By Zach Armstrong
PETERSBURG, Va -- Janet Basile Beaudet has resided in Hopewell’s Brighter Living Assisted Living for nine years and, like so many who live in long-term care residencies, was frightened over the prospect of the coronavirus entering the building.
Luckily for Janet and the other 87 residents at BLAL, Long-Term Care Administrator Marsha Sottung has stayed on top of things that has resulted in a grand total of zero confirmed COVID-19 cases ever reported within the facility.
“Marsha stays on top of everything,” said Beaudet. “She has done a remarkable job and should be given some type of recognition for the outstanding job she has done,”
Sottung put into place a series of restrictions within the operations of BLAL as soon as she received them from the CDC, Governor, State of Virginia Health Department and local Crater Health Department.
“I know it's frustrating. I know that I, just like everyone else, wants everyday business to return to normal but everyday there's something new from the CDC that we have to abide by,” said Sottung.
Residents of the facility are required to wear masks when leaving their rooms, are discouraged from going anywhere except Doctors and hospitals when necessary and must quarantine in their rooms for 10 days should they go anywhere unless they show symptoms which would require them to do so for 14 days.
Sottung has remodeled the building by moving all residents who were living upstairs to apartments downstairs then renovated the upstairs to be the Covid-19 unit if anyone should test positive in order to keep them from passing it on to anyone else.
Residents do not touch packages when they arrive until they are isolated for 24 hours, then, Sottung would open the exterior package and destroy it only bringing the clean contents from the inside. All mail is left at the front of the building for 24 hours then delivered to the resident's rooms.
Visitors are not allowed although family and visitors can deliver things to residents on Tuesday or Thursday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. while residents are not allowed to go into the lobby or outside to personally greet them. The contents are handed to the nurses who bring them to our rooms.
When Virginia’s positivity rate was under 5%, visitors were allowed for outside greetings along with social distancing but ended once the rate got closer to 10% when visitations went back to virtual or through windows.
The facility has also installed a wall-mounted thermometer for anyone entering to be sure they do not have an above-normal temperature. All residents have now been tested 3 times, have their temperatures taken frequently and are watched for any signs of sickness.
The biggest disappointment for Sottung due to the pandemic was having to cancel the facility’s 20th anniversary celebration. Much money was spent and many of Hopewell’s dignitaries along with everyone who had played any part in the success of BLAL were invited for the big 20th anniversary celebration.
“I was sure she would ignore the shutdown and proceed with the celebration because too much work and money had already gone into the preparations and it was too late to cancel it. Even food preparations had begun. The decorations were up. Everything was in place for the party to begin. But much to my surprise, Marsha canceled it.” said Beaudet.
A later date in 2021 is planned to be announced for the celebration but that will be contingent on where Virginia is at in terms of COVID-19.
Sottung has lived in the Tri-City area for eight years although originally born and raised in upstate New York in a small town where she worked in long-term care there for over 35 years. After her daughter married and moved to Virginia to start a family, Marsha followed and found a job at BLAL after transferring her credentials from New York to the commonwealth.
Her work as an administrator has and always will be vital to Marsha’s life. At the age of just 21, Sottung became the youngest administrator in the state of New York and has been doing it successfully for 38 years.
“The elderly population has always been a huge part of my life as well as my family. I don’t know what else I would do with my life, this is all that I know.” said Sottung. “I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I truly enjoy my job. I love my residents and we have a great relationship.
“I really have to thank my co-workers for being diligent outside and inside the building to prevent the spread,” said Sottung. “We’ve been very fortunate to not have COVID like other long-term care facilities.”