COVID-19 Updates

AHCA/NCAL, Other Groups Urge Policymakers To Prioritize LTC Residents, Staff For COVID-19 Vaccine

Provider Magazine (11/30, Connole, 151K) reports, “In a joint statement released on Nov. 30, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), LeadingAge, Argentum, and the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) urged policymakers at all levels to make residents and staff of long term care facilities a top priority for receiving distribution a COVID-19 vaccine.” The statement said, “Since the start of the pandemic, heroic caregivers in long term care and senior living communities have done everything in their power to protect our most vulnerable citizens.” The groups also “said that the lack of prioritization for long term care and seniors housing at the outset of the pandemic led to devastating losses, and ‘we cannot let that happen again.’”

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (12/1, Brown) reports the groups wrote, “In the early months, essential resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and staffing support were directed toward hospitals and other health care sectors, leaving nursing homes, assisted living and senior living communities and other long-term care providers pleading for help.”

McKnight’s Senior Living (12/1, Bonvissuto) reports the statement said, “Distributing a vaccine to long-term care and senior living residents and staff first will give us another line of defense against this deadly virus if cases rise within their surrounding communities.”

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (11/30, Lasek) also reports in a separate article.

Georgia LTC Facilities Should Be Among First To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine, Governor Says

The AP (11/30, Amy) reports, “Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that he expects vaccinations of health care workers in Georgia against COVID-19 to begin in the second or third week of December, as nursing home executives appealed to the Republican to keep supporting them financially.” The governor “made the remarks in a meeting with leaders of the Georgia Health Care Association.”

Georgia Health News (11/30, Miller) reports, “Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that as COVID-19 vaccine doses begin to be distributed, Georgia’s long-term care facilities should be among the first in line to get them.” AHCA/NCAL said in a joint statement with other long-term care organizations, “Government reports correctly identified all long-term care residents and staff for priority distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. … It is critical that policymakers at all levels maintain that position as these products come online and are delivered across the country.” Georgia Health Care Association CEO Tony Marshall said that each state is allowed to establish “their own prioritization.”

Maine Governor, DHHS Announce New Grant Program For Health Care Organizations

WCSH-TV Portland, ME (11/30, Mannino) reports, “With the backing of $30 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF), Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew on Monday announced a new grant program that will support Maine health care organizations that serve residents with MaineCare and sustain vital health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Main Health Care Association president and CEO Rick Erb said, “There are extreme expenses associated with this ongoing effort, including staffing, PPE procurement, and testing. MHCA is pleased to see these grants targeted for nursing facilities and appreciate that this relief can be customized to meet the varying needs of individual homes. We thank the Mills Administration for supporting the important role our state’s nursing homes serve in caring for residents and are hopeful that these grants will help our homes remain viable as we head into the tenth month of this public health emergency.”

Over 50% Of Colorado Nursing Homes Had Staff Member Test Positive For Coronavirus Over One-Week Span In Mid-November, White House Task Force Indicates

The Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (11/30, Klamann, 223K) reports, “More than half of Colorado’s nursing homes had a staff member test positive over a week’s span in mid-November, the White House coronavirus task force wrote, as facilities across the state continue to see significant spread within long-term and nursing facilities.” Colorado Health Care Association president Doug Farmer “said the spike in outbreaks isn’t surprising, given the known downstream effects of widespread community transmission.” Farmer “joined the chorus of public health officials across the country in urging Coloradans to wear masks, socially distance and stay home.”

Pennsylvania Governor Vetoes Bill Giving Limited Liability Protections To Senior Living Organizations

McKnight’s Senior Living (12/1, Bonvissuto) reports, “Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill giving senior living organizations limited liability protections on Monday.” This “legislation would undermine COVID-19 mitigation efforts and endanger public health, he announced.” Pennsylvania Health Care Association president and CEO Zach Shamberg “said the bill would have protected long-term care providers from predatory law firms looking to take advantage of the pandemic with ‘baseless accusations and frivolous lawsuits.’”

WPMT-TV Harrisburg, PA (12/1, 93K) reports Shamberg issued a statement following the veto, which said, “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers and their frontline workers have gone to extraordinary lengths to care for our most vulnerable population. Unfortunately, shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, coupled with ever-changing guidance from state and federal regulatory agencies, have created an environment ripe for opportunistic legal action directly related to this emergency.” Shamberg added, “In vetoing House Bill 1737, Governor Wolf has bypassed the concerns of long-term care providers and their workers, and instead sided with those attorneys who seek to wreak havoc on the health care heroes charged with protecting our loved ones.”

Pennsylvania Health Care Officials Warn Of Potential Coronavirus Spread In Care Homes. WNEP-TV Scranton, PA (11/30, Buynovsky, 172K) reports, “Health care officials warn as Covid cases spike, there is serious concern about the virus sweeping through care homes throughout Pennsylvania: affecting those most at-risk.” Pennsylvania Health Care Association president Zach Shamberg said, “Everything that we’ve seen says spread in the community means spread in long term care. We know that that could spell disaster in our nursing homes, in personal care and assisted living.”

Families Of Ohio Nursing Home Residents Urged Not To Take Loved One Out Of Facility For Holiday Celebrations

WVXU-FM Cincinnati (11/30, Ingles, 4K) reports, “Families of nursing home residents are being urged to refrain from a common practice this time of year – taking their loved one home for a holiday celebration.” Pete Van Runkle with the Ohio Health Care Association “says residents should not leave because of the pandemic.” Instead, he “says the better thing to do is schedule a compassionate care visit inside the facility.”


Number Of Patients Discharged From Short-Term Acute Care Hospitals To Home Health Settings Increased Between May 2019, May 2020, Report Indicates

McKnight’s Senior Living (11/30, Jancsurak) reports, “The percentage of patients discharged from short-term acute care hospitals to home health settings jumped 8% between May 2019 and May 2020, going from 11% in May 2019 to 19%, according to a report from the ATI Advisory.” However, “the number of STACH discharges for the same period dropped from more than 800,000 to 558,296 patients.” According to McKnight’s, “Whether the rise in discharge-to-home-health numbers reflects a temporary pandemic cause-effect rise or a permanent shift as more family caregivers and their loved ones demonstrate greater confidence in home health versus long-term care remains to be seen.”

Dementia Prevalence, Incidence Remained Higher Among Black Compared With White Older Adults From 2000 To 2016, Research Suggests

MedPage Today (11/30, George, 75K) reports, “Dementia prevalence and incidence remained substantially higher among Black compared with white older adults from 2000 to 2016, researchers found” in a large study revealing that “black participants had about 1.5 to 1.9 times higher prevalence of dementia compared with white participants in biennial assessments from 2000 to 2016.” In addition, Black participants “had approximately 1.4 to 1.8 times higher incidence of dementia compared with white older adults,” investigators concluded. The findings were published online in JAMA Neurology.

Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease Makes Market Debut

The AP (11/30, Marchione) reports that C2N Diagnostics “has started selling the first blood test to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, a leap for the field that could make it much easier for people to learn whether they have dementia.” Still, “key test results have not been published and the test has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Independent experts “are leery,” but “agree that a simple test that can be done in a doctor’s office has long been needed.” According to the AP, “company promotional materials cite results comparing the test to PET brain scans – the current gold standard – in 686 people, ages 60-91, with cognitive impairment or dementia.”

The Hill (11/30, Budryk, 2.98M) reports, “The diagnostic test is intended for people 60 or older who have detected cognitive problems, and is currently only available if ordered by a” physician. It was “recently cleared for sale in Europe and is available in most U.S. states.”

Experts Fear Post-Thanksgiving Coronavirus Surges May Lead To Higher Death Rate In LTC Facilities

McKnight’s Senior Living (11/30, Bonvissuto) reports, “COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 long-term care residents and staff through November, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state-reported data.” Now, “providers are bracing for a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases as cold weather moves gatherings indoors and community spread infiltrates congregate care settings.”

In a separate article, McKnight’s Senior Living (11/30, Novotney) reports, “The foundation found that 100,033 deaths had occurred nationwide within long-term care facilities as of Nov. 24.” The analysis noted that “deaths of residents and staff in long-term care facilities make up 40% of all COVID-19 deaths.”

Skilled Nursing News (11/30, Spanko) reports Kaiser’s Priya Chidambaram, Rachel Garfield, and Tricia Neuman concluded in their analysis, “Post-Thanksgiving surges in cases are unlikely to spare this community and will likely lead to an even higher death toll in long-term care facilities, raising questions about whether nursing homes and other facilities are able to protect their residents and, if not, what actions can be taken to mitigate the threat posed by the virus.”