Don’t expect many of the 300 independent living residents at Carleton-Willard Village to help make the quorum at Saturday morning’s annual town meeting.
A memorandum late last week from Dr. Cherie Noe, the retirement community’s medical director, and also signed by the nurse practitioner urged residents to stay home.
Acknowledging the importance of civic responsibility, and the state’s success in controlling the spread of the virus, the memo nonetheless noted that “we can’t let our guard down” and called for continued hand hygiene, face-covering, and social distancing.
The memo also mentioned the potential hazards of sun exposure, heat, and uneven surfaces at the outdoor town meeting.
Barbara A. Doyle, Carleton-Willard president, and CEO, said the recommendation was made “in the best interest if the village community. Everything we have put into place has been based on keeping the community safe.” The average resident age, she noted, is 88, and there’s an additional age-related hazard: persons who are hard of hearing tend to pull down their masks for lip-reading and volume.
“We had only one case of Covid in our entire independent living unit, and that came from a blood transfusion,” said Doyle. “We have really kept our residents safe and healthy.” There were several cases in the nursing center.
Even if a warrant article directly affected Carleton-Willard Village, Doyle said, she would support her medical staff’s recommendation. Dr. Noe, a Mount Auburn Hospital gerontologist, “is trying to lead in a very challenging time – without discounting the importance of social interaction and isolation issues.”
Carleton-Willard is “very committed to the town,” Doyle said, and under normal circumstances residents would be encouraged to attend town meeting, Indeed, often voters arrive in the center’s mini-bus. But in time of the pandemic, “This is a population at great risk.”
The virus is fast and insidious, Doyle said, relating a conversation with a fellow director from a nearby senior residential complex. “He said last week a couple decided to have a cocktail party and people were passing chips and wine. Two days later one of them tested positive and then suddenly 11 of them did.”
“So we have asked for understanding and patience and caution in every sense—a safer-at-home policy.”
“Infecting this community would be very disrespectful,” she continued. “We have been very cautious and have not opened a single thing to more than two people.” There are no dining, no meetings. The pool, gym, salon, spa and restaurant all remain closed.
“We’re delivering 1,200 meals a day in meal bags,” Doyle said, and this week they will include a message signed by the president and the chair of the board . “The message says we appreciate every act of kindness and tremendous sacrifices residents are making in order to protect each other.”
Doyle noted that Carleton-Willard’s expansion project near the corner of Old Billerica Road and Route 62 is on schedule despite the pandemic. Work on the 12 units, entirely self-funded, began on March 3, and the village locked down eight days later.
Thanks to early ordering, the project’s supply chain was uninterrupted, she said, and completion is still on target for next spring.
“I’m passionate about what Carlton-Willard does and how we do things, and we’ve come through this really quite well,” said Doyle, who was director when the facility opened in 1982.