Before other parts of Wellington and places throughout the country shut down, Marla Nispel, administrator of Botkin Care and Rehab and Wellington Health and Rehab, was taking action to safeguard the residents of the nursing homes against coronavirus.


The facilities have been on lockdown since Monday of last week. Only healthcare providers, such as staff and hospice workers, free of any COVID-19 symptoms, are admitted inside the facilities unless it is something serious like the end of a family member’s life. Such situations would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.


Under orders from the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), there is no communal dining and no large group activities. Pastors from the various Wellington churches can no longer come in to deliver church services and volunteers from the community cannot come in and spend time with residents as they used to - not until it is safe again for the residents and the community.


Residents can go in the living room and watch TV, but they have to be six-feet apart from each other. Nispel said she and the activities director are trying to find ways to keep residents occupied when they spend most of their days in their rooms.


Debbie Lutz, director of the local RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), said the major volunteer activities impacted by COVID-19 are the “volunteers in schools” and “volunteers in care homes” programs, which are non-existent now.


“We are looking at other options,” Lutz said. “We’re hoping there can be some phone conversations. We hope they can continue by phone calls or Skype. It’s not the same as in person, but it’s something.”


Volunteers are still delivering friendship meals from the Wellington Senior Center to people in their homes, Lutz said. Individuals are still driving transporting people to the store to buy groceries, but first they have to ask questions and make sure they have no coronavirus symptoms. Then the person has to sit in the back seat.


“We follow protocols for keeping a safe distance,” Lutz said.


The Wellington Senior Center closed its activities part on Monday of this week. Seniors can still get prepared meals from the center, but they are served outside and they take the meals from home, June Draper, site manager for friendship meals, said. There is no dining in.


People have to get their meals from the north entrance to the building where staff can see them coming and have their meals ready when they approach the entrance.


There are never more than three or four people in the kitchen and they all keep a safe distance from each other, Draper said.


Sanitizers. Lysol. Handwashing. Those things are constants in the kitchen.


At the nursing homes, housekeeping is taking extra care to clean those things that are touched every day like handrails and door knobs, Nispel said.


The residents are adapting to the changes.


“I would say they’re taking it in stride,” Nispel said. “The elderly have been through a lot in their lives and this is just one more thing.”


Before it had to close, the Wellington Public Library was shooting videos of family members sending messages to their loved ones. Chelsea McNeil, an employee of the library, has volunteered to continue recording videos. McNeil can be contacted at cmcneil@wellingtonpubliclibrary.org and families can arrange to meet her at the library to shoot the video.


Although they cannot make personal visits to residents, people in the community can also do nice things for the residents, such as donating coloring books, crossword puzzles and arts and crafts supplies. Anyone wishing to donate items should call Botkin at 326-7437 or Wellington Health and Rehab at (620) 326-2232 and arrange to meet a staff member outside who will take the items in.


“I would say we could also use their prayers,” she said.