COVID-19 Update – A message from John Cowan

December 29, 2021

Dear Friends,

As anticipated with the arrival of the Omicron variant of the COVID virus combined with the significant increase in socialization during the holidays, Givens Estates is experiencing an increase in the number of COVID cases and exposures.  We continue with regular Covid-19 testing of residents and team members in GEHC and WAL and any residents/team members across campus that have symptoms. Total cases and percent positivity are rising in Buncombe County and across the State.  Over the past month, the Buncombe County case rate has increased from 132 to 546 per 100,000 and the positivity rate has increased from 6.0% to more than 7.8%. Today’s status report for the State of North Carolina shows 9,377 new cases with a 17.3% test positivity rate.

During the period December 22-29 we have identified 10 team members (5 WAL and 5 IL) and at least 5 IL residents positive for COVID.  Of the 10 positive team members 8 are vaccinated and all residents are vaccinated.  As a result of team member cases and exposures we are experiencing staffing shortages which require us to make some temporary adjustments in services. Currently, IL Dining and Wood Assisted Living have been most impacted, and we have made temporary adjustments until we can return to full staffing.  We will do everything possible to minimize service interruptions, but they may be necessary from time to time in the coming weeks as we navigate the current surge resulting from the Omicron variant.  I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding with these adjustments.

As a result of the number of positive IL residents identified yesterday and the likelihood of more cases in the coming days and weeks, I have made the decision to suspend all group activities and dining room dining in independent living.  The Market + Craft will be open for carry out and home delivered meals, the Wellness Center will remain open for individual exercise, and all other spaces like the library will remain open for individual resident use.  We will also continue with bus trips to local businesses for shopping and other essential services. Residents should refrain from gathering in groups and should follow all preventative measures to help slow the spread of the virus to others. Everyone must wear a face mask covering nose and mouth when indoors, physically distance at least 6 feet from others and practice frequent hand hygiene.  Please make sure your guests follow these guidelines.  Effective immediately, guests are only permitted in resident homes and not in public areas of campus until conditions improve.   

If you do not feel well and have symptoms of Covid-19, please self-isolate at home and call the Campus Nurse or your Social Worker for assistance with testing.  Do not go out in public if you are not feeling well and instead telephone the campus nurse or social worker for at home or drive by testing.  We are prioritizing limited staff resources for routine testing of GEHC and WAL residents, team members and

IL residents with symptoms. If you receive a COVID test somewhere other than Givens Estates and have a positive result, please contact your Social Worker to inform them immediately so we can support you and make any necessary operational adjustments.

Over the past several days, there have been changes to the CDC recommendations for isolating following a new COVID 19 infection and high-risk exposure. Independent living residents who test positive for Covid 19 and have resolved symptoms may now adhere to a five-day home isolation followed by 5 more days of strict mask use.  Similarly, any resident who has a high-risk exposure and is more than 6 months from their last vaccination, or is unvaccinated, should quarantine for 5 days, followed by 5 more days of strict mask usage.  Fully vaccinated residents who have high risk exposures, should monitor closely for symptoms, but do not require a quarantine.  The new guidelines are somewhat involved with numerous exceptions and can be reviewed at for more details. The requirements for team members working at Givens Estates are stricter but do provide some new options which will allow team members to safely return to work in less time than previously allowed.  Rest assured, we will continue to follow the most current science and regulatory guidance ensuring our team members can safely return to work as soon as possible.

As a general measure I recommend that everyone continue with daily routines and follow all the preventative guidelines. The CDC has recommended that anyone that is eligible to receive a booster vaccine do so as soon as possible.  If you received your initial vaccine in early 2021 the booster is necessary for optimal continued protection.

Stay out of groups until this quickly spreading virus begins to subside. If you have been exposed to someone that is now positive, stay calm.  If you don’t feel well, stay home, and don’t become overly alarmed.  If you develop COVID symptoms, please call as directed and we will arrange for a COVID test.  If you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you are likely well protected from serious illness.  We will not prevent all cases of COVID, but hopefully our well vaccinated campus will be protected from serious illness.

COVID fatigue is very real, and I know we all wish this terrible health crisis was over. We will continue to do everything in our power to maintain campus life and services. Please remember that maintaining health and safety on our campus is a collective effort, with each member of our community playing an important part.

Please contact me or my colleagues if we can assist you with a question or concern. I look forward to 2022 with the promise of continued progress out of this pandemic. To everyone I extend all best wishes for joy, peace, and happiness in the New Year.


John C. Cowan, Jr.
Executive Director