Now that Governor Wolf is planning to move Chester County into the “Green” category on June 26, Kendal too has begun to cautiously loosen its restrictions. So far, the changes are limited. CEO Lisa Marsilia outlined them in a June 4 memo and provided additional detail in memos on June 9 and June 16, and in a June 19 Zoom “forum”.

The changes reflect what we’ve come to know about the Covid-19 virus: it is mostly transmitted by breathing air exhaled by infected individuals. That means (among other things) that physical distance is important, air flow is important, and masks are important.

Careful resumption of indoor activities. Some important indoor activities are being resumed, but in a carefully controlled way. In-person medical appointments with our health center, which were discouraged in non-emergency cases, can now be made—but you must make an appointment (no walk-ins) and you will be subject to a health screening on arrival. Similarly, our Rehabilitative Services department will resume treating urgent cases, by appointment. Our fitness center (in a separate structure from our Center) can now be used, but you must schedule your visit using a smart-phone app (or by calling). Starting June 15, our indoor pool has been available, by appointment, for only one resident at a time.

These restrictions on indoor activities make sense, since most Covid-19 infections occur indoors (from shared air).

The administration is exploring with the relevant resident committees what the options may be for reopening the library, the art and pottery areas, the weaving room, the woodshop, and other Center facilities. Procedures will have to be established around cleaning, distancing, mask-wearing, and so on. Donna Taylor, who is spearheading this process, reported in the June 19 forum that there may be some first steps in these areas after the July 4 holiday.

Outdoors: a little less restrictive. Outdoor exercise classes are beginning, and tennis (singles and doubles), croquet, bocce, and putting are OK, as long as distance is maintained and equipment is not shared. Our outdoor pool reopened June 15 (by appointment) for 10 people at a time. Swimmers and sunbathers have to maintain appropriate distance and, when out of the water, wear masks.

Most restrictions remain. The changes listed above are welcome, but (for me at least) won’t change things in a major way. No part of the Center has reopened so far. For the foreseeable future, we still won’t be able to visit people in the skilled nursing and personal care wings. We’ll still be eating at home, with one meal a day delivered to us. No outside visitors will be allowed except in extreme cases, and housekeeping services are mostly still on hold. And of course, we’ll still be wearing masks and staying six feet apart when we venture outdoors. The dining room will remain off limits, but there may soon be some options for outdoor dining with social distancing.

Marketing amid Covid-19. During the forum, Helene Quinones, our director of Sales & Marketing, reported on the ways her department is coping with our prohibition on visitors. Our online marketing has been increased dramatically. There are video tours of available units, professional staging and photography of a hard-to-sell apartment, and on-line events for both lead generation (for people responding to direct mail and electronic media) and lead nurturing (cultivating prospects who have already expressed an interest). Salesforce software is used to track and manage prospects. Hubspot software is used to provide automated and semi-automated responses to those who respond to online media. And there are new print materials as well.  As a result of these activities, four units have been sold at Kendal and Crosslands without the occupant ever setting foot here, an impressive feat.

As restrictions are gradually relaxed, a number of people who were ready to move in prior to our lockdown have finally done so (including four here at Kendal). They face a two-week quarantine—basically confinement to their apartments—before they can get out and explore.

There are still long wait times here. There are hundreds on the “Priority List” (people who have put down a deposit) and dozens on the “Ready List” (medically and financially qualified and ready to move in if they are offered a place they like). Presently, if you just want a one-bedroom unit, the wait time is just months; but you would wait years if you wanted one of the largest ones.

Still no indication of Covid-19 among residents. As I noted in a previous post, there was a presumptive Covid-19 case at Crosslands, but it turned out to be a false positive. There is no indication of any cases among residents here at Kendal, although there have now been 6 among Kendal staff (including two asymptomatic cases discovered during our “universal testing” process).

We now have several weeks of data from our sewage testing. Each report has come back “no Covid-19 detected”. That is reassuring, but we aren’t yet certain exactly what it means. The sensitivity of the test is such that as few as 1,600 copies of the virus can be detected in a liter of sewage. But what does that mean for us? Would the test pick up a single case, or would multiple cases be required to reach that concentration of virus? We are waiting for an answer from the testing company, and I will report on that in a future post.

For many environments where this type of testing is used, the important question is whether the number of cases is growing or shrinking, and this technique apparently answers that question well. For us, however, the important question is whether or not we have any cases. We don’t yet know if it can answer that question.

Looking ahead. Without a vaccine or a treatment for Covid-19, we are dependent on isolation measures to prevent an outbreak here. As long as there continue to be new cases in the surrounding area, it’s hard to see how some of the remaining restrictions can be lifted. In particular, it seems unlikely we’ll be able to get together indoors in sizeable groups. If so, we won’t be dining together or attending auditorium events any time soon.

Meanwhile, our surrounding area is continuing to reopen. The governor announced on June 19 that Chester County is on track to move to Green status on June 26. That will mean (among other things) that retail businesses can open (with mask-wearing and other restrictions), that people can travel freely, and that outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people can resume.

That is good news for businesses in the county, but it all but guarantees that Covid-19 will continue its spread. And for us, that means we can’t let down our guard. We still have a long struggle ahead to keep the virus out.