Infectious Disease Response for Affordable Housing Providers

Members | March 04, 2020 | by Linda Couch, Juliana Bilowich

A little preparation goes a long way with infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies. Your residents and staff may be understandably concerned, but taking action early will help set up senior housing communities for success in the event of an emergency.

Because older adults with existing health conditions are more susceptible to the effects of infectious diseases, the threat of an outbreak may cause heightened concern in senior housing communities. Fortunately, affordable housing providers can take the following simple steps to prepare for emergencies.

Federal Agency Support and Procedures:

  • Establish a point of contact with your local health department in order to receive and share information; shelters and other types of service providers are encouraged to report the number of residents who are showing symptoms of the illness in the event of an outbreak.
  • Review HUD’s guidelines for preparedness and recovery, and connect with your Field Office with questions regarding MFH emergency activities. (Note: The implementation of an Emergency Disaster Response or a Presidentially Declared Disaster does NOT automatically confer waivers of HUD regulations, policies, and procedures.)
  • Utilize a community’s existing disaster preparedness plans, and encourage staff and residents to stay calm but informed. For support creating or updating an emergency plan, consult HUD’s Housing Counseling Toolkit.

Medical Response and Preparation:

  • Leverage existing telehealth tools to direct people to the right level of healthcare for their medical needs, and limit close contact with and between residents. If a resident presents with symptoms, encourage them to call their health care provider and follow the recommended protocol for infectious disease outbreaks before going to a medical facility.
  • Acknowledge the current situation but share only verified facts, and publish CDC or WHO resources in your common areas for residents and staff.
  • Reassure residents that this is a similar approach to weather emergencies, and encourage residents to stock up on important items, such as food, water, and medications, as well as soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, personal hygiene supplies, and pet food.

Property Management and Operations:

  • Refresh resident referral lists for organizations in the community that can help in case of an outbreak in the area, such as organizations that provide mental health or counseling services, food, and other supplies.
  • Contact your supply chain and service providers early to establish procedures for maintaining operations in the event of an outbreak.
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home, and develop a plan for your teams to accommodate staff shortages. Consider waiving the requirement for a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick, as medical facilities may be busier than usual.

As an emergency situation unfolds, continue to monitor for information from HUD, the CDC, and other federal agencies for appropriate response and preparedness information. Relevant updates will be posted to the My LeadingAge Member Community. More preparedness info for affordable housing providers is available on the LeadingAge resource webpage here. For questions or conversation, contact Juliana