Ensign executives are confident their operators have the tools to respond to and manage potential COVID-19 outbreaks while maintaining occupancy, as cases nationwide surge again. 

“So far we’ve only seen a very minimal number of cases across our portfolio,” Ensign CEO Barry Port said. “Despite the worrisome COVID trends, we remain confident that our local operators and their clinical focused teams will rise to any challenge ahead.” 

Port delivered the comments Thursday during a second-quarter earnings call. They come as total coronavirus infections are projected to skyrocket and peak with an estimated 390,000 cases nationwide by mid-October. 

The United States is currently averaging about 62,000 new cases per day over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. LeadingAge leaders this week also noted that the seven-day case average has quadrupled since June 26. 

Still, Porter expressed confidence in Ensign’s operators thanks to “lessons learned” over the past year. 

“If a new variant of the COVID virus persists, we have the ability to rely on the many, many lessons learned during the pandemic, including infection control procedures and treatment protocols,” Porter said.  “We also have many more tools at our disposal than we did when the pandemic first arrived on the scene, including access to the vaccine and many forms of testing.”

Ensign touted another record quarter for the company with skilled revenue improving by 4.2% and 7.4% for same store and transitioning facilities, respectively, over the second quarter of 2021.

Occupancy also rose by 170 basis points for same store and 150 basis points for transitioning facilities, while some of its more mature markets — like most of Arizona and Colorado — have returned to pre-COVID levels. 

“Our record results from the quarter came from a multifaceted approach that included efforts to improve occupancies but also involved a renewed focus on operational fundamentals, including operational expense management and improved cash collections,” Port said. 

“We expect the positive trend in occupancy to continue throughout the year, subject to some seasonality, as volumes in higher acute settings and managed care utilizations continue to increase,” he later added.