.
In partnership with Phoebe Pharmacy, we continue to hold regular on-site vaccination clinics for new residents and newly hired team members, as well as current residents and staff now wishing to receive the vaccine. We are also planning to offer prospective Independent Living residents who are part of our Priority Wait Lists and General Wait Lists the option to receive the vaccine at one of our clinics, and more information will be shared soon.
We continue to urge our residents, team members and the greater community to remain diligent in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus by following COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Keep practicing the 3 W’s: Wear a mask, Wash your Hands, Watch your distance. Our residents are required to wear masks when leaving apartments or cottages, when going to the store, or anytime they may come into contact with others.
Regarding visitation, those planning to visit a loved one at a Luthercare community must check in at a screening location when arriving to a Luthercare campus. Visitors who fail to meet the screening requirements will be asked to return when symptoms resolve or cleared by a physician. All visitors should wear a mask, maintain a physical distance, and practice infection control measures. We appreciate your patience as we make changes to follow our state and federal guidelines.
If you have questions regarding vaccination schedules, visitation or the reopening status of your loved one’s community, please contact the Executive Director of that campus. They are:
Luther Acres Executive Director Craig Shelly, 717.626.1171
St. John’s Herr Estate Executive Director Anita Martin, 717.684.0678
Spang Crest Executive Director Dan Deitzel, 717.274.1495
There are no known cases of COVID-19 among residents and team members on the campus. The Healthcare Center is now in the Green Zone, while the Rehab to Home center, with short-term rehab residents, remains in the Yellow Zone. This week, communal dining, salon services, small group activities, and scheduled family visitations have resumed.
In Personal Care, resident visitation may begin taking place in resident apartments beginning next week. Outdoor visitations are also available.
For Independent Living residents, additional reopening plans consistent with current state guidelines will be shared with residents next week.
St. John’s Herr Estate
An Independent Living resident who previously tested positive for the virus continues to quarantine in their residence. There are no cases of COVID-19 among Personal Care residents or team members. All Personal Care residents and team members were tested this week per recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to Lancaster County’s positivity rate, and those results were negative.
In Personal Care, visitors are required to call 717.449.5996 to schedule a visitation time. Visiting hours will be held daily from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Spang Crest had one confirmed positive case among a Healthcare Center team member last week. All residents were tested last week and again this week, and all results were negative. Due to Lebanon County’s positivity rate, testing will continue twice a week for all team members, adhering to the regulatory standards regarding continued universal testing from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The first and second floors, as well as Personal Care, are in the Green Zone, and the third floor is expected to become a Green Zone on Monday, April 26. Communal dining, salon services and in-person visitation will resume as usual next week.
Founded in 1949, Luthercare, a social ministry organization affiliated with the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a member of Lutheran Services in America, is a leading provider of independent, personal care and skilled care residences in Lancaster and Lebanon counties. Luthercare operates Luther Acres, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Lititz, Pa.; Spang Crest, a rehabilitation center, skilled nursing and memory support personal care community in Lebanon, Pa.; and St. John’s Herr Estate, an independent living and personal care community in Columbia, Pa. Additionally, Luthercare operates PA Keystone Stars-accredited child care and early learning centers in Marietta, Reamstown and Annville. Luthercare, a pioneer in Child Care Programs, also offers a Mentoring Program, which aids home-based child care providers in Lebanon and Lancaster counties.