Expanded Testing for Skilled Nursing Facilities
New regulations require skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) to regularly test team members and, in the event of an outbreak, test residents. Team members may be tested as often as once a week.
How often the testing occurs depends on a few factors. Residents or team members who show symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must be tested. If there is a positive result, which is considered an “outbreak”, we are required to conduct facility-wide testing of all residents and team members. Tests will occur every three to seven days until no new cases are found for at least 14 days from the last positive case.
Most of the time we will use a “rapid results” test. This enables us to quickly identify and react to a potential outbreak. If we have a positive result from the rapid test, we will increase precautions in our building, which may include immediately canceling visits and communal dining.
It’s important to note that we may also have the individual who receives a positive “rapid” test result do a follow-up “molecular” test which involves a lab and is more elaborate and considered the most accurate. If that test comes back negative, and the team member is free of symptoms, we consult with Infection Control Specialists. If they approve, we are able to lift the restrictions.
Late June, health departments in the states we serve announced guidelines to begin loosening up restrictions on visitors, small group dining and activities in senior care facilities.
We are excited at the prospect of once again allowing in-person visits with our families and their loved ones, as well as, allowing our contracted providers such beauticians and barbers back into the buildings. It’s important to note that each facility will be unique in their progression toward reopening based on variables that affect them.
There are several things that influence how each facility can become less restrictive, everything from completing resident and team member baseline testing, to local Public Health District directives, and the amount of available personal protective equipment. We are working to quickly implement plans that meet the many requirements.
The safety of our residents, visitors and team members will continue be our primary focus, and we all need to be aware that a COVID-19 positive diagnosis among residents or team members can potentially require us to again restrict visitors and group activities.
Please know that individual facilities will notify their residents and families with details of their specific plan to begin the “reopening” process.
President Trump has unveiled Guidelines for “Opening Up America Again”, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts.
It’s important to note that visitor restrictions and expanded infection control procedures at our facilities, and nursing homes nation-wide, will not be lifted until America enters the third and final stage of the plan. There is no specific timeline for the phases, and we will continue to monitor and follow the recommendations of the states where we provide service, the Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. We all look forward to the day we can again open our doors to loved ones and visitors!
We know many of you are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and how it may impact Vetter Senior Living facilities. Ensuring residents are cared for in a safe and healthy environment is our first priority.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, we have received new rules from federal regulators that, although necessary, will greatly limit any opportunity to socialize or gather together – even for meals – in our building. These new rules apply immediately to all nursing homes in the United States.
The new rules that will have the biggest impact on all of us right now require that we prohibit all group gatherings and group or “communal” dining. All Life Enrichment group activities have been cancelled. We are working to comply with the rules and be sure that residents feel isolated as little as possible.
Also, mealtimes are a busy period for all of us so we ask that, if possible, you could refrain from calling during meals. Otherwise, this is a great time to increase your personal phone calls.
Let us know if you would like to try Skype, Facetime or other online options, or if want to stop by a window and wave hello. The window will be closed, but visiting over cell phones has worked well. Consider having a group write cards or letters and send photos! Please talk to us about any additional ideas for communicating with loved ones that will still protect them from exposure to the COVID-19 / Coronavirus.
As stated in a previous notice, all Vetter Senior Living facilities are restricting visitors. At this time, family, friends, and the general public are not allowed into our buildings.
Exceptions are being granted for hospice or end of life critical care situations. In those cases, the visiting party will be screened prior to entering the building, required to follow infection control procedures and limited to only visiting their loved one. If you believe a visit to the center is critical, please contact the facility and visit with a member of the leadership team about your need to visit.
Signs have been posted on entryway doors to notify visitors of this policy and we are actively screening individuals, including team members, who have been authorized to come into the building.
Patient privacy laws keep us from sharing patient health information, so we are limited in our ability to share details about specific illnesses that are affecting residents in our facility, but we will do everything we can to keep you informed regarding the health of your loved one and anything that directly relates to them.
These steps may seem extreme to some people, and we sincerely apologize for the problems this may cause for family or friends, but there is a risk that people who appear healthy will enter nursing homes and infect residents.
We are following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on prevention steps, including following strict hand washing procedures, and in many circumstances, wearing gowns and gloves when interacting with residents who present symptoms. We also are staying up to date with the CDC recommendations as they may continue to change. In addition, our facilities and a team at the Vetter Senior Living home office have been communicating with local and state health departments and are following their guidance.