COVID-19 Updates


AHCA/NCAL Offers Suggestions To Help Facilities Prepare For More Widespread COVID-19 Testing

Provider Magazine (4/24, 151K) reported that, “recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has emphasized the importance of testing for COVID-19 in nursing facilities, and at the same time a growing number of states are requiring testing of all residents and/or staff.” Therefore, “in light of these developments, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said when accessing testing, it recommends long term care providers ensure that the tests are FDA-approved PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests – versus antibody/serology tests – and that the lab will bill Medicare directly.” In addition, “providers, the association said, need to have a plan in place to isolate residents who test positive and follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for staff who test positive.”


AHCA/NCAL Addresses Coronavirus Pandemic In US, Emphasizing Need For Additional Equipment, Testing Priority, Long-Term Changes

Yahoo! News (4/24, 12.82M) broadcast an interview with American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living president and CEO Mark Parkinson on Fox News regarding the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities throughout the United States. Parkinson said, “Our residents and our staff members have been ignored, and it’s a tragedy. Our staff members are heroes.” Parkinson added, “These residents are what is left of the ‘greatest generation,’ and you would have thought that they would have been placed at the very highest priority level for testing and equipment, because we knew early on that these congregate settings were dangerous. Unfortunately, that did not take place.” According to Parkinson, “The good news is that we can still make this better. If we can change these priorities, and get testing, and get equipment into these facilities, we can make this better.”

Politico (4/26, Doherty, Ehley, 4.29M) reports, “The American Health Care Association…said three-quarters of its members are running out of PPE, and about 60 percent are reusing or improvising PPE.” Tony Marshall, president and CEO of the association’s Georgia chapter, said, “We have shortages in all categories of PPE.” Marshall also “said workers in some facilities have been wearing homemade masks and raincoats for gowns because of struggles procuring medical equipment.”

Barron’s (4/24, Laise, 1.07M) reported AHCA/NCAL said that certain concerns about COVID-19 in long-term care facilities “‘don’t recognize the gravity of the situation that this virus is having on our population and only further distracts from the more important issue’ of inadequate protective gear, testing, and staffing.” According to the association, facilities recognize how key communication is, and “families need to work together and with facilities to identify a single point of contact who can be responsible for information dissemination within families.”

ABC News (4/24, Pecorin, Park, Mosk, Freger, 2.97M) reported AHCA/NCAL’s Parkinson “said the rapid spread of the disease in nursing homes is revealing vulnerabilities that will need to be addressed even after the risk of coronavirus is less imminent.” Parkinson “pointed to flaws in nursing home regulations and surveying as possible areas of improvement.” He said, “I think one of the things that hopefully we learn is that the survey process that’s been used for nursing homes throughout the years is just broken; it’s not revealing the right things. … We’re not focusing on the right things. And I hope that we can come out of it with a much more collaborative approach that works better for residents and the system that we currently have.”

Some States Order Long-Term Care Facilities To Accept Coronavirus Patients Discharged From Hospitals

NBC News (4/25, 6.14M) reported, “Three states hit hard by the pandemic – New York, New Jersey and California – have ordered nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals,” which “has prompted sharp criticism from the nursing home industry, staff members and concerned families, as well as some leading public health experts.” Specifically, “on March 25, New York became the first state to issue a blanket rule prohibiting nursing homes from denying admission or readmission to residents because they are infected with COVID-19, and banned the facilities from testing patients for the disease before they are admitted.” AHCA said, “The bottom line is that nursing homes are not a priority in the public health system and this policy reflects that.”

The New York Times (4/24, Barker, Harris, 18.61M) reported “Beth Martino, spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, said her association had heard that a number of states were considering measures similar to those in California, New Jersey and New York. But many others haven’t offered any guidance on the matter.”

Some Governors Have Issued Executive Orders To Shield Facilities From Civil Liability During Pandemic

Bloomberg BNA (4/24, Wheeler, Bauman, 4K) reported, “Governors in at least six states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, and Arizona – have issued executive orders protecting nursing homes and other health-care facilities from being held civilly liable for the injury or death of [COVID-19] patients in their care.” AHCA/NCAL president and CEO Mark Parkinson said in an emailed statement, “Long term care workers and centers are on the frontline of this pandemic response and it is critical that states provide the necessary liability protection staff and providers need to provide care during this difficult time without fear of reprisal.”

MarketWatch (4/24, Arends, 1.67M) reported that Parkinson told MarketWatch in a statement, “More needs to be done to afford appropriate legal protection to those that are working hard to prevent and contain this virus from spreading. … 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 American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living “says it’s insulting to criticize the front-line staff for how the industry has handled the crisis, rather than, say, the executives or stockholders.” Spokeswoman Beth Martino said, “This type of criticism is a disservice to the brave heroes of this fight, who leave their families every day to care for others.” Martino also said, “We desperately need help with more personal protective equipment (PPE), priority and regular testing, and additional staff support…It’s time for America to rally around our long term care residents and caregivers so we can get the help we need.”


Older Adults With COVID-19 May Show Atypical Symptoms, According To Physicians

Kaiser Health News (4/24, Graham) reported that older adults with COVID-19, “the illness caused by the coronavirus, have several ‘atypical’ symptoms, complicating efforts to ensure they get timely and appropriate treatment, according to physicians.” COVID-19 “is typically signaled by three symptoms: a fever, an insistent cough and shortness of breath.” However, “older adults – the age group most at risk of severe complications or death from this condition – may have none of these characteristics,” and, instead, “may seem ‘off’ – not acting like themselves – early on after being infected by the coronavirus.”

CMS Releases Staffing, Resident Data For Nursing Homes To Help Identify Facility Needs

Skilled Nursing News (4/24, Spanko) reported, “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Friday released a public database of staffing and resident counts for nearly 15,000 nursing homes, with the goal of potentially helping states make more informed decisions about the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” CMS used “fourth-quarter 2019 data from the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) system” to compile “a spreadsheet that includes a variety of staffing information about each facility, including average daily nursing headcount, average daily overall staffing totals, the number of certified beds, and the average resident census.” In a Friday memo to State Survey Agency Directors, CMS official David Wright wrote, “We believe this information can be used to identify approximate facility needs, and help support local, state, and federal agencies’ response to preventing and controlling the transmission of COVID-19. … For example, this could be used to help state agencies where, and how much, personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing should be directed within their state.”

PPE Needed Before Elective Procedures Resume Throughout US, Providers Say

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (4/24, Brown) reported, “Long-term care providers across the country want assurances that they’ll have enough personal protective equipment as several states look to resume elective surgeries.” Some “providers…are cautioning that several factors – like adequate supplies of personal protective equipment – must be in place before procedures can be restarted and patients start coming into their facilities for recovery. ”

Amidst Challenges, “Glimmers Of Hope” Seen For Senior Living Industry During Pandemic

McKnight’s Senior Living (4/24, Bonvissuto) reported, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges and shaken consumer confidence in the senior living industry,” but certain research results, “based on surveys of senior living leaders and consumers, reveal glimmers of hope among industry uncertainties.” The chief customer officer of GlynnDevins, the company that did the survey, “said senior living operators should look at the COVID-19 situation as a marathon, not a sprint, and that communities need to prepare and ‘lean in’ to keep driving success.”

Meanwhile, Senior Housing News (4/23, Regan) reported that “while the [COVID-19] pandemic will surely cause major disruptions in the short-term, the senior housing industry is still a good long-term bet if the economy rebounds relatively quickly.” Certain “conditions which have girded the senior housing market in recent years – changing demographics chief among them – are not expected to leave with [COVID-19].” Furthermore, “the pandemic could give the industry a chance to prove its worth amid a challenging and scary time for older adults and their families.”

Expert Offers Recommendations On Securing PPE, Testing Supplies

Skilled Nursing News (4/23, Flynn) reported, “As skilled nursing operators battle to elevate their place on the priority list for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, they have to combat the forces of supply and demand that have ravaged health care facilities across the world,” which “includes problems with prices skyrocketing and supplies plummeting, as well as backlogs in shipping.” According to one expert, “no matter how operators have chosen to try to secure their PPE and testing supplies, they need to remember to stay on top of the order and ask for updates.” Among the suggestions he gave related to obtaining PPE, the expert said that “SNFs have to be in touch with their local representatives first and foremost on what is available.”