COVID-19 Updates

Test kits being sent and other COVID-19 updates


One Million COVID-19 Test Kits Being Sent To SNFs

Provider Magazine (9/17, Connole, 151K) reports, “In a positive development for long term and post-acute care providers, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said this week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be sending 1 million Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 test kits to skilled nursing facilities.” An additional “540,000 test kits will be sent to assisted living communities, with all of the kits being certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver.” Further “AHCA/NCAL said providers are invited to a webinar on Sept. 18 at 12:00 p.m. (ET) with HHS and Abbot to get more information on the tests themselves, including training, and use in assisted living communities.”

National Quality Awards Portal Now Open

Provider Magazine (9/17, Connole, 151K) reports, “The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has opened its National Quality Award Program portal, allowing provider applicants to submit their Intent to Apply and to submit applications in the portal.” AHCA/NCAL “said it hopes that providers will consider applying for the award, noting that participating in the program has many benefits.” Interested persons “can visit the Quality Award Website to download applications and materials for each respective award level and to learn how to begin preparing.”

CMS Lifts Ban On Nursing Home Visitors

NPR (9/17, Jaffe, 3.12M) reports, “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulate nursing facilities, are lifting the ban on visitors, effective immediately. CMS imposed the restriction in March in an effort to control outbreaks of the coronavirus.” All nursing homes now “can allow outdoor visits with social distancing. And most nursing homes can allow indoor visits as long as there have been no new COVID-19 infections in the past 2 weeks and the infection rate in the surrounding county is no more than 10%.”

ModernHealthcare (9/17, Christ, Subscription Publication, 214K) reports, “The new guidance recommends nursing homes plan outdoor visits as much as possible because the risk for transmission is lower in open air settings.” In addition, “the agency also will allow facilities to apply for up to $3,000 in civil monetary funds to purchase tents or clear dividers for outdoor visitation.”

Skilled Nursing News (9/17, Spanko) reports that the new recommendations from CMS were “unveiled the new recommendations in a memo to directors of State Survey Agencies, the groups responsible for performing routine nursing home inspections.” According to “the new framework, operators must conduct all visits based on a set of ‘core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention.’”

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (9/17, Brown) reports the memo “to state survey directors makes clear that visitations can be made for more than pure end-of-life reasons, and include physical touching in certain instances. In addition, communal dining and activities may take place as long as six-foot distancing and other precautions are observed.”

Skilled Nursing News (9/17, Spanko) reports AHCA “welcomed the news.” In a statement, the organization said, “We appreciate CMS looking for ways to safely facilitate more indoor visits for residents, especially as we begin to head into the fall and winter. We also welcome the opportunity to use CMP funds for tents and barriers to help nursing homes adapt their facilities for this new normal.”

Over Next Four Months, Nursing Homes Will Be Paid $2B If They Have Lower COVID-19 Infection, Mortality Rates Than Local Communities

Bloomberg Law (9/17, Stein, Subscription Publication, 4K) reports, “Nursing homes will be paid $2 billion over the next four months if they have lower [COVID-19] infection and mortality rates than their local communities in a program that will test a new federal government framework for measuring quality in health care.” This “incentive payment program is heavily weighted towards infection control, with 80% of the money directed toward nursing homes that are below their county’s infection rate.” AHCA/NCAL president and CEO Mark Parkinson said that “nursing home regulations have frequently created ‘an unfunded mandate that is often well-intentioned, but expensive to implement,’” but “the program ‘recognizes the power of incentives and collaboration, and it’s something that really hasn’t been done before,’ he said.”

More Strict Family, Sick Leave Exemptions May Affect Providers’ Ability To Protect Residents, AHCA/NCAL Says

ModernHealthcare (9/16, Christ, Subscription Publication, 214K) reports, “Health care providers could face deeper workforce shortages in upcoming months as they face tighter family and sick leave exemptions starting Wednesday.” Even though “providers initially weren’t required to follow the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as they treated the pandemic’s patients, the Labor Department revised its requirements last week.” AHCA/NCAL “said the changes to the rule will affect providers’ ability to protect residents.”

Nursing Home Frontline Staff Ratio Proposal Advances In New Jersey Legislature

NJ Spotlight (9/18, Stainton) reports, “New Jersey lawmakers begrudgingly advanced a proposal Thursday to establish firm staff-to-patient ratios for frontline nursing home care, despite strong objection from industry leaders.” Health Care Association of New Jersey president and CEO Jonathan Dolan “called the proposal a ‘costly, impracticable, and unfunded mandate,” labeling “it ‘far worse’ than past staffing ratio bills (including the initial Senate version), which called for ratios of 1:8 during the day, 1:10 in the evening and 1:16 overnight.” He said, “Because of the current and documented workforce shortage, there will be a feeding frenzy among nursing centers as they compete against each other, with the centers with the most resources hiring away staff from other centers.”

Iowa State Lab Warns It Can’t Handle Nursing Home Staff Testing

The Des Moines (IA) Register (9/17, Leys, 404K) reports, “Iowa’s State Hygienic Lab leaders warned nursing homes this week that the lab wouldn’t be able to process tens of thousands of routine coronavirus tests of the facilities’ staff members.” Iowa Health Care Association president Brent Willett “said the State Hygienic Lab has never processed coronavirus surveillance tests of facilities’ staff members,” adding, “This was the policy all along. It’s not a change.” He “said Iowa nursing homes have been using private labs to process surveillance tests of their staff members for months,” and “most Iowa nursing homes recently received rapid testing equipment from the federal government.” According to him, “between those two methods…most Iowa care facilities should be able to meet new federal requirements that they test staff members for the virus once or twice a week, depending on conditions in their communities.”

Michigan Nursing Homes Now Have Access To State’s “Critical” Emergency Workforce Program

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (9/18, Brown) reports, “All Michigan nursing homes will now be able to access the state’s ‘critical’ emergency workforce program that provides additional staffing resources to facilities facing shortages during the coronavirus crisis.” The move was applauded by the Health Care Association of Michigan/Michigan Center for Assisted Living, which said that “the additional support can make a critical difference to maintaining care when faced with a crisis.” HCAM/MCAL president and CEO Melissa Samuel told McKnight’s, “By extending staffing coverage to all areas of the state, the department is supporting providers to ensure they have the needed staff on hand for resident care – even when faced with emergency situations.”


Preventive COVID-19 Testing Led To Fewer Infections In LTC Facilities Compared With Responsive Testing, Research Shows

McKnight’s Long Term Care News (9/18, Lasek) reports, “Long-term care facilities with a preventive COVID-19 testing strategy experienced far fewer infections compared with facilities that conducted tests in response to illness, according to a county-wide study published Thursday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention” in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The researchers found that “although most facilities had at least one case of COVID-19, significantly more infections were found in the 15 facilities with a response testing strategy,” and “the high initial prevalence of cases in residents (28%) and staff members (7.4%) suggested that the infection already had spread by the time the first case was identified.” Upon “follow-up, a total of 42% of residents and 12% of staff members were infected overall,” in comparison “with significantly lower case counts in the 13 facilities with a prevention strategy.”

Pandemic Affecting How Older Americans Think About Senior Housing

Kaiser Health News (9/17, Graham) reports that with the coronavirus pandemic, “some people who planned to move to senior housing are now choosing to live independently rather than communally,” while “others wonder whether transferring to a setting where they can get more assistance might be the right call.” With the COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, “nervousness about senior living has spread,” and “the potential for social isolation is especially worrisome, as facilities retain restrictions on family visits and on group dining and activities.” However, “some families now wish they’d arranged for older relatives to receive care in a more structured environment before the pandemic started,” as “older relatives living independently, especially those who are frail or have mild cognitive impairments, are having difficulty managing on their own.”