COVID-19 has distinguished itself as a significant threat to all public workplaces and medical facilities, but especially to nursing homes.
Health experts have concluded that COVID-19 is particularly lethal to the elderly, especially those above the age of 80. Only 11% of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, but 35% of the country’s COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in long term care facilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that nursing homes:
- Restrict all volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel (HCP)
- Except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life situations, restrict all visitation
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining
- Implement active screening of residents and HCP for fever and respiratory symptoms
As COVID-19 cases begin to rise again, it is crucial that long-term care facilities develop a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan. The CDC recommends that facilities plan according to the checklist that they have provided. This checklist does not describe mandatory requirements, but rather highlights important areas to review while preparing. The checklist includes plans for:
- Supplies and resources
- Surge capacity for staffing, equipment and supplies, and postmortem care
- Rapid identification and management of ill residents
- Considerations for visitors and consultant staff
- Sick leave policies and other occupational health considerations
- Education and training
The CDC advises that facilities provide supplies necessary to adhere to the recommended IPC practices including:
- Facilities should have supplies of facemasks, respirators, gowns, gloves, and eye protection (i.e., face shield or goggles).
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer for hand hygiene is available in every resident room (ideally both inside and outside of the room) and other resident care and common areas (e.g., outside dining hall, in therapy gym).
- Sinks are stocked with soap and paper towels.
- Signs are posted immediately outside of resident rooms indicating appropriate IPC precautions and required personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Facility provides tissues and facemasks for coughing people near entrances and in common areas with no-touch receptacles for disposal.
- Necessary PPE is available immediately outside of the resident room and in other areas where resident care is provided.
- Facility ensures HCP have access to EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectants to allow for frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces and shared resident care equipment.
- The facility has a process to monitor supply levels.