The new head of Haines’ seniors home says she’s working to safeguard its residents from the current COVID outbreak. And as KHNS’ Corinne Smith reports, the administrator says it’s about juggling safety with community and well-being for elderly residents as they head into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christy Long is the new administrator of Haines Assisted Living, but she’s not new to town.
“I’ve been doing this type of work forever. I have both my bachelor’s and my master’s degree in social work, my master’s is in management and administration,” she said. “And I was actually in graduate school in Seattle when I came to Haines to visit my college roommate, and fell in love with the place and finished grad school and then moved to Haines.”
She spent the better part of a decade in Haines in the 1990s working various administration jobs – she said she worked 13 jobs in Haines over 10 years – but eventually moved to Juneau in 2000.
“I didn’t want to leave (Haines) in the first place. And economics kind of drove that engine,” she said. “So we moved south, ended up in Juneau, with our intention to come back to Haines. And as things go, I raised my son in Juneau, and he just left for college in August. And then in October, I got a text from a friend that said, the current administrator at HAL was retiring in January, and I better get on it. So I did.”
During that time in Juneau, Long worked in various regional and state care coordinator positions, and most recently for the last year at the Juneau Pioneer Home. It’s a state-run assisted living facility serving roughly 50 residents.
Long stepped into the administrator role at Haines’ senior assisted living facility this month, as the community is seeing a surge of COVID cases. The state is reporting 43 new COVID cases in the Haines Borough over the last week, from January 14 to January 21.
“Right now we’re in what I call our yellow zone,” Long said. “And that’s when it’s like 2% to 5% of the population. So for Haines, that would be 50 to 125 people. And that’s where I’m assuming we are now, you know, we can take the current numbers, and in my head, I just double them. Because there’s a lot not being reported. So just to be safe, I double that number, and we’re still in the low to moderate range.”
There are currently just four residents in the 10-room facility. And visitors are currently welcome at HAL, which Long says is crucial for its residents’ well-being.
All care facilities who take Medicare and Medicaid must allow indoor visits with residents, per federal law.
Visitors are all screened at the door, with temperature and symptom checks, and required to wear a mask. If needed, they can take a rapid COVID test as an extra precaution.
“So we’ve got systems in place,” she said. “And it’s been really nice. So there’s been visitors coming in. And, yeah, it’s the isolation for our elders. It’s just been horrible.”
Long says their 13 staff members take safety precautions, and they are now able to provide rapid COVID testing as needed.
“They take their temperature every day, they sign the standard COVID questionnaire,” she said. “And they’re really good. I mean, if somebody so much as has a sniffle they either stay home, or they ask me if they can come and test. I’ve had staff that have a sibling or a parent that isn’t feeling well. And I’ll test them a couple days in a row to make sure. So we’ve got systems in place.”
She says they partner with the SEARHC clinic to provide medical care, the Haines Senior Center for meal delivery or transportation, and bring in services like a hair-dresser as needed.
Long says staff are not required to be vaccinated at this time, but that will likely change in the future with federal requirements.
For now, she says she’s working to create more activities and social time for residents, with COVID precautions in place, and they welcome visitors and volunteers from the community.