COVID-19 Updates

JAMDA Report Gives Expert Recommendations For COVID-19 Management and other Covid updates



JAMDA Report Gives Expert Recommendations For COVID-19 Management In SNFs

Provider Magazine (7/31, Connole, 151K) reported, “A recent report in JAMDA offers new expert consensus recommendations for managing COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) with a focus on addressing screening of residents and staff, management of COVID-19 positive and presumed positive cases, communication during an outbreak, management of admissions and readmissions, and giving emotional support for staff.” In the report, the authors said, “Managing COVID-19 in this setting is uniquely challenging because the SNF serves both as a home and a medical facility.” They observed that, “without periodic widespread testing of all employees and visitors entering the facility…’It will be difficult to recognize when there is COVID-19 in the facility prior to its spread.’”


Face Shields May Help Protect Against Coronavirus When Worn Over Mask, Experts Suggest

ABC News (7/31, News, 2.97M) reported, “A number of the nation’s top public health officials have said in recent days that Americans searching for extra layers of protection against the novel coronavirus while out in public may want to try face shields – clear pieces of plastic that cover the face and can further prevent respiratory droplets from spreading when worn over a mask.” The nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told ABC News on Wednesday, “If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it,” while “Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House task force coordinator, made similar statements about the benefits of face shields on Fox News on Thursday.” AHCA/NCAL “also told ABC News shields can be helpful because ‘they can help protect individuals from touching their own face and spreading the virus in that way.’”


Rhode Island Nursing Home Workers Postpone Strike After Governor Intervention

The Providence (RI) Journal (7/31, Amaral, 259K) reported, “The union representing workers at five Rhode Island nursing homes has postponed a strike indefinitely” following a request from Gov. Gina Raimondo. Raimondo also “pledged to work on staffing legislation the union favors,” including a bill “that would mandate 4.1 hours of resident care a day in nursing homes.” Rhode Island Health Care Association president and CEO Scott Fraser said in an interview, “We’re pleased that they did finally take the action to call off the strike. … Because this has caused a lot of stress and concern not only to our homes, but the residents.”

The Providence (RI) Business News (7/31, Gagosz, 14K) reported that on Friday, Fraser said, “The [threat] of this strike puts our nursing homes into a crisis. … Our residents, unfortunately, are being used as pawns in the union’s quest to pass a staffing mandate that in fact, would close some nursing homes and put staff out of their jobs.”


State Members Discuss COVID-19 Testing

Throughout the US, AHCA/NCAL members address issues of coronavirus testing in LTC facilities. For instance, The Arkansas Democrat Gazette (8/2, Stromquist, 307K) reports, “Nineteen Arkansas nursing homes will be among the nation’s first to receive quick-response coronavirus test machines under a federal program announced in July.” In an interview, “Arkansas Health Care Association executive director Rachel Bunch said…that ‘there’s still a lot of unknowns’ about the forthcoming test devices.” She said the group “will work with the Health Department to learn how best to make use of the machines.”

WRTV-TV Indianapolis (7/31, Kenney, 182K) reported Indiana “state officials announced this week only 1% of the state’s nursing home workers have tested positive for COVID-19, following a statewide testing effort during the month of June.” Indiana Health Care Association president Zach Cattell “explained since the early days of the pandemic availability of PPE and testing has greatly improved.”

The Fairfield (CA) Daily Republic (8/2, 53K) reports, “In the latest poll results from the California Health Care Foundation, low-wage nursing home workers overwhelmingly see their workplaces as epicenters of transmission of Covid-19 for themselves, their families and the residents they serve.” Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs for the California Association of Health Facilities, “said that CAHF has been advocating for personal protective equipment and Covid-19 testing for residents and caregivers since the beginning of the pandemic.” Pacyna said, “Some workers have to go offsite to get their tests. … Nursing homes have contracts with labs to do the testing, but the results are often delayed up to 5 days which is not sufficient to stop the spread of the virus.”


AHCA/NCAL Affiliates Continue To Address Pandemic Concerns

As the coronavirus continues throughout the US, state organizations continue to advocate for facility residents and staff. For instance, The New Hampshire Union Leader (7/31, Lane, 109K) reported, “Nursing home and home-care workers will lose their $300 emergency stipend starting Saturday, a move that may prompt some already stressed nursing homes to close, a trade association warned.” New Hampshire Health Care Association president Brendan Williams said, “It’s a very scary time for our staff, and these stipends have been a critical tool for our heroes doing battle on this pandemic’s frontline. As he has before, we’re praying the governor hears our call to extend this program again.”

The Adirondack (NY) Daily Enterprise (8/3, 16K) reports, “New Yorkers are expected to get the most independent review to date of the thousands of COVID-19 deaths at state-licensed nursing homes and long-term care facilities at a legislative hearing set to begin Monday.” New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living president Stephen Hanse “said the facilities he represents need to get the same support and emphasis from policy makers as hospitals receive.” Hanse said, “I hope there is a recognition that the only entity to blame for what has happened in this epidemic is the COVID-19 virus. … It was not the fault of any policymaker. It was not the fault of any directive. It was the fault of the virus.”

The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (8/2, Carlisle, 224K) reports, “Across Utah, at least 1,125 medical workers, most of them employed at long-term care centers, have contracted the coronavirus, according to data supplied by local health departments, out of more than 40,000 total COVID-19 cases in the state.” Utah Health Care Association director of membership Allie Spangler “said Friday that the Utah National Guard recently had to provide staff at one facility.”

WVNews (8/2, Snoderly) reports, “Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in North Central West Virginia are doing their best to protect residents and staff as COVID-19 case numbers mount in the region.” In a statement, “West Virginia Health Care Association CEO Marty Wright…credited long-term care providers and state officials with prioritizing long-term care residents in striving to protect the state’s most vulnerable populations.” Wright wrote, “Our long-term care providers, along with their state and local health care partners, are to be commended for their immense efforts in protecting our most vulnerable population from the COVID-19 virus. Please keep our long-term care heroes in your thoughts and prayers and do your part to help curb the spread of this terrible illness.”




Feds Delivered 1 Million Point-Of-Care Tests To Nursing Homes Last Week, Giroir Says

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (8/3, Brown) reports, “The federal government delivered about 1 million point-of-care tests to nursing homes last week, according to a leading health official.” In a hearing on Friday, Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said, “By the end of this week, we would have delivered – according to schedule – nearly 1 million point-of-care, or antigen, tests to the 1,019 of the highest-risk nursing homes. With another 664 nursing homes scheduled for next week.”

Politico (7/31, Lim, 4.29M) reported, “The announcement comes after Giroir told reporters Thursday that the administration hopes to deliver 2,400 machines for processing point-of-care antigen tests to nursing homes in states experiencing coronavirus outbreaks in the coming weeks.” These “efforts are aimed at relieving pressure on commercial testing laboratories while increasing testing of nursing home residents and staff.” Giroir also “said the government is working to locate additional machines for these facilities.”

The Epoch Times (8/1, Liu, 675K) reported Giroir said “that every nursing home would be receiving a point-of-care instrument and enough point-of-care tests for both residents and staff at nursing homes.” He said, “Access to rapid point-of-care testing in nursing homes will further protect our nation’s most vulnerable patients.”




CMS Finalizes 2021 Payment Rates, Wage Indices For Skilled Nursing Facilities

ModernHealthcare (7/31, Subscription Publication, 214K) reported that CMS on Friday “finalized Medicare payment rates and wage indices for skilled nursing facilities, hospices and inpatient psychiatric facilities for fiscal year 2021.” SNFs “will get a $750 million pay boost in fiscal year 2021, amounting to a 2.2% increase from 2020.” The rule “applies a 5% cap on wage index decreases, tweaks case-mix classification code mappings used under the SNF prospective payment system and adjusts the SNF value-based purchasing program.”

Skilled Nursing News (7/31, Spanko) reported CMS said, “In this final rule, in response to these stakeholder recommendations, we are finalizing changes to the ICD-10 code mappings, effective October 1, 2020. … We encourage stakeholders to continue to provide this essential feedback on the ICD-10 code mappings so that we may continue to improve and refine our payment methodology.” CMS also noted, “In recognition of the significant impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and limited capacity of health care providers to review and provide comment on extensive proposals, CMS has limited annual SNF rulemaking required by statute to essential policies including Medicare payment to SNFs.”


Michigan Governor Vetoes Bill Restricting Where Nursing Homes Could House Virus-Infected Residents

The AP (7/31, Eggert) reported that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Friday “vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would have let nursing homes house coronavirus-infected residents only in a separate building from where other residents live.” In a letter to senators, Whitmer “said she had protected nursing home residents and the bill was ‘based on the false premise that isolation units created within existing facilities are somehow insufficient to protect seniors.’” The measure “had attracted some Democratic support in the GOP-led Legislature.”


Pharmacists Seek Medicare Part B Provider Status During Pandemic

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (8/2, Lasek) reports, “Pharmacists are lobbying for Medicare Part B provider status during the pandemic, pushing to insert a policy in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill that would expand their role in COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.” The initial “version of the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act, unveiled last week, does not include this designation for pharmacists, but advocates say they will continue to push their cause as the bill is fine-tuned.” Pharmacists’ ability “to directly provide and bill for testing and related services would not only help expand testing access overall, but could be helpful to certain eldercare providers, particularly in senior living communities, said Ronna Hauser, PharmD, vice president of policy and government affairs operations at the National Community Pharmacists Association.”


Industry CEO Provides Advice To SNFs Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Skilled Nursing News (7/31, Flynn) reported, “The first major outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. struck a skilled nursing facility in the state of Washington, but it was the East Coast that took a tremendous beating in the initial surge of the disease.” One industry CEO “saw first-hand the damage COVID-19 could do to SNFs,” and “he has some advice for SNFS as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, particularly in the Sun Belt states in the South.” Specifically, he said that facilities in areas of ongoing community spread “should be reaching out to everybody and anybody.” He advised, “Check with your laboratory provider and see what their capacity is, what their ability is and have an honest and open conversation with them. … In the event that there is an outbreak, if your laboratory or provider is not able to handle the influx of tests coming in, or provide enough testing swabs, then look at all any and all other alternatives.”