COVID-19 Updates

AHCA/NCAL Releases Roadmap Outlining Ways States Can Support Post Acute Care Staff, Facilities During Pandemic (Skilled, LTC, Assisted Living, Personal Care and Senior Care settings

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In observance of the U.S. federal Memorial Day holiday, we will not publish on Monday, May 25, 2020. Service will resume on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. We wish our readers a safe holiday.


AHCA/NCAL Releases Roadmap Outlining Ways States Can Support LTC Staff, Facilities During Pandemic

HomeCare Magazine (5/21, 50K) reports “the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) released a ‘Long Term Care Workforce Roadmap for Governors and States,’ outlining ways state public health officials can help nursing homes and assisted living communities address workforce needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” In this “roadmap, AHCA/NCAL offers possible solutions to states to help increase the number of clinical and support staff, protect caregivers while they serve their residents, help caregivers get to work and stay safe in the larger community, and support specific long-term care facilities dealing with cases.” AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said, “Our heroic health care workers in long-term care have shown extraordinary commitment to their residents during this unprecedented time. They deserve our respect and need ongoing support as they continue to battle this virus.”

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/22, Bonvissuto) reports, “AHCA/NCAL’s roadmap encourages governors and state public health officials to” take a variety of actions, such as “prioritize long-term care facilities for personal protective equipment and testing, as well as support facilities in administering tests and covering costs.” The organization also encourages them to “help caregivers get to work and stay safe in the larger community,” by taking steps to “ensure childcare options, offer ‘hero’ pay to direct care staff, and reduce employees’ exposure to the virus in the community-at-large by helping them with access to meals and groceries.” In addition, the roadmap recommends that officials “relax state regulations to allow medical professionals to work across state lines, to fast-track training for support staff, to expedite background checks and to allow long-term care professionals with lapsed licensing to continue working.”

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (5/22) reports, AHCA/NCAL “recommended…bringing in medical volunteers from the Medicare Reserve Corps and U.S. Public Health Service.” In addition, “the organization added that deploying a ‘strike team,’ or a resource team, that would be designed to help workers manage and respond to an outbreak would be an answer in the short term,” while “a long-term solution would be to develop a plan to help attract, recruit and retain more people to work in long-term care.”

WHTM-TV Harrisburg, PA (5/21, 35K) reports Parkinson said, “Governors must take immediate action to help protect those currently on the frontlines and take proactive steps to recruit, train and deploy additional caregivers to ensure that residents continue to receive the daily care they need in our facilities. This is an ‘all hands-on deck’ situation.” Parkinson added, “We’ve seen inspiring images of nurses and doctors flying across the country to serve in our hospitals. We hope to see the same national support rally around our long term care facilities. … We owe it to our residents, those from the Greatest Generation, to ensure they have the necessary support they need and deserve.”

Pre-COVID Asset Protections Remain In Place For Stimulus Payments To LTC Residents

MarketWatch (5/21, Malito, 1.67M) reports that nursing home residents are “vulnerable to the possibility of having their stimulus checks taken from them, a recent Federal Trade Commission report suggested.” The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living told Marketwatch that “people in long-term care centers typically manage their own money, or can choose someone else they trust to manage it for them.” The associations said, “For any resident who may receive a stimulus check, Medicaid eligibility is protected and Medicare coverage is protected. … Nursing facilities will not receive any additional private payments. Pre-COVID patient and resident income and asset protections remain in place for the stimulus payments.”

Nursing Home Profit Status, Federal Quality Ratings Do Not Affect COVID-19 Probability, But Data Indicates Race Is Strongly Connected To Outbreaks

Skilled Nursing News (5/21, Spanko) reports, “Differences in nursing homes’ federal quality ratings and profit status have no bearing on the probability of COVID-19 infections, a University of Chicago researcher said during testimony before the U.S. Senate on Thursday – but preliminary data does indicate a strong connection between race and coronavirus outbreaks.” During a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, UChicago Department of Public Health Sciences professor R. Tamara Konetzka said, “Nursing homes are often a reflection of the neighborhoods in which they are located. … Consistent with the pandemic generally, nursing homes with traditionally underserved, non-white populations are bearing the worst outcomes.” Konetzka discovered “no connection between COVID-19 infections and a nursing home’s five-star rating on Nursing Home Compare, the federal government’s scorecard for facility quality, or its ownership by a for-profit or non-profit organization; there was only a weak correlation between the percentage of Medicaid-covered residents and COVID cases, she said.”

Nursing Homes With A Significant Portion Of Residents Who Are African American, Latino Are Twice As Likely To Be Affected By Coronavirus Than Those With An Overwhelmingly White Population, Analysis Shows. The New York Times (5/21, A1, 18.61M) reports, “[COVID-19] has been particularly virulent toward African-Americans and Latinos: Nursing homes where those groups make up a significant portion of the residents – no matter their location, no matter their size, no matter their government rating – have been twice as likely to get hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white.” Over “60 percent of nursing homes where at least a quarter of the residents are black or Latino have reported at least one coronavirus case, a New York Times analysis shows.” According to the Times, “the coronavirus has been infecting and killing people of color at disproportionately high rates in the United States, data has shown,” and nursing home industry officials “say that the situations playing out inside homes largely reflect the circumstances unfolding outside their walls.” For instance, American Health Care Association chief medical officer Dr. David Gifford said, “Typically, what occurs in the general population is mirrored in long-term care facilities.”

Florida Health Care Association Calls For Ongoing Testing Of Residents, Staff For LTC Facilities To Be Able To Reopen

9-TV Tampa, FL (5/20, 131K) reports, “A new recommendation by Florida’s leading advocacy group for long-term care providers calls for ongoing testing of all staff and residents in order for elder care facilities to enter the reopening phase.” The Florida Health Care Association “has put forth a recommendation that staff and residents of all long-term care facilities undergo ongoing testing.” According to spokesperson Kristen Knapp, testing would ideally “occur on a daily basis.” Knapp said, “Especially as we start looking at how to reopen to our visitors and family members.”


Federal Guidance On Reopening SNFs May Create Confusion, Challenges Without Funds, Resources To Meet Testing Mandates

Skilled Nursing News (5/20, Flynn) reports, “Without the funds and the resources needed to meet COVID-19 testing recommendations, the federal government’s guidance on reopening nursing homes could create more confusion for skilled nursing facilities – and more challenges on top of the considerable strain they already face in combating the spread of the illness.” On May 18, “the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance on reopening nursing homes,” but individual “states have the ability to choose how they measure their SNFs’ readiness to emerge from visitation lockdown, and some of them, such as New York, have adopted even stricter measures for testing than those in the CMS guidelines.”


LTC Providers Struggle To Recruit, Retain Health Care Workers During Pandemic

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/21, Brown) reports, “Long-term care providers around the country are struggling to hire and retain workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.” These staffing “issues stem from uncertainties regarding how well workers will be protected from contracting the disease while serving residents, according to a Stateline report.” Furthermore, “a recent McKnight’s Long-Term Care News survey revealed that two-third of respondents had staff members who’ve called in sick or quit due to COVID-19 worries.” To address pandemic-driven workforce shortages, “some states have implemented several programs,” ranging “from hefty bonuses for workers to helping them find essential groceries.”


In Survey, 96% Of Senior Living Residents Said They Approved Of COVID-19-Related Restrictions

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/21, Bonvissuto) reports, “The vast majority of senior living residents agree with COVID-19 social distancing and visitation restrictions, even if they find them a little annoying,” according to a Buckner Retirement Services survey of its residents. According to the survey results, “96% of respondents said they approved of the measures.” Furthermore, “when it comes to how they spend their free time, residents reported they are reading (74%), talking with family members by phone (63%) and napping (29%).” The respondents said “they are most thankful for calls with family (69%), their health (64%) and the senior living staff members (54%) caring for them each day.”

Majority Of US Nursing Homes Have Successfully Enrolled IN NHSN, Reported Data By First Deadline

Skilled Nursing News (5/20) reports that “most nursing homes successfully began reporting newly required COVID-19 data to the federal government this past week.” Each “of the nation’s more than 15,000 facilities faced a May 17 deadline for the first round of data reporting to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).” On Wednesday, “despite some earlier indications that thousands of buildings had yet to set up accounts through the National Health care Safety Network (NHSN) portal, CDC official Dr. Jenita Bell…congratulated the industry for largely clearing the first hurdle.” In a call with industry stakeholders, Bell said, “A majority of the nursing homes across the U.S. have successfully enrolled in NHSN, and most of them have actually reported data to us. … That’s definitely a milestone that’s worth celebrating.”

Wearable Tech, Smartphone Apps Emerging As Way To Expedite Contact Tracing In Senior Living Communities

McKnight’s Senior Living (5/21, Bonvissuto) reports, “With senior living communities serving as potential hot spots for COVID-19, operators are looking at all types of infection control measures to contain or prevent the spread of the deadly virus.” For example, “technology is emerging as a way to expedite the contact tracing process through wearable technology and smartphone apps.” According to McKnight’s, “Senior living communities are taking notice as their populations include highly vulnerable individuals who may come in contact with visitors, vendors, visiting health care providers and others.”