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'Very difficult on our residents': NC senior living community taking 'extreme action' against coronavirus

For health and safety reasons, our WFMY News 2 team was only allowed to visit outside areas and the initial entry to the main building at Homestead Hills.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases accelerates daily in North Carolina, senior living communities like Homestead Hills in Winston-Salem are taking health and safety precautions to the extreme to keep their residents safe.

The community's executive director Jay Matthews says the average age of Homestead Hills' residents is 80 years old. And that's within the age range of people sickened with COVID-19 most likely to suffer severe illness or death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

For health and safety reasons, our WFMY News 2 team was only allowed to visit outside areas and the initial entry to the main building at Homestead Hills.

Among the daily precautions that began two weeks ago are cancellation of all group activities, restriction of communal dining, warning signs posted all throughout the entrances, daily staff temperature checks and screenings, visitors restrictions, and stockpiles of food and supplies. Employees have also undergone additional training to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

And thankfully so far, there have been no cases of the virus reported at Homestead Hills.

"It's been very difficult on our residents. We thrive on activities and doing outings and special events and a lot of those things have been stopped," said Matthews. "We are trying to get creative. We are coming up with some plans to have some music and things outdoors where people can hear those things through their window."

Matthews says meals are being delivered right to residents' doors to avoid contact between people.

"To the greatest extent we can limit the traffic flow and visitors in our community, the safer we will be. We are constantly monitoring our residents for any kind of changes in conditions. Those are things we would be doing anyway, but we are very heightened at this point," said Matthews.

The facility also ordered a three-month stockpile of food and cleaning supplies as soon as it was clear that coronavirus would spread to the United States.

"Those things are holding up pretty well right now. We have a large stockpile of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, along with masks and gowns," said Matthews.

What's most difficult is adjusting to the new normal under the threat of coronavirus, said Matthews.

"Especially for folks that are our clients' age, any kind of change is a very difficult thing to undergo. Routines are very very part of our day to day life here. And so it's a constant reinforcement," said Matthews.

editors note: a previous version of this article incorrectly listed the name of the facility as "Hampstead Hills." The errata has been corrected.