Jewish HomeLife is coping with more cases of COVID-19 in two of its senior residences, including six staff members at Dunwoody’s Berman Commons and an already isolated resident at Buckhead’s Jewish Tower. The Buckhead-based nonprofit is also seeking donations for more protective supplies for staff and residents.

Spokesperson Shari Bayer said that Jewish HomeLife is likely not the only senior living operator in the area that faces COVID-19 cases, but is being especially transparent about it by immediately issuing letters to residents and families that circulate widely. The nonprofit is taking various precautions, including testing of staff and residents where appropriate, she said.

“Our hearts go out to all our team members and residents who have been impacted by this virus,” said Harley Tabak, Jewish HomeLife’s president and CEO, in a written statement. “We are doing everything possible to contain the threat of additional exposure, including proactive testing as more test kits become available. We urge everyone to continue their own personal efforts to social distance so our essential care workers can continue to help those most vulnerable.”

Jewish HomeLife has started a “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Relief Fund” to bolster its supplies of protective gear and items for both staff and clients, as well as “staff appreciation.” For details, see the website here.

At the 90-unit Berman Commons at 2026 Womack Road, Jewish HomeLife previously learned that a staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus disease, and then discovered that four residents in memory care had COVID-19 as well.

Further testing recently showed that six of 43 staff members in the Berman Commons memory care unit are positive for COVID-19, though they had no symptoms, Bayer said. With more than 100 staff member total at that residence and over 400 in the Jewish HomeLife system, the normal services are continuing, she said.

At Zaban Tower, a 60-unit affordable, independent-living residence at 3156 Howell Mill Road, an already hospitalized resident was previously diagnosed with COVID-19.

Jewish HomeLife learned March 30 that a resident of the Jewish Tower who had been self-isolating due to symptoms also tested positive, according to Bayer. The Jewish Tower is a 200-unit independent-living residence at 3160 Howell Mill Road, in the same complex as the Zaban Tower. “She is feeling a lot better,” Bayer said of that resident.

In the cases of the Jewish Tower and Zaban Tower residents diagnosed with COVID-19, Bayer said, staff members and other residents known to have been in contact with them have been tested for the disease. Those tests have been negative, she said.

No one at Jewish HomeLife other two residential facilities, the Cohen Home in Johns Creek and the William Bremen Jewish Home, have shown symptoms or contact with anyone with the disease, so no testing has been done there, Bayer said.

The limited supply of test kits nationwide and in Georgia has been a widely reported in tracking the spread of COVID-19. Bayer said she did not have information about how Jewish HomeLife has been able to test people so quickly.

In the situation of Berman Commons with multiple COVID-19 cases, Bayer said it remains unclear how the disease spread in the facility, including whether all of the cases originated with the first employee to be diagnosed. “We don’t want to scapegoat anyone,” said Bayer, adding that first-diagnosed employee is “feeling horrible” about the possibility of being the source. That employee had not been in the building since March 14.

Bayer praised the staff for continuing to work during the potential risks of the pandemic. While health and safety precautions are taken, “It is frightening,” she said.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.