Executives for the Ensign Group reported a “record” first quarter Tuesday despite seeing dips in occupancy and expressed optimism about the company’s future after COVID-19.

The company reported that its consolidated occupancy hit an “all-time high in February” before it started to see decreases in mid-March due to the pandemic. 

Specifically, between mid-March and mid-April, company’s same-store occupancy was down 5.2%, while its skilled mix was down 11.5%. From mid-April through early May, same-store occupancy was down by an additional 1.7%, while skilled mixed improved by 13.6%. 

“This recovery of skilled mix over the last few weeks, together with the flattening of the occupancy decline, demonstrates continued partnership with the healthcare community,” CEO Barry Port said during a first-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

“We are seeing signs of stabilization in occupancy in many of our markets and we are optimistic that occupancies will continue to recover in the second-half of the year as hospitals reopen and vital elective procedures that have been delayed begin to take place,” Port added.

Ensign Group facilities have a total of 355 confirmed COVID-19 patients in-house as of Friday (May 8). Seven of those providers have more than 20 coronavirus cases each, while 25 facilities have fewer than 20. Port noted that 193 of its facilities have no confirmed cases. The company has a total of 225 facilities across 13 states. 

“As testing continues to become more available, we expect the number of known cases to continue to rise in the second quarter but we believe we are prepared to operate in the COVID environment for the foreseeable future,” Port said. 

The company again touted record quarterly results — just as it did following the third and fourth quarters. GAAP earnings per share for the quarter were 73 cents — an 87.2% increase over the prior year quarter and an increase of 28.3% over the fourth quarter. 

“While these occupancy declines and increased expenses are included in our results, we still substantially exceeded our own expectations for the quarter,” Port said. 

“Overall, our portfolio is not being overwhelmed by COVID-19,” he added. 

Port explained that the pandemic “arrived at our doorsteps at a time when our organization has never been stronger clinically and financially.” He also noted that the company was “born in times much like these and our model is not only designed to survive but to thrive and grow in the face of uncertainty.” 

Executives expect the pandemic to continue to impact operations as it moves into the second and third quarters but the leaders are also “confident that we are well-positioned to regain much of our pre-COVID momentum as the flow of patients continues to normalize over time.” 

In other provider news, National Health Investors President and CEO Eric Mendelsohn also expressed optimism Tuesday, saying the company is “excited about the future for skilled nursing” despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

The company reported that, as of May 5, it had 192 active COVID-19 resident cases — out of 20,000 total residents — across 37 buildings, which is less than 1% of its total population. Of the 37 buildings, 17 were skilled nursing facilities and 20 were senior housing properties.