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Keeping 'congregate' living facilities safe from COVID-19

Keeping 'congregate' living facilities safe from COVID-19

  • Updated
Saanen Kerson

Saanen Kerson, associate director at Vine Village, in art class with residents.

Saanen Kerson, the associate director of Vine Village, first learned about COVID-19 in January from a relative living in China.

Napa’s Vine Village provides residential care and supportive services for people with developmental services.

Saanen knew that she needed to develop a plan quickly because people with developmental disabilities and autism are more susceptible to infections and health complications than other people.

With no pandemic experience or plans to draw on, Saanen and her staff were faced with complicated decisions about how to protect residents and staff.

First, in February she began ordering cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and food in anticipation of shortages to come.

Vine Village was on immediate lockdown. They closed their Arts and Agriculture Day Program for people from the greater Napa community who have developmental disabilities.

Then they started Zoom classes and sent supplies, so that Day Program clients could continue to participate in classes.

At the same time, residents of Vine Village were no longer allowed to leave for jobs, shopping, or other off-campus activities.

However, residents still have all of their on-site programs, such as, art, exercise, games, movies and gardening, to keep them busy. They also have 25 acres for nature walks, biking, horseback riding, and finding quiet time alone.

Vine Village established a full sanitation protocol for everyone and everything coming on site. Staff members were asked to follow strict health and safety protocol. Staff and their families were asked to isolate at home, and Vine Village sent them masks, gloves, and sanitizing products.

Staff was asked to buy all food and supplies online, with no in-person shopping. In addition, staff shifts were consolidated to include overnights to minimize the number of times they came and went.

So far, there are no reported cased of COVID-19. Saanen said that residents are resilient and adapted quickly.

Staff and their families have been compliant with the strict isolation and sanitation measures and are committed to keeping their residents safe.

As a footnote, Saanen’s concerns are well founded.

According to an NPR analysis, people with developmental disabilities and autism have been more likely to contract COVID 19 and die at higher rates than others. And, COVID 19 has been spreading quickly in congregate care facilities across the county.

Vine Village has been incurring more costs than usual due to shipping and delivery costs to the facility and reimbursements to staff members. To make a contribution or learn more about Vine Village visit

You can reach business editor Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or

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