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Charlotte nursing home makes major changes to protect residents from COVID-19

Sharon Towers has made several operational changes as the staff works to protect its 350 residents from coronavirus.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The sign in front of the Sharon Towers long-term care facility in Charlotte speaks for itself: Heroes work here. 

As nursing homes and long-term care facilities have become hot spots for COVID-19, the staff at Sharon Towers has made major changes in their efforts to keep the 350 residents as safe as possible from coronavirus, which has threatened similar facilities across the country. 

"This is life or death for the people who live in long-term care facilities," said Jessica Bourque, the director of vitality and well-being at Sharon Towers. "So for them, this is serious."

The staff at Sharon Towers quickly made operational changes to isolate residents from each other and so far, they haven't had an outbreak. According to data released by Mecklenburg County Tuesday, over half the county's 63 COVID-19 deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities. 

"Anything you can think of to physically keep them as safe as possible but to also stay connected and stay busy during this time has been important to all of us," Bourque said. 

There's a sink by the front door; anyone who goes inside washes their hands first and employees are screened for coronavirus symptoms and get their temperature taken every day. Employees and residents showing symptoms of COVID-19 are tested. Meals are delivered three times a day and they're donig what they can to keep their staff out of the grocery store. 

"We want to be safe. We don't want team members going out shopping at grocery stores because there's a risk there," said Milton McGowian, director of culinary at Sharon Towers. "We decided to implement a grocery store program. It's an electronic form. The link goes to every resident and employee."

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Ensuring residents have a good quality of life has also been a top priority. The staff has delivered treats and all normal activities are now virtual. This has led to creative thinking to keep coronavirus at bay as long as possible. 

"It's impossible to say we are going to keep everybody safe through this whole thing but we can say that we have tried our best and have implemented as many things as safe as we can," Bourque said. 

On Monday, the White House recommended that all nursing home residents be tested. That process has already started in South Carolina. Officials at Sharon Towers are anticipating new protocol and are getting ready for that change here in North Carolina. 

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