Between the pandemic hitting Oregon in March and Nov. 18, 4,989 COVID-19 cases and 442 deaths have been linked to outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings.
But not one of those cases has been linked to Willamette View in Oak Grove, where there are over 450 senior citizens and 300 employees.
Willamette View officials believe a cruicial tool in their fight against COVID is their ability to accurately screen many more people by taking approximately 2,000 temperatures per week. With COVID-19 cases spiking in Oregon, one of the Portland area's largest senior living communities last month unveiled FLIR thermal technology as an additional component in its comprehensive and ongoing effort to protect its residents and staff during the pandemic.
Although the technology is used by General Motors and other large corporations nationally, Willamette View might be the only senior-living facility in the nation using thermal imaging.
Willamette View deployed the technology at its 27-acre campus just south of Milwaukie to identify people with elevated temperatures that may be associated with a fever, a common symptom of COVID-19.
Along with asking key health questions, Willamette View has been screening temperatures of all employees on a daily basis. Other efforts to keep residents and staff safe have included banning visitors, mask requirements, limiting dining to takeout-only, deep cleaning on a daily basis and practicing physical distancing.
As a nonprofit, Willamette View's Blue Heron Foundation is supported by donors who have contributed funds to help with the pandemic. Earlier in the year, the Blue Heron Foundation used these donations to purchase 10 Extech touchless thermometers, a test and measurement brand of products by FLIR Systems; purchased thousands of masks for staff and residents; and bought iPads for the nursing staff to assist residents in skilled nursing and memory care to connect with family and friends.
"I'm so proud of everyone here at Willamette View and the folks at FLIR, two Oregon-grown organizations, who are working together to address the needs of senior living and expending great effort to keep our seniors and staff safe," said Craig Van Valkenburg, Willamette View CEO. "Screening temperatures will be part of our life going forward, and with the support of our donors, we are saving lives by checking for elevated temperatures early and often. It is part of how we reopen safely and keep everyone healthy."
Willamette View looked to the technology to provide a comprehensive frontline screening solution that is "quick, noninvasive and effective" at identifying persons who may have elevated skin temperature.
"The arrival of the FLIR thermal imaging technology has been so positive in the midst of all the negative news we read daily. It's a glimpse of how through creative solutions, technology and our service to residents, we can help people return to some degree of 'normalcy,' whatever that might look like in the future," Van Valkenburg said.
Willamette View's skin temperature screening system includes a FDA-registered FLIR thermal camera combined with a flat screen display all mounted onto a wheeled stand. The system runs on desktop software for performing automated skin temperature screenings one person at a time in high-traffic areas. The software automatically detects individuals who enter the camera's field of view and, within seconds, locates and measures the skin's surface temperature near the tear duct. Willamette View residents and staff can walk up, get screened automatically from a safe distance, and quickly move on.
"FLIR Systems is proud to provide a fellow Portland-area organization with infrared sensing technologies that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a campus setting," said Ezra Merrill, FLIR vice-president.
Willamette View has a protocol in place if someone has an elevated skin temperature that includes a waiting period of a few minutes to take it again, in case the weather or walking caused the increased temperature. When a person is detected to have a second elevated temperature, they are offered additional medical screening for confirmation using a medically approved thermometer. Willamette View officials say no data is saved, and no photos are taken of the screened individuals.
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