The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Americans hard, but there are those who are more at risk of contraction and complications than others, including those who live in nursing homes, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). So how has the pandemic affected the operation of nursing homes? The CDC has created guidelines for how the nursing homes should be mitigating the spread of the virus, including a safe reopening plan.
The CDC suggests that at least one person who has training in infection prevention and control be working at all times. Smaller facilities that have less staff should work to staff their personnel with training based on resident population and facility service needs as described in the facility risk assessment.
Facilities should report COVID-19 cases, facility staffing, and supply information to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) Long-term Care Facility (LTCF) COVID-19 Module weekly. This includes:
- Resident impact and facility capacity
Staff and personnel impact
Supplies and personal protective equipment
Ventilator capacity and supplies
It is the responsibility of all facilities to provide information to their residents, workers, and visitors about the precautions the facility is taking to keep them safe and what precautions they can be taking to keep themselves safe as well. Emphasize hand hygiene and source control in residents, visitors, and workers. The CDC has outlined in the Infection Control Guidance for Healthcare Professionals about COVID-19 what steps the healthcare professionals in nursing home facilities can be doing in order to minimize the spread of the virus and protect themselves along with the residents and visitors.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued Nursing Home Reopening Guidance for State and Local Officials, which describes steps nursing homes should take in their reopening process to mitigate the spread of disease and protect their residents while still returning their faculties to normal. However, relaxing restrictions does not mean the nursing home can cease vigilance in protecting its residents against the spread of disease. Each step in the reopening process is outlined with criteria for implementation, visitation and service considerations, and surveys that will be performed at each stage. It is recommended that nursing homes stay at each stage for at least 14 days before progressing in the reopening process.
It is recommended that facemasks be worn by all healthcare professionals working in the facilities, as well as cloth face coverings for the residents when they are out of their rooms and visitors once they are allowed in. Any visitor restrictions should be properly communicated to the families of the residents, including making the facility aware of any symptoms within 14 days of visitation.
The CDC also recommends that the facilities develop strategies for testing their residents and healthcare professionals for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which complies with their federal and state guidelines. The CDC also provides additional information about testing in nursing homes in their strategy listed on their website.
Facilities should provide supplies that help with hygiene and protection, and delegate space to care for residents that contract the virus. Patients’ symptoms should be evaluated and monitored and the health department should be notified. Facilities should also identify strategies for taking in new residents with unknown COVID statuses.