Benchmark's (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some answers to commonly asked questions about Benchmark’s protocols and general information about COVID-19.
Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) first arrived in the United States, it has disproportionately impacted older people and those with underlying medical conditions. During the pandemic, Benchmark has enacted a proactive approach to protecting the health – physical, mental, and emotional – of our residents and associates.
Benchmark has also been committed to providing timely communications regarding the virus and our steps to mitigate its spread. We’ve gathered a wide range of resources on our web site at Benchmark Coronavirus Resource Center. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions, ranging in topics from COVID-19 vaccinations to infection control protocols.
If your question isn’t answered here, please email us at email@example.com. We will respond within 24 hours. Questions regarding specific residents or situations should be directed to your community’s Executive Director.
FAQs By Topic
COVID-19 Vaccinations (Spanish Version) (French Creole Version)
Visitors & Move-In Protocols
Infection Control & Mitigation
Associate Training & Policies
How is the vaccine given?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is injected into the muscle in two doses, approximately three weeks apart. The second dose is needed to complete the vaccination series. Both doses need to be from the same manufacturer. The Johnson & Johnson is a one-dose vaccine.
Can I get COVID-19 between the first and second dose?
Yes. It takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. A person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
How does the vaccine work?
COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response without the risk of severe illness. COVID-19 vaccination is a safer way to build protection than acquiring the virus and building natural immunity, as the virus can cause severe illness and even death.
Will the vaccine make me sick?
The vaccine has gone through testing and clinical trials to ensure it meets the highest safety standards. Experts note that there could be mild side effects of the vaccine, typically no worse than you would experience from the flu vaccine. You may have tenderness in your arm where the vaccine was administered and possibly flu-like symptoms, typically following the second dose. These side effects are normal and may last up to 48 hours:
- injection site pain
- injection site swelling
- injection site redness
- muscle pain
- • chills
- • feeling unwell
- joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
Aren’t there more serious adverse reactions for some people?
As with all medical decisions, you should consult your doctor if you have any concerns, since your doctor knows your specific medical history and situation. There is a rare severe allergic reaction caused by the vaccine, which may occur shortly after receiving a dose of the vaccine.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of your face and throat
- A fast heartbeat
- A rash all over your body
- Dizziness and weakness
How about long-term side effects?
This is currently unknown.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No. The vaccine does not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
It sounds like the drug companies really rushed this. How do I know it is safe?
Because of the urgency and need, the vaccine was fast-tracked by the government, while also maintaining the usual safety measures, we’ve been assured. Researchers used existing networks to conduct COVID-19 vaccine trials. Manufacturing began while clinical trials were still underway so we would be better prepared once the safety of the vaccine was confirmed. Normally, manufacturing doesn’t begin until after the trials.
My loved one had COVID-19. Does she still need the vaccine?
Yes. Getting the virus that causes COVID-19 may offer some natural protection, known as immunity. But experts don’t know how long this protection lasts. People may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have already had the virus. This is because a person can become infected with the virus more than once.
Is Benchmark mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for your associates?
The vaccine is not a requirement for employment, at this time. Like most senior living communities, as well as hospitals, Benchmark is strongly recommending the vaccine to employees, not mandating. We have an ongoing campaign to educate and promote taking the vaccine to our associates.
Is the vaccine free or do I need insurance?
The vaccination is provided without cost to all residents and associates. The cost of the vaccine itself is covered by the federal government. CVS will bill Medicare or your insurer for administration costs, but you will not have to pay any copays. In order to bill the public or private insurers, CVS will need you to sign a consent form and provide a copy of the front and back of your insurance card. A government fund will cover the needs of the uninsured.
Will Benchmark still have COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place, even after vaccines are administered?
Yes. We will continue to follow our current infection prevention measures, including use of PPE, following state regulations and administering testing. Infection prevention will remain a top priority even after the clinics are completed. Risk stratification, appropriate PPE, and testing will remain as is until directed otherwise by our regulators.
How do you work with residents who want to take a trip outside their communities?
If residents leave their communities for a few hours, we encourage them to follow social distance guidelines and wear a mask. When returning, residents of most communities will be:
- Screened by our associates but will not be asked to self-quarantine.
- Asked to self-quarantine if they exhibit symptoms or report a potential exposure.
If residents choose to stay outside the community overnight, we encourage them to follow social distance guidelines and wear a mask. When returning, residents will be:
- Offered to have a COVID-19 test three days after they return and strongly encouraged to follow recommended self-quarantine protocols until a negative test result is received. They will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days if exposed or exhibiting symptoms.
Our current and prospective residents’ families are valued members of Benchmark Senior Living communities, and we are committed to providing them with opportunities to connect with loved one, as well as sharing ongoing, transparent updates on their status and care.
What are Benchmark’s visitation policies?
In accordance with each state’s senior care visitation guidance, we have established the visitor policies below. Please note that policies for visiting residents in our communities can vary based on current state guidelines and whether there is a known COVID-19 case in a community. Please contact your community for more information.
- Indoor visits may take place in either a resident’s apartment or in a designated area in the community, depending on state guidelines. These visitation areas will be properly cleaned and disinfected by our associates between visits.
- The schedule for visits can vary by community, but we try to accommodate the busy schedules of our families.
- The number of guests who can visit at one time varies by state.
- We encourage all residents and visitors to maintain at least six feet of social distancing.
- Visits must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. In some cases, further notice may be required.
- Prior to arrival, visitors are required to complete a visitor screening tool to track potential symptoms and exposure to the virus.
- Visitors and residents are required to wear masks at all times.
- Meals and snacks are not permitted during the visit. Gifts or flowers can be dropped off at the vestibule and will be given to the resident following the visit. Any items that are exchanged during the visit will be wiped down with an appropriate disinfectant.
- Following the visit, visitors are asked to self-monitor their health and must immediately contact the community in the event they develop any COVID-19-related symptoms within two days after visiting. Communities will also maintain a visitor log in order to allow for contact tracing, if needed.
Please note that a visit will be canceled if:
- A resident is suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.
- A visitor has experienced any COVID-19-related symptoms within the last two weeks and/or has been in contact with someone who was diagnosed presumptive or positive for COVID-19.
If in-person visits are suspended due to state public health restrictions or Benchmark policy, window visits are available in some cases and virtual visits will be arranged via Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. Some communities may still offer outside visits. Please ask your community.
What is Benchmark’s screening process for visitors?
Upon entering the community, everyone is screened for COVID-19. At the main entrance, the receptionist, wearing PPE, will ensure the visitor is wearing a proper facemask, has washed his/her hands or used hand-sanitizer prior to entering the facility and has completed the COVID-19 Screening Tool. Then, using a non-contact thermometer, the receptionist will take the person’s temperature and document the reading in the COVID-19 Screening Tool. We ask all visitors take additional precautions as outlined in the Benchmark Community Promise.
What if a community is restricting visitors and my loved one needs support that only I can provide or my loved one is dying?
At Benchmark Senior Living, we are committed to ensuring that our residents and families stay connected – regardless of the circumstances. Human connection is at the core of our mission and we are unwavering in this pursuit, particularly during these challenging times. The global pandemic has significantly changed how we all interact with one another. This can have a severe impact on seniors who are facing physical, emotional and mental crises. Through compassionate care visits, a family member, friend or clergy, for example, can provide support to a resident even at a time when visits may be restricted due to state guidelines or when communities have active COVID-19 cases.
Compassionate care visits may be arranged with residents who are:
- Struggling with a lack of physical family support.
- Grieving the death of a loved one.
- In need of encouragement to eat or drink; usually previously provided by a loved one.
- Emotionally distressed, seldom speaks, or cries frequently when such behavior was not displayed previously.
- Facing end of life.
These critical interactions can make a tremendous difference for residents and those who love them and can occur daily, weekly or, simply, when the time is right. Of course, like hospitals and other senior living settings, Benchmark is committed to following strict public health guidelines for each of these visits. It’s paramount for us to keep our residents, family members and associates safe.
Our associates will screen every visitor to ensure he or she does not exhibit symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19. They will also escort visitors to their loved ones and, following visits, will disinfect the rooms. Visitors are required to wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand wash, as well as take precautions as outlined in the Benchmark Community Promise. Compassionate care visits require an appointment, which can be made by contacting your community’s front desk.
What are residents expected to do if asked to self-quarantine?
We understand the challenges this has caused our residents and we are building individual plans for residents when we ask them to self-quarantine. For example, we are offering each resident in self-quarantine the opportunity to take two daily outdoor strolls, so they can take in the foliage, bird watch or just get some fresh air. When the weather is not conducive, the strolls will occur indoors in safe spaces to provide a change of scenery, movement and some socialization.
Infection Control & Mitigation
The health and safety of our residents and associates are our top priorities. We are working closely with medical professionals to learn more about the latest COVID-19 developments and following the recommendations of the CDC and state health departments to limit transmission of the disease and protect our residents and associates.
How did Benchmark develop their COVID-19 healthcare policies and procedures?
Benchmark continues to take close guidance from public health authorities, including the CDC and state departments of public health. In February, we activated our multi-disciplinary Incident Management Team to respond to COVID-19 and augmented our medical and infection control expertise with highly respected medical and scientific experts. We have established the Benchmark Coronavirus Advisory Council, a group of nationally renowned researchers, physicians, health care administrators and practitioners across the fields of epidemiology, geriatrics, and mental health.
What preventative measures and cleaning activities is Benchmark taking to help limit the transmission of the virus in its communities?
We continue to take aggressive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including:
- Increasing associate training on infectious disease procedures and protocols
- Maintaining a supply of PPE, and continuing to source additional supplies
- Instructing all staff to wear the appropriate PPE and adapt our trainings on the best practices for PPE usage
- Closely monitoring residents, associates and essential visitors for possible symptoms, including taking temperatures daily of all community residents
- Enhancing cleaning activities using specialized, recommended products to help prevent infection from occurring, including the application of a non-toxic, CDC-approved spray
- Upgrades to HVAC system for filtration have occurred at all communities, using highly effective MERV-13 and HEPA filters
- After every resident’s meal, tables and chairs are disinfected. Servers only bring food and drinks to the table, while other associates exclusively bus tables.
What is Benchmark’s approach to COVID-19 testing?
COVID-19 testing is mandatory for all Benchmark associates including all new hires. We are adhering to each state’s respective laws and regulations regarding recurring testing, and, in some cases, exceed state requirements.
Benchmark enhanced our ongoing associate testing program on Nov. 1 by requiring all associates in every state to be tested at least twice a month. If a community has an active case – resident or associate – testing frequency will increase to every week until there are two weeks without a case. At that point, testing will return to every two weeks.
If any of our associates are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms, they are required to remain out of the community, let their supervisor know immediately, and contact their personal physician for appropriate care.
Associates Policies & Training
Our associates are truly heroes in every sense of the word. We are so grateful for their dedication and for their ongoing commitment to providing our residents with the excellent standard of care that they and their loved ones expect.
What sort of training and processes are Benchmark associates following to limit the spread of the virus in communities?
All of our associates are trained on the proper use of PPE and are expected to follow all BSL policies and industry best practices. Each associate must wear appropriate PPE, relevant to his or her role within the community, including wearing full PPE when providing direct care to residents and follow all protocols.
Our associates are closely monitoring residents in our assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing neighborhoods across Benchmark for signs of COVID-19 symptoms. During visits, programming and other community activities, our associates will work to ensure residents and visitors follow community protocols.
Under what circumstances do associates need to quarantine before returning to work at Benchmark Senior Living?
If associates meet any of the following criteria, they are required to remain out of the community and to self-quarantine for up to two weeks:
- If an associate is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.
- If an associate is returning from travel to high-risk areas, as defined by the CDC and local public health authorities.
- If an associate has had high exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.