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Amid growing concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the increased risk for the elderly and immunocompromised, local caregiving communities and organizations are taking extra measures to protect Sarasota’s older residents. Precautions include canceling meetings and activities, limiting visitors, and even screening people as they enter campuses and facilities. 

Stratum Health System, which includes Tidewell Hospice and other southwest Florida caregiving companies, is limiting visitors at its assisted-living and long-term care facilities to clinical staff only. Hospice house visitors are advised to call ahead, as there are also increased limitations at the eight Tidewell houses.

Plymouth Harbor has provided residents with a comprehensive plan, which includes daily screenings for everyone who arrives at the campus—up to and including president and CEO Harry Hobson. “I’ve got this blue wristband that tells everybody who looks at me, I got screened by our safety officers before I was allowed to go to my workspace,” Hobson explained in a video on Plymouth Harbor’s website. He added that there are currently no cases of coronavirus on campus, and no one has been isolated with a suspected infection.

The screening includes questions about international travel within the last 14 days, respiratory symptoms, as well as a body temperature check. Anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will not be allowed on campus.

Plymouth administrators are conducting daily meetings with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging to stay on top of national news and best practices.

Hobson is also advising residents to reach out to Plymouth Harbor leadership in order to quell rumors and misinformation. “These are the kinds of things that I know will fester,” he says. “When [you hear a rumor], please reach out, and we will be as transparent as we possibly can.”

But with the current international practice of “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus, there is also concern about the effect this may have on mental health, especially among the elderly.

“We are very sensitive to social isolation, and we’re trying to address that,” says Hobson. “We’re working with our wellness department to keep some good activities going.”

The Friendship Centers of Sarasota has launched a hotline for seniors (941-556-3208) that pairs callers with a volunteer in order to combat isolation caused by coronavirus precautions.

The Pines of Sarasota is providing residents with access and assistance in using computer stations, and encouraging family members to arrange Skype calls as an alternative to in-person visits.

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