News and Updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Westminster Communities of Florida is actively monitoring the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and taking a variety of preventive, precautionary steps to ensure the safety of our communities. The health and wellbeing of our residents and team members is our top priority. We will be updating this page with additional information and communication to residents and their families here, as well as on MyWLife and via mail, e-mail and posting in the communities.

COVID-19 Letter to Team Members

March 15, 2021

Today, we published a letter to our team members from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis, regarding COVID-19 vaccines for team members and the state of Westminster after a year of living with the pandemic.

Dear team members,

This month marks one year since COVID-19 first began to affect Westminster. In that time, your actions have been truly remarkable. We have had to change so many things affecting our work and the lives of the residents.

We want to thank you for your dedication and commitment to the Mission of Westminster Communities of Florida. I am so thankful that all of you are here and caring for the residents we serve. Together throughout this pandemic, we have put the safety and wellbeing of residents and team members first.

We have been blessed that our communities have been less impacted by the pandemic than many others. I credit this to you. You have been diligent in taking safety precautions, have been routinely tested, and have worked tirelessly to support our residents.

We strongly encourage you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. More than 1,200 of our fellow team members have now received the vaccine safely, along with more than 5,000 residents. New research from the U.S. Center for Disease Control shows that those of us who have had the vaccine may now safely gather and enjoy more normalcy in our lives. It is now more vital than ever and more beneficial to all of us that we take the vaccine. In addition to protecting the residents and your family, we will be able to spend time with our friends and families, safely. We continue to offer an incentive for team members who receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with a $200 gift card after your second dose and another $200 three months after receiving the vaccine. The Westminster Pharmacy expects to receive vaccines for our team members soon. More information will be available in the near future. If you have not already received the vaccine, we hope you will “Say Yes to The Vaccine” when it is available to you.

It is vitally important that we all continue to use good safety practices. Please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, use good hand hygiene and take safety precautions, both at work and at home. This will continue to protect the residents and all of our fellow team members.

We are going to come out of this stronger than ever, as a team. In the meantime, stay focused and stay well.

Sincerely,

Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

You can find a downloadable version of the Letter here:

COVID-19 Letter to Independent Living Residents

March 3, 2021

Today, we published a letter to Independent Living residents from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis, regarding changes in procedure after COVID-19 vaccines.

Dear residents,

Over the last year, we have been through quite a lot together, dealing with COVID-19. We are not out of the woods yet, and we must maintain our guard until the spread of this virus is under control. There are strong reasons for optimism, with vaccinations increasing, but we must continue to be cautious.

  • More than 6,000 residents and team members have now received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and many have now received the second. We are continuing to offer team members an incentive of up to $400 to receive the vaccine.
  • The science on the effectiveness of vaccines is developing, and scientists are finding that the current vaccines do provide some effectiveness against new COVID-19 strains. They also appear to limit both symptoms and transmission.
  • Many more vaccine doses are expected to be available in the next few months.

As Florida and the U.S. continue to reduce our risk with millions of shots given each day, we find ourselves looking ahead with relief. We have been rolling out new safety procedures, as the residents receive their second vaccine and reach their maximum level of immunity. For example, we are now:

  • Welcoming in-home visitors to residents in Independent Living and Assisted Living at all times, so long as residents and their visitors practice social distancing;
  • Permitting indoor activity with a capacity of up to 50, based on providing 6 feet of distance;
  • Working to reopen all of our dining rooms for in-person service, with social distancing and capacity restrictions still in place;
  • Lifting our quarantine restrictions for residents who have been vaccinated, including for new residents moving in and those who have traveled domestically by air; and
  • Allowing residents who have been vaccinated to resume volunteering throughout the community, while wearing appropriate protective equipment for the level of care.

We will continue to identify opportunities to adjust restrictions, while we measure our safety efforts.

Nevertheless we must not claim victory over COVID-19. We still have to concern ourselves with the risk of new variants and pandemic fatigue. We urge you to continue to be cautious and practice social distancing, to wear a mask whenever you leave your home, and to avoid large groups. We are all our brothers’ keepers, and we have to act together to keep everyone safe.

Lastly, we want to celebrate our team members for their truly heroic efforts in adapting and protecting you and all of the residents we serve, throughout this pandemic. We hope you will join us in thanking them for their dedication to the Mission of Westminster Communities of Florida.

Sincerely,

Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

You can find a downloadable version of the Letter here:

COVID-19 Letter to Independent Living Residents

January 26, 2021

Today, we published a letter to Independent Living residents from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis, regarding our COVID-19 vaccine progress and new safety measures.

Dear residents,

It is with a sense of relief and a view to better times ahead that today we can celebrate the COVID-19 vaccines that have been scheduled for residents at all of our Life Plan Communities and many of our Rental Retirement Communities. Nearly 3,700 residents throughout the state have already received at least their first dose.

We are now re-evaluating how our practices and safety measures will be altered as each community approaches what epidemiologists refer to as “herd immunity.” Our goal is to achieve herd immunity at each community for added safety, while the greater population slowly moves toward it for the United States as a whole.

We continue to urge our team members to “Say Yes to The Vaccine,” through education on its importance, safety and its benefits to them and to you. To date we have more than 1,000 team members who have received the vaccine. We will encourage them to keep receiving it, knowing the impact that this has on all of our safety.

Westminster is well aware of the spread of new variants of COVID-19 and we are monitoring for what affect it may have on our communities and any necessary safety measures that may be required. We are committed to ongoing communication with you, and will ensure that we keep you up-to-date on any new developments.

In the meantime, it is important to continue practicing social distancing and taking safety precautions, regardless of vaccine status. The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use do not confer full immunity until several weeks after the second dose.

Thank you for your support, understanding and patience throughout the last year. This has been a truly unprecedented time in our history, and we are all in this together.

Please join me in hoping for better days ahead.

Sincerely,

Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

You can find a downloadable version of the Letter here:

COVID-19 Letter to Independent Living Residents

January 8, 2021

Today, we published a letter to Independent Living residents from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis, regarding our COVID-19 vaccine progress.

Dear residents,

Today, we are writing to you with an update on the COVID-19 vaccine program. Westminster Communities of Florida continues to advocate, along with LeadingAge Florida and FLiCRA, for the Governor to provide for Independent Living residents at CCRCs to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the same phase as Assisted Living residents.

It is important for all of us to keep in mind that circumstances are very fluid, and we are doing our best. We are working with our local Departments of Health and pharmacy providers to make the vaccines available once released, and important to understand that ultimately they are making decisions regarding vaccine distribution.

Here are a few facts about how quickly this has developed:

  • More than 1,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered to Westminster residents and team members, mostly in the Health Center, all throughout
    the state.
  • Nine of our communities have held the first vaccine clinic for Health Center residents and team members. Three communities have had vaccines for Assisted Living as determined by their local health departments.
  • This week, Westminster Manor in Bradenton was the first community to receive the vaccine for residents in all levels of care.

As more information becomes available about these vaccine clinics, your Executive Director will be in touch. We encourage you to consider now whether you wish to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you.

While this news gives us more reasons to be optimistic about brighter days ahead, we urge you to continue to use caution in your daily life. Remember that even once you have received the vaccine, full immunity may not take effect until after the second dose.

Thank you for your continued trust in us throughout the last year. Join us in looking forward to a better 2021!

Sincerely,
Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

You can find a downloadable version of the Letter here:

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

December 30, 2020

Today we are pleased to inform residents, team members and their families that in the near future, all residents and team members at our active living communities, including for Independent Living, Assisted Living and the Health Center, will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as part of the next phase of the state’s rollout.

Because our communities serve residents with multiple levels of care, Governor DeSantis and the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) have included all residents and team members as part of the next phase.

The safety of our team members and residents is our top priority, as it has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Westminster Communities of Florida is preparing for and actively receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for residents and team members in our Health Centers, as provided by the State of Florida.

So far, six communities have already received COVID-19 vaccines. Please join us in sharing our thanks to the many Health Center residents and team members at Westminster Palms, Westminster St. Augustine, Westminster Suncoast, Westminster Towers and Westminster Woods on Julington Creek who received the vaccine. In addition, residents and team members at Westminster Village, in Pensacola, were given their first vaccines yesterday. In total, more than 400 vaccine doses have been given.

Today we are publishing a letter to all residents from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis. To read the full letter, click the link below:

Westminster Towers Team Members Say Yes to The Vaccine

December 29, 2020

Westminster Towers’ Health Center was pleased to be among the first skilled nursing facilities selected to receive the COVID-19 vaccine recently. They were administered for the residents and team members in our Health Center. Our team members made a video sharing their stories and encouraging others to “Say Yes to The Vaccine.” We especially thank the team members who received the vaccine for their heroic efforts in serving throughout this pandemic, as well as the Department of Health for their support in protecting our most vulnerable residents.

We hope you enjoy this encouraging video from the Westminster Towers team about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Letters to Residents

December 21, 2020

Today, we are publishing letters to our residents from Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis. In it, Hennis writes, "We can see that brighter days are ahead of us. The long-awaited day has arrived, and COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in Florida. It finally appears that, someday soon, the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us."

To read these letters, please click on the link below:

Letter to Residents

Westminster Suncoast Health Center Residents And Employees Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

December 17, 2020

Community Is 1st to Receive Vaccine In Westminster; Brighter Days Ahead Amid Pandemic

Carmille Walker Receiving First Vaccine Shot

Today, Westminster Suncoast was honored to be selected by the Florida Department of Health - Pinellas County to be among the first communities to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine, for the residents and team members in our Health Center.

Tom Sutton, Westminster Suncoast Executive Director, said that the entire team was pleased to be providing additional safety for those most vulnerable older adults. “The residents who live in the Health Center and our team members who care for them have been on the front lines of this pandemic since the beginning,” Sutton said. “We especially thank the team members who received the vaccine for their heroic efforts in serving throughout this pandemic.”

The first shot was given to Carmille Walker, a CNA with more than 16 years of experience. Carmille was our first team member to say yes to having the COVID-19 vaccine.

Westminster Suncoast was the first community in the family of Westminster Communities of Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — but the organization is already looking ahead to visits in the coming weeks to provide the vaccine, which will be coordinated by the state and federal government, for residents of skilled nursing facilities throughout the United States.

Westminster Communities of Florida strongly encourages our team members to have the vaccine and help enhance the safety of the residents we serve. To learn more about the steps Westminster has taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 resources page on our website.

A Thanksgiving Letter from COO Garry Hennis

November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving Letter from Chief Operating Officer, Garry Hennis
Today, Garry D. Hennis, the Chief Operating Officer for Westminster Communities of Florida, shares with us his Thanksgiving letter to our team members. He reflects on the challenging times that we are experiencing, and reminds us to be thankful for all of the blessing we have in life. Read the letter below.

Thanksgiving Letter to Team Members

Dear team members,

Many times throughout our country’s history we have celebrated Thanksgiving amid challenging times. In our earliest celebration, the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans gathered together to share thanks for a bountiful harvest, because it meant they would have food for the coming winter.

This year we will celebrate Thanksgiving with gratitude in our hearts. We are thankful for our health, as well as for our family and friends — but we acknowledge that some families may have empty seats at the table.

This sacrifice by millions of Americans, to avoid gathering to minimize the spread andrisk of the deadly virus, is being made to safeguard older adults, like those we serve, with the ultimate goal that they will have future years to celebrate.

It is our hope that next year, we will be giving thanks for a vaccine and the end of this deadly pandemic.

I have been truly grateful for your continued commitment to our Mission this year, amid the biggest threat of our lifetime. You are taking many important actions for safety, knowing that each of us is our brother’s keeper: You come to work and don protective equipment. You practice social distancing at work and at home, and avoid large gatherings. You bear the enormous responsibility of saving lives each and every day.

No matter whether you are a nurse, a housekeeper, a maintenance tech, a chef or any of the many roles in our community, what you do serves our Mission and honors God.

In Deuteronomy 31, God reassures the Israelites not to fear, for He will always guide them: “Be strong and of good courage; do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God that goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” We know that our work is guided by Him. Like God’s word, the Westminster Mission guides us to serve those in need through our service.

This season of Thanksgiving gives us opportunity to reflect on the many blessings we have in our lives. I thank each of you for being a major blessing in our residents’ lives and ask you to join me in giving thanks for our many blessings.

On behalf of the leadership team, I wish you and your family a safe and promising Thanksgiving.

Sincerely,

Garry D. Hennis
Chief Operating Officer

November 19: U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Urging Nursing Homes to Follow Established COVID Guidelines This Holiday Season

November 19, 2020

This news release is republished from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS Urging Nursing Homes to Follow Established COVID Guidelines This Holiday Season 

Today, in advance of the approaching holiday season, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is urging nursing home staff, residents and visitors to follow established guidelines for visitation and adherence to the core principles of infection prevention. These guidelines include remaining six feet apart from individuals, wearing a face covering, and limiting the number of visitors in the nursing home at any one time. Adherence to these principles is critical in preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in America’s nursing homes. While the holiday season is typically a time for family and friends to gather, CMS implores staff, residents and visitors to exercise extreme caution this year. 

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, progress on a vaccine is proceeding at a pace worthy of the name Operation Warp Speed. Nevertheless, the approaching holiday season remains fraught with danger for the vulnerable residents of America’s nursing homes,” said Administrator Seema Verma. “They have already endured loss and loneliness to a degree that would have been unthinkable before this year began, but they and their families – along with facilities themselves – must not let their guard down over the holiday season, especially with a safe and effective vaccine so close to reality.”

The agency understands the emotional and mental health impact that separation from loved ones during the pandemic has caused. In September, CMS provided guidance for how residents can safely receive visitors in the nursing home. With the holiday season approaching, residents will want to spend more time with their loved ones, and CMS is recommending that facilities find innovative ways of recognizing the holidays without having parties or gatherings that could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission (e.g., virtual parties or visits).

CMS also acknowledges that some residents may want to leave the nursing home temporarily to visit with family and friends for the holidays, or for other outings.  A resident has the right to leave the nursing home, and CMS urges that extra precautions be taken to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, which poses an elevated danger to the health of nursing home residents.  Nursing homes should double down on infection control and adhere to testing requirements.

Extra precautions taken now will help to ensure that our loved ones stay healthy and safe for the short amount of time remaining until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available.  Leaving the nursing home could increase a resident’s risk for exposure to COVID-19. The risk may be further increased by factors such as a resident’s health status, the level of COVID-19 in the community (e.g., cases or positivity rate), or attendance at large gatherings. Residents are encouraged to discuss these and other risks with their family and nursing home staff.  Nursing homes should educate residents and families of the risks of leaving the facility, the steps they should take to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, and encourage residents can stay connected with loved ones through alternative means of communication, such as phone and video communication. 

To view the alert, please visit: CMS’ current emergencies page: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/Emergency/EPRO/Current-Emergencies/Current-Emergencies-page

or here:  https://www.cms.gov/files/document/covid-facility-holiday-recommendations.pdf

 
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