Atria Senior Living: COVID-19 testing protects the most vulnerable
Atria Senior Living has more than 200 communities in the United States and Canada, including 22 buildings within a 25-mile radius of Times Square in New York City — ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.
In early 2020, when most of the world was still struggling to understand how COVID-19 would affect their lives, Atria leaders were taking steps to protect their more than 31,000 residents and staff across multiple states.
“We knew we didn’t have nearly what we needed to face this,” said John Moore, chairman and CEO of Atria Senior Living. “There was a lot of talk about testing in March and April, but no real, viable solutions.” Then he reached out to Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
“I explained we wanted to do a full baseline test of all our staff. More than 17,000 tests,” said Moore. “They said yes.”
By the numbers
average time test results were delivered
PCR tests performed
time it took to set up comprehensive testing program
About 10 days later, testing began. By May 10, all frontline staff had been tested, and those with positive results were advised to stay home. This ultra-fast implementation was possible because Mayo Clinic Laboratories had the infrastructure and capabilities to mobilize quickly. This included an information technology solution for Atria to place test orders and receive results, and a courier to pick up and transport the specimens to Mayo for testing. Mayo Clinic Laboratories also provided training for Atria on setting up and executing testing clinics; properly collecting specimens; and packaging and shipping the tests. And, at a time when testing supplies were at a premium, Mayo Clinic Laboratories provided thousands of shipping boxes, cool packs, bar code labels, testing media, swabbing materials, tubes, and more.
As the pandemic progressed, state testing requirements for senior living centers began to increase and vary from state to state. Because Atria already had implemented a testing and contact tracing program, they were able to react quickly and flexibly to the changing guidelines. Mayo Clinic Laboratories provided additional testing capacity as requirements became more stringent, while maintaining an average turnaround time of 2.4 days.
“Atria and Mayo Clinic Laboratories were able to work together to make a positive impact on the lives of residents and their families during one of the most challenging times in the history of health care,” said John Moore, chairman and CEO of Atria Senior Living.
During the second wave of the pandemic in the U.S., Atria applied lessons learned to ramp up testing protocols quickly for regional outbreaks. They classified locations as either moderate-exposure markets (MEM) or high-exposure markets (HEM), based on statistical indicators used by the Harvard Global Health Institute, and implemented periodic surveillance testing for Atria communities in MEM and HEM locations.
“We can set up a full-building test within hours if needed,” said Mark Alexander, senior executive vice president of Atria, “and we receive real-time, actionable data. There are protocols in place so that if you go over a certain percent positivity, it warrants a full-building test, and an even higher percent is a full-building quarantine. Good data enables you to respond.”
The data strongly suggests that Atria’s early testing helped them recover, perhaps more quickly than the general public. Graph 2 shows that Atria was able to flatten the disease curve, especially during the third wave of COVID-19 cases in the December-January time frame.
With vaccinations increasing and disease activity waning, the amount of testing needed every month has continued to drop since December 2020. “We are heading towards making our communities an even tighter bubble of safety with vaccines,” said Moore. “We are now considering other ways to use testing to improve the lives of our residents, keep our employees safe, and make our business better.”
All photos provided by Atria Senior Living
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When most of the world was still struggling to understand how COVID-19 would affect their lives, Atria Senior Living took steps to protect their vulnerable residents and staff.