'That has become our life, to keep residents safe': Two new senior living campuses open during COVID-19

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Posted at 6:46 AM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 08:03:41-05

COVID-19 comes with so much uncertainty and that can make the decision to move to a senior living community complicated. But, there are places out there going above and beyond to adapt during the pandemic.

For seniors with more complex needs, a nursing home might be a better fit, but there are other options like independent living, assisted living, or memory care.

Capri Communities manages 25 campuses with these senior living facilities in Wisconsin.

Barbara Schmidt moved into one of the new independent living locations over the summer.

"Once I arrived here, everything kind of opened up with the activities, exercise programs, and other gatherings that were planned. Even some entertainment that they brought in," said Schmidt, who moved into St. Rita's Square in downtown Milwaukee.

The CEO of Capri Communities, Jim Tarantino talked with TMJ4 News about how COVID-19 has dramatically changed its business practices.

"That has become our life, to keep residents safe," Tarantino said.

Similar to many senior facilities, COVID-19 outbreaks, defined as more than two people, have happened at Capri Communities locations.

"We serve a population that has compromised health," Tarantino said.

"We're thankful that many of those who did test positive survived," he continued.

Now, a corner is being turned. Tarantino says staff and residents have received the first COVID-19 vaccine.

"We've got to find a way to continue to provide a healthy environment for our residents," he continued.

Besides safety measures like health screens for visitors, social distancing, and mask-wearing, Capri Communities is installing ionization systems in all of its buildings. The technology has been shown to neutralize the airborne coronavirus on a molecular level.

"It's very expensive. From an organization standpoint, we've committed well over $300,000 towards it," said Tarantino.

Before COVID-19 hit, Capri Communities had plans to open two more senior living campuses. It still moved forward and now Grace Commons in Menomonee Falls and Saint Rita's in downtown Milwaukee are open for business. No COVID-19 outbreaks have happened at these new locations.

"How difficult has it been opening up two new senior living campuses during COVID?" TMJ4 News' Kristin Byrne asked Tarantino.

"It's been a challenge we did not anticipate and I think people are obviously fearful. They're concerned about contracting the virus," he answered.

An understandable fear, but Tarantino stresses precautions are in place and apartments are filling up.

Seniors like Barbara Schmidt who live here are safely connecting with each other and making new friends.

"I'm a lot freer here than I was where I was living as far as being able to interact safely," Schmidt said.

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