Senior Housing News recognizes the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic, so we will be updating this bulletin to keep you apprised of the latest developments, focusing on news and information that we identify as especially pertinent to senior living. The team at SHN knows how important your work is right now; we thank you and your teams, and encourage you to reach out to us individually or at editor@seniorhousingnews.com with news items, topics that you believe are important for coverage, or other feedback.

Bulletin for July 17 – 19

Artis Senior Living has partnered with Johns Hopkins physicians and others to launch the Artis Safety Council, to enhance Covid-19 response and take proactive steps to meet other potential community health issues.

“We are proud of this exciting partnership with a truly world-class organization like Johns Hopkins,” Donald E. Feltman, Artis Senior Living President and CEO, said in a July 16 press release. “Our commitment to our residents, their families and our staff is at the heart of what we do. Their safety today, and always, is a top priority.”

Members of the council include Michele Bellantoni, M.D., an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Morgan Jane Katz, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the independent Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes that will be advising the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and Ravi Passi, M.D., an attending physician in partnership with Artis at Olney Assisted Living in Maryland.

Artis will also be adding staff as safety officers to oversee matters such as staff training across the portfolio and monitoring safety protocols.

As a leader with ManorCare in the 1980s, Feltman worked with Johns Hopkins to pioneer approaches to memory care. Today, Artis operates a portfolio of about 25 communities, focused on memory care, across 11 states.

Also in the news:

— Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based real estate investment trust National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI) collected 96.9% of July rent, with the remaining 3.1% deferred or uncollected, according to a business update issued Friday. The REIT had collected 99.4% of contractual rent in June. The company also issued an occupancy update for its largest senior living operators:

— Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bill to give assisted living residents the right to a speedy administrative law judge appeal starting in August, should they be facing a situation in which they must leave a community due to increasing heatlh needs.

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— Syracuse, New York-based senior living development and management company The Hearth has installed Viking Pure cleaning solution generators across its portfolio of 15 communities, in a program called Total Coverage 360. “The generators produce a natural cleaning product called Pure San Solutions, and they are roughly the size of an average office water cooler but have the capability of producing over 100 gallons of disinfectant a day,” according to a press release.

— Vestra Labs, which is contracted to provide Covid-19 testing across Arizona’s 148 Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities, will also be conducting tests in assisted living communities, KJZZ reported. “So we’re currently working with the assisted living facilities to get their staff and residents tested. We are in the discussions about whether or not that can be an ongoing thing,” Dr. Cara Christ, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KJZZ. Arizona is facing a surge in Covid-19 cases.

— Covid-19 cases have spiked in Florida’s assisted living communities and nursing homes, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “Three weeks ago, there were roughly 1,400 residents of the state’s long-term care facilities who were positive for COVID-19,” the newspaper reported. “By Thursday, that number had reached 3,652. And for senior-care workers, the rise was even steeper — from about 2,500 to 6,368 — the total dramatically eclipsing that of residents.”

Bulletin for Thursday, July 16:

Chicago-based specialty investment bank Ziegler has released some best practices for disclosing information to investors and bondholders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Providers should be prepared to offer a range of information, such as a timeline of Covid-19 cases that includes a count of the initial positive cases, peak number of cases and number of recoveries for both residents and staff.

Ziegler also recommended that senior living providers give investors and bondholders information on:

General operations, including unit count and reimbursementsMarketing adjustments and the pace of move-ins and sales in light of Covid-19Local restrictions and information on local Covid-19 outbreaksCovid-19 plans, such as reopening strategies, designated Covid-19 units, and policies for positive caesFinancial information, such as loans or grants, entrance-fee collections and refunds and Covid-19’s impact on expenses and revenue The status of construction projects, whether they’ve hit any delays and the projects’ overall feasibility

While the full list of recommendations may look intimidating to some providers, Ziegler says its intent is not to create more work for management teams.

“On the contrary, the hope is that these recommendations will save time for both you and investors by providing data in a public forum before investors need to ask questions,” the investment bank wrote in an update Thursday. “The goal is to cover as many of the key recommendations as possible without placing significant burden on your organization.”

The full document can be viewed here.

Also in the news:

— The occupancy rate for independent and assisted living communities dropped in June — but not as sharply as in April or May, according to a new intra-quarter occupancy report from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC).

Occupancy for assisted living communities dropped 3.2 percentage points between March and June. For independent living communities, occupancy fell 2.4 percentage points in that same time frame. But the sharpest decline in occupancy happened in April, with declines lessening each subsequent month, according to the report.

— Fitch Ratings said in a webinar Thursday that Covid-19 outbreaks have remained limited or well-contained within its rated portfolio of life plan communities. The company also noted that turning over vacant units and generating cash flow from entrance fees is still the biggest risk ahead for those communities.

— Senior living provider Grace Management now offers saliva-based Covid-19 testing for future residents at its communities thanks to a new partnership with Clinical Reference Laboratory. The tests results are typically available within 48 to 72 hours, the company said. Grace Management is based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, and is a subsidiary senior living management company of private equity firm Chicago Pacific Founders.

Bulletin for Tuesday, July 14:

Ventas (NYSE: VTR) recently sold a seven-property senior living portfolio for $52 million, dropping the initial $70 million purchase price due to impacts of Covid-19.

That’s according to Austin, Texas-based Kong Capital, which was involved in the deal and issued a press release Tuesday. The transaction previously was announced by Dallas-based MedCore Partners, which worked with Kong and other partners to acquire the portfolio, but the price was not disclosed.

“In January 2020, Kong Capital and MedCore Partners put the off-market portfolio under contract for a $70MM purchase price,” the Kong Capital press released stated. “After receiving 4Q2019 financial statements and seeing a further decline in NOI, the purchase price was renegotiated with Ventas to $52MM.”

Kong is seeing more deals of this type come to market as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Kong Capital Founder and CEO Coe Schlicher said in the release.

The portfolio consists of 593 beds of independent living, assisted living and memory care. The communities are located in Washington State and California; they were previously operated by Senior Services of America, and the Tacoma, Washington-based company will remain the operator.

Also in the news recently:

— Senior living inquiries were 15% higher in June than May, according to new sales and marketing data from Enquire. Move-in averages increased about 32% between May and June, while June move-outs were 20% lower than a year prior, on average.

— Sherpa also recently released new sales and marketing data, showing that new leads increased more than 30% on average in June, compared to March, April and May levels. Time spend on virtual tours decreased slightly, while time spent on in-person tours and home visits ticked up. Other metrics continued to improve from recent months but remained well below 2019 levels; for example, time spent per contact increased in June but was 43% below the 2019 monthly average.

— States should do more to support assisted living communities and nursing homes, given that recent spikes in Covid-19 infections increases the risk of outbreaks in these settings, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) stated in a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA) and state governors. In particular, Covid-19 testing needs to be more rapid; more personal protective equipment is needed; and state public health agencies should work in close conjunction with senior living and care communities that are reopening to visitors, the letter stated.

— A consortium of five nonprofit senior living providers in New York State has worked together to coordinate certain aspects of their Covid-19 response. Details of the Alliance for Senior Care’s response are detailed in WNY Physician Magazine. “What’s best for geriatric care — engagement, involvement — is exactly what’s worst for spread of the virus,” noted Kim Petrone, M.D., medical director of St. Ann’s Community.

— In the two-week period between June 15 and June 26, 79% of assisted living providers in New York state reported having one or more residents leave the community, despite the risks of Covid-19 contraction. That’s according to a survey that the Empire State Association of Assisted Living (ESAAL) did of its 300 member organizations. Of those residents who left the premises, 20% went to a hair salon, 22% went to the home of family or friends, 8% went to a restaurant, and 50% reported going elsewhere, primarily to medical appointments. After continuing advocacy from ESAAL, the New York Department of Health recently began allowing for indoor and outdoor visitation at assisted living communities that meet certain criteria.

Bulletin for July 6, 2020:

Bethesda, Maryland-based Meridian Senior Living has partnered with a testing lab and hired a medical director to support the company’s Covid-19 response efforts and help smooth new admissions.

“Our collaboration with the lab and the appointment of our Medical Director is a vital pivot point in our reopening strategy. We now have the resources and medical expertise to routinely test,” Kacy Kang, president and COO of Meridian Senior Living, said Monday in a press release. “This is an extension of our ongoing commitment to keep our communities as safe as possible, while decreasing the risk of issues that arise from long periods of isolation, both with our residents and seniors in the towns and cities in which we operate.”

Meridian operates more than 75 communities across 21 states.

The new testing partnership should be able to reduce the amount of time that new residents spend in self-isolation, according to the company’s press release. Multiple negative tests could shorten the standard 14-day quarantine period.

Current residents and staff also will be tested more frequently going forward.

Also in the news:

— As of June 30, occupancy in the senior housing operating portfolio of Diversified Healthcare Trust (Nasdaq: DHC) was 77.4%. That marks a decline from 78.2% as of May 31. The Newton, Massachusetts-based real estate investment trust (REIT) primarily works with operator Five Star Senior Living (NYSE: FVE).

DHC also has amended agreements governing a $1 billion unsecured revolving credit facility and $200 million unsecured term loan. Among other conditions, the company will be required to maintain unrestricted cash liquidity of at least $200 million and will be limited a cash dividend of $0.01 per common share per quarter, plus amounts required to maintain REIT status and avoid certain tax payments.

— Touchless doors and water fountains, floor markings in dining areas, and enhancing acoustics to help people hear despite masks are among the recommendations in a new report from The American Institute of Architects, “Strategies for Safer Senior Living Communities.”

— The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the legal guardianship situation in the United States, in which older adults are placed against their will in assisted living or other facilities, The Intercept reported.

To read previous Bulletin entries, click here.



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