WRC Weekly COVID-19 Update
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!
- PA Governor Announces May 1 Statewide Reopening of Limited Outdoor Recreational Activities to Help Pennsylvanians Maintain Positive Physical, Mental Health. In a recent announcement, Gov. Tom Wolf said that, starting on Friday, May 1, golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds may reopen statewide and are required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance issued by the Wolf Administration to include specifics for how these outdoor recreational industries can resume activities while prioritizing public health and safety. Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14.
- Five Star Rating System Suspended by CMS. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that the Nursing Home Compare website & Nursing Home Five Star Quality Rating System will hold the inspection domain constant temporarily due to the prioritization and suspension of certain surveys, to ensure the rating system reflects fair information for consumers. Specifically, inspections conducted on or after March 4, 2020 will be posted publicly, but will not be used to calculate a nursing home’s health inspection star ratings.
- Negative COVID-19 tests are not needed before a hospitalized patient can be discharged to a nursing home. CMS announced guidelines for facilities to make decisions on admitting hospital discharges, which include considerations for the patient’s clinical status, the ability of the facility to meet their care needs, and the infection control requirements that CMS has specified.
- CMP Grants Available for Virtual Visit Devices. Civil money penalty (CMP) funds from CMS may be requested for programs that are used to purchase communicative devices, such as tablets or webcams, to increase the ability for nursing homes to help residents stay connected with their loved ones.
- Visitation. Visitors will continue to be asked to refrain from visiting nursing homes in the weeks to come. Because nursing home residents are at such a high risk, the guidelines from CMS continue to recommend no in-person visitation, except for certain compassionate care and end-of-life situations. This would include if a resident’s health status was “sharply declining,” whether they are receiving hospice care or not.
- Outside Activities. With the weather getting nicer outside, many have been wondering weather they can hold group activities outside. While residents are encouraged to get outside and enjoy the weather, CMS guidelines still suggest that all group activities both inside and outside of the building must be canceled due to the risk of transmission. However, residents may go outside while practicing social distancing protocols.
- Communal Dining. Residents are not forced to eat in their rooms. Residents may still eat in dining rooms, however, social distancing must be enforced (i.e., residents must be seated at separate tables at least 6 feet apart). This exception only applies to residents without signs or symptoms of respiratory infection, and without a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
- PPE. A recent article outlined a call with Vice President Mike Pence, where he said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be shipping PPE directly to all nursing homes in the U.S. “We are literally contracting to ship direct what amounts to PPE packages to all 15,000-plus nursing homes in the country. And it’s going to be a supply for a specific set of weeks,” Pence said. Additionally, the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) will supply PPE to personal care homes in “critical “ situations, which is defined as: at least one confirmed case of COVID-19, and 5 days or less PPE on hand.
- Hospitals Now Allowed to Have Elective Surgeries. New guidance from the PA Department of Health suggests that Hospitals may begin to allow elective admissions and may begin performing elective surgeries and procedures if the hospital makes an affirmative decision that it is able to do so without jeopardizing the safety of patients and staff or the hospital’s ability to respond to the COVID19 emergency.
- Visitor Polices in Hospitals. In the same updated guidance from the PA Department of Health, they suggest that visitor policies in hospitals be revised to include a support person in cases where the support person is essential to the care of the patient. This includes a support person to accompany individuals living with dementia or with other cognitive impairments.
- New signs and symptoms of COVID-19 added by the CDC. 6 new symptoms have been added to the CDC’s list of known COVID-19 symptoms. The original list included known symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The new symptoms include: Chills, Repeated shaking with chills, Muscle pain, Headache, Sore throat, and New loss of smell or taste. According to the CDC, these symptoms “may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.”