COVID-19 Updates


Guidance On Return-To-Work Criteria For HCP With Suspected, Confirmed COVID-19 Recently Released By CDC

Provider Magazine (4/17, Connole, 151K) reported that the CDC “released new interim guidance on return-to-work criteria for health care personnel (HCP) with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to the latest update on coronavirus-related developments from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).” Specifically, “nursing centers are to use the test-based strategy as the preferred method for determining when HCP may return to work,” but “if test-based strategy cannot be used, the non-test-based strategy may be used for determining when HCP may return to work.” Moreover, “HCP with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms should be excluded from work until 10 days have passed since the first date of their positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test, the guidance said.”



AHCA/NCAL Continues Coronavirus Response Across The Country

For instance, The Boston Globe (4/16, 972K) reported The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living “said the industry is ‘struggling to gain access to reliable, rapid response tests to determine who has COVID-19 in their centers.’” In response to questions from the Globe, the groups said in a statement, “Long-term-care providers need to be able to test all staff and residents and obtain timely results. This is the only way we can manage and contain this virus.” They added, “Our residents and staff have struggled to get testing or proper turnaround time on tests. This has been one of the most significant factors related to the spread.”

The Independent (UK) (4/18, Cenziper, Jacobs, Mulcahy, 1.36M) reported that AHCA/NCAL chief medical officer Dr. David Gifford said in a statement, “Outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in nursing homes. … It’s the combination of the behaviour of this virus and the unique threat it presents to the people we care for – older adults with multiple underlying health conditions.”

Business Insider (4/18, Al-Arshani, 3.67M) reported AHCA/NCAL president and CEO Mark Parkinson told the New York Times, “We don’t have what we need to stop this. … We have got to have masks, and we don’t have masks.”

Meanwhile, Better Homes & Gardens (4/17, 37.57M) reported on various Pen Pal programs in place in senior living facilities across the country. Among the options listed was AHCA/NCAL’s #CareNotCOVID movement, which “allows you to record a video message to send support to someone in an assisted living residence or nursing home.”

Members Express Need For Additional Supplies, Testing

State organizations continue to address needs of their members throughout the country. For example, KUSA-TV Denver (4/19, 475K) reports Colorado Health Care Association president and CEO Doug Farmer said, “It’s very difficult to follow the guidelines that have been presented when the access to the personal protective equipment isn’t there. … The challenge that we face right now is that we don’t have adequate access to rapid testing or personal protective equipment.” Farmer also said, “We’ve been identified by the governor and others as a tier-one concern when it comes to the spread of this virus, but we continue to be a tier-two consideration for receiving PPE. That’s something that has to change if we want to see the outcomes changing.” He added, “Right now we have plenty of employees and frontline caregivers that are using a mask for an entire shift. I am aware of some who have began crafting gowns out of bed sheets. Anything they can do to protect their workers.”

WMFE-FM Orlando, FL (4/18, Prieur, 8K) reported Florida Health Care Association Director of Communications Kristen Knapp “said that nursing homes are not a priority in receiving supplies.” Knapp said, “And yes, we should be a priority. Our caregivers are on the front lines of trying to protect our most vulnerable citizens, and we need priority to supplies.” She added “that only forty 40 percent of her groups’ members have two weeks’ worth of supplies,” and “while private vendors are trying to make up the gap, she says it still will take two to three weeks for deliveries.”

AllOnGeorgia (4/16) reported Georgia “Senator David Perdue and 26 Senate colleagues asked that long-term care facilities be made eligible for financial relief programs available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.” Georgia Health Care Association president and CEO Tony Marshall said, “The GHCA Board and membership applauds Senator Perdue for his efforts to ensure long-term health care providers that care for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens get the resources and support they need to keep their residents safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” He added, “Long-term care providers are facing significant staffing and PPE shortages, and funding is needed to help address these deficits so they can best protect their residents. We thank Senator Perdue for his ongoing partnership and commitment to the health and safety of elderly Georgians.”

The Riverhead (NY) Local (4/17) reported Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living said, “Early on, it was clear that the concerns of long-term care providers were not fully recognized. … Outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in our facilities.” Hanse also said, “Given the highly contagious nature of this virus, requiring medically stable COVID-19 positive or suspected patients be admitted from hospitals to nursing homes created considerable concerns and appeared to demonstrate a lack of appreciation of the incredible susceptibility of our residents to this virus. …The very nature of long-term care is a high-touch environment where social distancing is not an option. Staff are helping residents with bathing, dressing, eating and other personal daily needs.” Hanse added that “it is absolutely critical that the state ensures that long-term care providers, residents and staff be designated as a top priority with staffing, PPE and testing in order to safeguard our most vulnerable citizens and the men and women who provide essential care.”

The Beckley (WV) Register-Herald (4/17, 59K) reported that the West Virginia Health Care Association said in a statement on Thursday that there hasn’t been facility-wide testing across the state. The association said, “We firmly believe that facility-wide testing will aid our providers in implementing necessary isolation procedures, help to curb the spread of the virus and provide transparency to residents, staff, and their loved ones.”

Affiliates Continue To Address COVID-19 Concerns

AHCA/NCAL member organizations continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, Alabama Live (4/18, 734K) reported Brandon Farmer, president of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, said, “We certainly are making preparations to try to prevent what has happened nationally.” Farmer added, “A resident that tests positive and remains in the building, they are immediately on full isolation. … Any person who enters that room must have the full PPE on, the masks, gloves and isolation gowns. On average, a caregiver interacts with them 22 times over 24-hour timeframe. Multiply that and you can see how quickly they can go through it.”

The Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer (4/17, Bedner, 47K) reported Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities president and CEO Matthew Barrett said, “Connecticut nursing homes have followed all of the guidance and best practices made available by state and federal authorities to keep COVID-19 from entering the building. … The data continues to show that COVID-19 is making its way indiscriminately into nursing homes in Connecticut and across the nation. This means that nursing home operators and employees who are doing all the right things will have to battle the virus through no fault of their own.”

Florida Politics (4/19) reports that “on Saturday, responding to mounting pressure from some lawmakers, senior-care advocates, and the media, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) instructed the Department of Health to disclose the names of long-term care facilities where COVID-19 cases have been found.” Responding “to that release, the Florida Health Care Association said their number one priority is the health and well-being of patients.” The group wrote, “Part of the process has been open dialogue among long-term care facilities and our partners at the local, state, and federal levels. … We recognize that this decision is based on the need for transparent flow of information during this challenging time.”

The Oregonian (4/19, 1M) reports the Oregon Health Care Association’s spokeswoman Rosie Ward “wrote in an email that the industry supports transparency around COVID-19 infections and deaths at the facilities and neither its lobbyists nor its members have spoken with the governor or her administration ‘about restricting the disclosure of information or data regarding COVID-19 cases in long term care settings.’” Ward wrote, “From day one, we have been strong advocates in encouraging DHS to collect and share contextual data about long term care and COVID-19 with the public.”


State, Local Governments Provide Varying Liability Protections To Long-Term Care Providers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Skilled Nursing News (4/19, Flynn) reports that “health care providers across the continuum have grappled with major challenges in providing care for patients with COVID-19, and several states have taken steps to shield them from lawsuits related to care provided during the national emergency.” According to SNN, “skilled nursing facilities are often included in those liability protections, but the extent to which the protections apply vary from state to state, and there are some key differences in how the states are phrasing their rules.” For instance, in a statement on April 15, AHCA “pointed out that the recent coronavirus stimulus bill does include some additional federal liability protection for volunteer health care workers during the COVID-19 emergency.” AHCA also said, “We encourage every state to extend sovereign immunity provisions to the long-term care providers and other health care sectors associated with care provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Hill (4/15, Easley, 2.98M) reported that “more than 20 conservative groups have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asking Congress to take measures to protect companies from frivolous coronavirus lawsuits.” This “letter, obtained by The Hill, urges Congress to enforce ‘stronger liability protections’ for industries that are ‘currently on the frontlines of the nation’s coronavirus response and relief efforts’ to ‘create shields from trial lawyers’ frivolous, costly, and job-killing litigation schemes.’” The letter states, “While the rest of America has come together to fight this pandemic, some trial lawyers have instead plotted to line their pockets with COVID-19 related lawsuits. … Their greed is hurting America in this time of crisis, and lawmakers must put their exploitation of this public health crisis into check.”

Legal Expert: Providers Should Document Everything Related To Coronavirus Response. McKnight’s Senior Living (4/17, Brown) reported that one “legal expert is urging providers to document everything related to their responses to the coronavirus pandemic,” which may “help skilled nursing and senior living organizations defend themselves if they are sued.” The expert said in a webinar, “Documentation is critical. Document, document, document your efforts.” She added, “You need to be documenting as each new piece of guidance comes out. As you and your organization respond to that new piece of guidance, document what you knew, when you knew it and what your response was.”

Expert: NHICS Use May Help Health Care Providers Effectively Manage COVID-19 Outbreak

In a post for McKnight’s Long Term Care News (4/17), consultant Stan Szpytek wrote that “compliance with the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers Final Rule indicates that skilled nursing facilities (SNF) along with other health care providers receiving Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services funds implement an ‘All Hazards’ approach to emergency preparedness.” According to Szpytek, “Specifically, the Nursing Home Incident Command System (NHICS) utilizes an ‘All Hazards’ approach designed to provide SNFs with an interoperable management model that will not only help manage the response internally but will also promote standardized communication capabilities and coordination with other health care providers through the Incident Command System (ICS).” He concluded, “The unfortunate experiences that SNFs and other health care providers are dealing with during the COVID-19 outbreak can be managed effectively and in a well-organized manner through the use of the NHICS.”

Long-Term Care Visitation Ban Will Stay In Effect Until Final Phase Of “Opening Up America Again” Plan

Skilled Nursing News (4/17, Spanko) reported that “blanket restrictions on non-essential visits to senior living and care properties should remain in effect until the very last phase of the federal government’s plan to gradually reopen public places and restart the economy, the White House announced this week.” The visitation ban “will likely be in effect for many more months, as the federal ‘Opening Up America Again’ plan – debuted at a Thursday evening press conference with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci – does not call for lifting the bans until the third and final phase.”

Senators Urge HHS To Provide More Stimulus Money For Long-Term Care Facilities

Skilled Nursing News (4/17, Spanko) reported a group of 27 senators, “led by Sen. David Perdue (R) of Georgia” sent “an April 16 letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar” that “asked the government not to forget long-term care facilities in its health care relief efforts.” Specifically, the senators wrote, “As you know, our nursing homes and senior living facilities are experiencing serious shortages of needed staffing and protective equipment during the COVID-19 public health emergency. … Significant investment is needed to stave off both of these shortages.” The senators also said, “We are hearing from providers in our respective states that they are unable to order basic medical supplies, including but not limited to protective masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, and face shields. … We must ensure these supplies are flowing to the providers who are on the front lines of caring for some of our nation’s most vulnerable – our seniors.”