After many months of closure, the nation is beginning to open. With this in mind, the Director of Quality, Safety and Oversight Group for CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality issued a memo providing recommendations for state and local officials to utilize while determining the level of mitigation needed for their communities’ Medicare/Medicaid certified long term care facilities to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. State officials should also collaborate with state and local health departments in determining how and when to relax restrictions in their state’s senior living communities.
In accordance with the recommendations, state officials may choose to relax restrictions in several different ways. They may require all senior living communities to go through each phase at the same time, they may allow senior living communities within certain regions to go through each phase at the same time or they may permit senior living communities to move through the phases individually. With all this in mind, senior living community owners and operators must be diligent in staying abreast of the factors in relaxing restrictions. Senior Living owners and operators need to be knowledgeable in current community transmission data, current presence of COVID-19 in facilities, and current status of the local hospitals ability to accept transfers.
Owners and operators must ensure adequate staffing, access to adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and have universal source controls in place for residents and visitors. It is important to know that during Phase One, visitation and ancillary services are generally prohibited, except for compassionate care situations. Restrictions will ease some during Phase Two allowing entry to limited numbers of non-essential healthcare personnel/contractors, and visitation will be allowed during Phase Three as along as screening, social distancing and hand hygiene is taking place.
To add to the spectrum, health inspections will also change at each phase. Phase One health inspections will continue to be limited to investigation of complaints alleging there is an immediate serious threat to a resident’s health and safety, focused infection control surveys and initial licensure survey. State based priorities will be added in Phase Two and normal survey operations will resume in Phase Three.
Considering COVID-19 is a fluid situation, it is imperative for all senior living communities to stay abreast in order to maintain the health of their residents and staff. Keeping informed means keeping in touch with state and local health departments, health care associations and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.