We’re sharing our weekly update to keep WRC employees, residents, and families informed of changing regulations and policies at the national and state level, as well as within the WRC continuum. Thank you to all WRC essential workers!
CMS has recently released reopening guidelines for nursing homes. CMS suggests that nursing homes continue to follow CMS and CDC guidance for preventing the transmission of COVID-19, as well as follow state and local direction. Because nursing home residents are especially vulnerable, CMS does not recommend reopening facilities to visitors (except for compassionate care situations) until phase three when:
There have been no new, nursing home onset COVID-19 cases in the nursing home for 28 days (through phases one and two)
The nursing home is not experiencing staff shortages
The nursing home has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and essential cleaning and disinfection supplies to care for residents
The nursing home has adequate access to testing for COVID-19
Referral hospital(s) have bed capacity on wards and intensive care units
WRC will continue to update outdoor visitations policies as new guidelines are released from CMS, and as more information becomes available from the national, state, and local levels. Visitation policies will include provisions such as screening of all visitors for symptoms and fever, asking both residents and visitors to wear a mask or cloth face covering, performing hand hygiene (e.g., using an alcohol-based hand rub), maintaining social distancing at all times, limitation on the number of visitors, etc. Please contact your community directly for current visitation guidelines, with expectations that they may change as new guidelines and regulations are put into place from CMS, CDC, the PA Department of Health, and other governing bodies.
To better protect WRC residents, patients, and clients, employees will be required to complete travel disclosures when traveling out of their local area for vacations and other personal purposes. The disclosures will be used in the event of a positive COVID case, to better enable contact tracing. All employees, regardless of personal travel, will continue viral surveillance screening, including a temperature scan, before being allowed access into any of our facilities. Employees are also still required to wear face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and practice enhanced hand hygiene in accordance with CDC and DOH guidelines while at work.
Under new guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) issued on June 26, 2020, all Personal Care Homes (PCHs), Assisted Living Residences (ALRs), and Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) are required to complete a baseline universal test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, of all residents and staff no later than August 31, 2020. Universal testing includes: any resident or staff person who has never been tested, and any resident of staff person who was tested prior to June 12, 2020 and whose test result was negative. Even if a facility has not had any known cases among residents or staff, the facility is still required to perform baseline universal testing of all residents and staff.
The PA Department of Human Services has also released updated guidance for Personal Care Homes (PCHs), including cohorting guidelines, infection control and personal protective equipment, visitation policies, dining services, and reopening prerequisites and requirements. The updated guidance can be found here, and mirrors many of the requirements that have already been put into place by the PA Department of Health for Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs).
Why are all residents and staff in skilled nursing and personal care facilities required to have baseline COVID-19 tests? The PA Secretary of Health issued an order to assist in protecting the safety of residents and frontline workers in long-term care facilities across the state. Facilities need to prepare for a potential second surge in the future, and developing capacity to conduct testing in advance of a surge will help everyone to be better prepared. Many residents living in SNFs, PCHs, and ALRs are among the most vulnerable populations due to underlying health conditions. Testing for COVID-19 can help make sure that staff infected with COVID-19 stay home, and that infection control measures (such as appropriate use of PPE, infection control expertise support, and cohorting) are utilized when appropriate. According to the order, Skilled Nursing Facilities must conducted baseline testing by July 24, 2020, and Personal Care Homes must conduct baseline testing by August 31, 2020.