Chatham COA COVID-19 Response

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 5, 2021
Contact: Krista Westervelt, 919-579-7413, krista.westervelt@chathamcoa.org

Council on Aging Maintains Current Status—But Looks to Future with Optimism
 

Pittsboro, NC - The Board of Directors of the Chatham County Council on Aging decided at their March 4th meeting to continue their emphasis on safety and remain closed to in-person programming through April. They will reassess the situation in early May. 

The Board and management of the Council remain steadfast in their reliance on what science and Public Health indicate. This includes information about the effect of the new variants of the virus.            

“While we are excited about reported reductions in cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to vaccinations and practicing the 3Ws, we know this is still a very serious and tenuous situation,” noted Larry Ross, Board president.

In the meantime, the Council is continuing to identify ways to reengage with participants in a more active and personal way.

Since March 16, 2020, the Chatham County Council on Aging has closed its two centers to in-facility programming due to COVID-19 precautions. Over the past year, the Council on Aging has continued its many services and programs but just in very different ways. 

For example, the Council has provided food assistance to over 320 seniors, including 112 participants who are new to the Council’s meals program. Many of these seniors also receive supplies and friendly check-in calls from staff to stave off isolation and loneliness. 

“While participants used to come to our two centers for a hot lunch and to enjoy a wide range of activities—under COVID, we have been taking meals to them and offering them opportunities for social, recreational and educational programming through various virtual means,” noted Dennis Streets, Council director.

“We know this is no substitute for being able to meet in person, but our primary focus has been on keeping our senior participants, volunteers and staff members safe,” added Streets.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Chatham County has moved from substantial community spread down to significant community spread in the last month, showing Chatham residents are making progress in combating the virus.  Still, all residents must remain vigilant and do their part to further reduce spread and protect seniors and others who are most at risk of the worst effects of COVID-19. 

As Chatham County Public Health Director Michael Zelek shared with the Council, “I know many are eager to gather and socialize after nearly a year of living through this pandemic. While case numbers are improving after a difficult winter, the threat of COVID remains present and I appreciate your caution with indoor public gatherings, which we know are settings where transmission is more likely to occur.”

“If all of our staff, as frontline workers serving a vulnerable population, have the opportunity to be vaccinated within the next two months, we will explore what changes in programming we can safely make,” suggested Streets. “While we cannot predict with confidence any specific day when things can be different, I can promise we look forward to when we can welcome our participants back into our centers for a hot lunch and in-person activities. The sooner people get vaccinated, the sooner this can happen. In the meantime, everyone must remain vigilant in wearing masks, waiting a safe distance apart and washing our hands.”             

For information about the work of the Council on Aging, visit www.chathamcoa.org, or call 919-542-4512 or 919-742-3975.       

For information about vaccination availability in Chatham County, visit: www.chathamnc.org/coronavirusvaccine (Spanish: www.chathamnc.org/coronavirusvacuna), or call the Info Line at  919-545-8323, Monday-Thursday 10am-4pm.


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Archive

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 4, 2020
Contact: Krista Westervelt, 919-579-7413, krista.westervelt@chathamcoa.org

Council on Aging Continues Extensive Programming While
Keeping Its Centers Closed to Inside Programming through March  

Pittsboro, NC – The Board of Directors and management of the Chatham County Council on Aging have decided to keep the interior facilities of the Council’s Eastern and Western Senior Centers closed to the public through March 2021, when it will reassess the situation. At the same time, the Council remains committed to assisting Chatham County seniors and their families. 

“While we are encouraged by emerging news about the vaccines, we remain very concerned for the health and safety of participants, staff and volunteers as the COVID-19 pandemic still constitutes a serious threat,” remarked Larry Ross, President of the Council’s Board. 

The resolution of the Council on Aging’s Board of Directors reads as follows:

Out of concern for the continued health and safety of participants, staff and volunteers, the Board of Directors of the Chatham County Council on Aging authorizes keeping the Council’s Eastern and Western Senior Centers closed to in-facility programming through March 2021. In March, the Board and Council management will reassess the status of COVID-19 and consider recommendations from the Chatham County Public Health Department and relevant others to inform conditions and timing for resumption of in-facility programing. In the meantime, the Board supports having the Council continue its ongoing work to meet the service needs of participants, offer virtual programming, and explore additional ways to safely assist those experiencing the effects of social isolation and loneliness. Along with the rest of the community, the Board looks forward to the introduction of safe COVID-19 vaccinations and supports having the Council’s two centers serve as parking lot drive-through sites for Chatham County Public Health to offer these vaccinations.

In making this decision, the Board considered several factors. These included the number of cases and positivity rate within Chatham County and North Carolina. 

According to North Carolina’s county alert system, Chatham is currently listed as having “Substantial Community Spread.” In recent weeks, North Carolina has seen record levels of hospitalization for COVID-19.

The Board considered the advice of local Public Health officials as well as the State. The Board noted Governor Cooper’s recent message, “With a vaccine so close on the horizon, we need to keep doing what we know works to slow the spread of this virus and help save lives these next few months.”

“As much as we wish we could reopen our two centers to in-facility programming, the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is higher in indoor settings where air does not circulate freely and people are less likely to maintain social distancing,” noted Dennis Streets, director of the Council. “Because we know how much it means to folks to come to our centers for meals, exercise, education and recreational activities, counseling, volunteering, fellowship and so much more—this was a difficult but correct decision,” Streets added.     

In the meantime, the Council is continuing its extensive efforts to assist Chatham County seniors and their families. Ever since the Centers were closed to in-facility programming in early March, the Council has remained committed to its mission as a nonprofit organization, established 46 years ago. 

For example, from March 16th to November 13th, the Council provided 9,616 frozen meals and 14,565 shelf-stable meals to seniors sheltering in place. This will continue. Along with meals, the Council is providing incontinence supplies, assistive equipment, reading materials and much more to help older adults and family caregivers during this trying time.

The Council’s staff are also doing frequent friendly, check-in calls with participants and then responding in other ways to offer needed assistance. In addition, the Council is continuing its provision of in-home aide personal care, family caregiver respite, emergency assistance, minor home repair, and transportation. It is also offering a wide array of virtual programming for exercise and social engagement. For a calendar of these activities, go to https://chathamcouncilonaging.org/coa-virtual-activities/

Two additional priorities of the Council on Aging over the next few months will be partnering with Public Health to promote and provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine and continuing to combat the risk of isolation and loneliness over winter. 

“While the pandemic has certainly brought anxiety and hardship to many, it has also spurred us to think creatively about our delivery of services and programs. In addition, it has reinforced the importance of the support we receive from the community,” cited Streets. “As we move forward into a new year of service, we remain committed to doing the absolute best we can to assist Chatham County seniors and their families.”

For information about the Council on Aging, visit www.chathamcoa.org or call its Eastern Center at 919-542-4512 or Western Center at 919-742-3975. 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 11, 2020

Contact: Krista Westervelt, 919-579-7413, krista.westervelt@chathamcoa.org

Council’s Centers Remain Closed to Inside Programming but Other Services Continue 

Pittsboro, NC - Out of concern for the continued health and safety of participants, staff and volunteers, the Board of Directors and management of the Chatham County Council on Aging have decided to keep the interior facilities of the Council’s Eastern and Western Senior Centers closed to the public through December 2020. At the same time, the Council remains committed to assisting Chatham County seniors and their families. 

“This has not been an easy decision given all of the programming that typically takes place within our two State-designated Senior Centers of Excellence—located in Pittsboro and Siler City,” remarked Dennis Streets, director of the Council. “We know how much it means to folks to come to our centers for meals, exercise, education and recreational activities, counseling, volunteering, and so much more—especially fellowship with friends,” added Streets.     

Streets noted that the decision was based on the latest public health reports and is consistent with Governor Cooper’s latest Executive Order, issued on September 4th. 

The Governor’s order emphasized that slowing and controlling community spread of COVID-19 are critical to ensuring that the state's healthcare facilities remain able to accommodate those who require medical assistance. The order also encouraged all to remain vigilant to prevent a surge in cases and to exercise caution in loosening restrictions in high-risk settings in particular.

As reflected in the order, science indicates that the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is higher in indoor settings where air does not circulate freely and people are less likely to maintain social distancing, especially in situations where people are in close contact for extended periods of time.

Maybe most importantly, the Governor’s order strongly encourages people who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to stay home and travel only for absolutely essential purposes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines high-risk individuals as those aged 65 years or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.     

In December, the Council on Aging will reassess the status of COVID-19 and use the guidance of Chatham County Public Health and other experts to inform next steps. 

In the meantime, the Council will continue working hard to assist Chatham County seniors and their families. Ever since the Centers were closed to in-facility programming in early March, the Council has remained committed to its mission as a nonprofit organization, established 46 years ago. 

“Since 1974, our Council on Aging has been devoted to helping older adults remain active, healthy and able to remain living safely in the community. This mission has never been more important than now with COVID-19,” cited Larry Ross, president of the Council’s Board of Directors.    

Each week the Council on Aging delivers meals and supplies to seniors across Chatham County. Along with those who were already receiving these deliveries from the Council, over 63 additional seniors have started receiving food assistance from the Council since the pandemic began.   

The Council has also developed a wide array of virtual and online programming options. The September calendar, for example, includes sessions on body conditioning, strong and fit classes, Tai Chi for arthritis, bingo, live music, and educational presentations. For further information, go to https://chathamcouncilonaging.org/coa-virtual-activities/

Council staff at both centers are assisting Chatham’s older adults in many other ways—such as making friendly, check-in phone calls; providing assistive equipment; and more recently, driving to the homes of those most isolated for an outside, physically-distanced  visit. “We are very concerned about the potential serious effect of social isolation and loneliness,” voiced Streets.   

In addition, the Council continues to work with its many community partners. With Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, the Council is supporting efforts to address homes in need of modification and repair. Working with the Chatham Transit Network, the Council is arranging and supporting trips to medical appointments. Through its contracts with home care agencies, the Council is providing in-home personal care and respite for family caregivers. And with Walgreens, the Council is offering drive-by vaccination clinics at both of its centers in the coming weeks.   

“It is particularly important that people have an opportunity to get the flu vaccine this year,” commented Streets. “This is just one more way that we are striving to protect and help our seniors through this difficult time. We look forward to the day when we can meet again with participants and volunteers within our centers.” 

“Toward this end, we are actively joining the chorus of those calling upon all North Carolinians to consistently practice the 3Ws—wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart, and washing your hands often,” added Ross.    

For more information about the work of the Chatham County Council on Aging visit www.chathamcoa.org. People can also call the Eastern Center in Pittsboro at 919-542-4512, and the Western Center in Siler City at 919-742-3975.    

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 13, 2020

Contact: Krista Westervelt, 919-542-4512, krista.westervelt@chathamcoa.org

Chatham County Council on Aging Announces COVID-19 Actions

PITTSBORO, NC—The Chatham County Council on Aging is joining others across the globe, nation and state in acting decisively to curtail the adverse impact of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We are especially concerned about the well-being of Chatham seniors, their families and our volunteers,” remarked Dennis Streets, director of the Council. He added, “The actions we are taking are designed to protect the health of all–especially those at high risk of serious illness—and are consistent with the recommendations coming from the science and medical communities.”

Eastern and Western Senior Centers

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, the Council will suspend its congregate meals program and other activities offered at its Eastern and Western Senior Centers (in Pittsboro and Siler City).  The centers will be closed to participants and visitors.

Individuals needing assistance should contact the Council in advance and the Council will work to meet the identified need. This includes frozen and shelf-stable meals for homebound seniors, help with assistive equipment, the provision of incontinence supplies, and emergency assistance with utility bills.

The Council is actively identifying other ways to assist those seniors who normally attend the centers’ noon-day meals program. “We are providing instruction, equipment, supplies and encouragement so that participants can continue exercise and entertainment at home,” noted Liz Lahti, Health Promotion Coordinator and Senior Center Manager at the Eastern Center.

For participants for whom the center is a major social connection, the Council will offer friendly check-in calls. 

“We are also scheduling a weekly conference call to allow all participants to hear an update about the Council’s status and to ask questions. We hope these calls can provide another social outlet for those without much outside contact,” shared Lacee Monte, the Council’s Deputy Director and Finance Officer.    

Meals on Wheels

Also effective Monday, March 16th, the Council will suspend its home-delivered (Meals on Wheels) program. This action is being taken to protect both the homebound meals recipients and the volunteer drivers, many of whom are seniors themselves.

“This is a group about whom we are especially concerned.  We hope that by providing frozen or shelf-stable meals and friendly calls, we can provide adequate support,” reported Streets. “Of course, we will also work to provide other assistance such as incontinence supplies.”

“We welcome volunteer assistance in delivering the shelf-stable and frozen meals once a week and making friendly calls to check on the homebound seniors. The weekly visit will provide one more social contact that many of these participants lack, while utilizing all current health protocols to minimize risk to volunteers and meal recipients alike,” suggested the Council’s Volunteer Coordinator, Allison Andrews.  Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Andrews at Allison.Andrews@chathamcouncilonaging.org or 919-542-4512.  The Council wants to ensure that volunteers are using sound health and safety practices such as wearing gloves that the Council will provide.      

VITA

The Council will end its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) on Wednesday, March 18th.  The Council does not anticipate scheduling any more tax assistance appointments before the end of this year’s tax deadline.

SHIIP

The Council requests anyone seeking Medicare counseling from the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) to call the State’s toll-free line at 1-855-408-1212. This call center is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. 

Veterans Service Officer Assistance

Chatham’s Veterans Service Officer will not be available at the Western Center in Siler City as long as the Western Center remains closed to participants and visitors. For assistance, veterans should contact David Kennedy at 919-545-8334, 919-357-4999 (mobile), or david.kennedy@chathamnc.org.

Transportation

While the Council is suspending its use of Chatham Transit for transporting seniors to its centers, the Council will continue to arrange rides with Chatham Transit for medical appointments.

The Council recommends, though, that seniors follow the guidance from geriatric experts and cancel non-essential appointments. If a person is not feeling well, they should call their health provider for guidance before scheduling a medical ride.

“We wish none of these steps were necessary and hopefully we can soon restore these valued services and programs,” concluded Streets. “In the meantime, we appeal to friends, neighbors and family to touch base by phone with those who are isolated, and help with shopping and other needs—all the while using the good public health practices that have been well publicized such as frequent hand washing.”

“As the situation continues to evolve, we will do our best to update our participants of any changes that may come. We also encourage everyone to use reliable sources of information about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including www.chathamnc.org/coronavirus,” added Streets.    

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