After a year of stringent restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, the California Department of Social Services (DSS) released new guidance on March 19, 2021 significantly relaxing restrictions on visitors to Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE). The guidance also relaxes restrictions on communal dining and group activities, and on residents returning from outings. Set forth in PIN 21-17-ASC, the guidance is effective immediately.
State and federal authorities have issued a raft of new guidance on visitation. While many of these new rules significantly relax restrictions on visitors, some questions remain regarding areas of inconsistency between the two sets of rules. On March 10 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance for nursing homes intended to relieve some of the harm experienced by long term care residents as a result of COVID-19-related restrictions on visitation.
A study from the American Health Care Association has found that the COVID-19 vaccines are contributing to lower infection rates and COVID spread in nursing homes. This study, based on preliminary data gathered shortly after the introduction of the vaccine in nursing homes in late 2020, provides evidence in favor of reopening nursing homes after its residents and staff have been vaccinated.
By Mike Dark, CANHR Staff Attorney After a ten-month battle with the most serious public health crisis in the history of long term care in the U.S., the cavalry is finally arriving, in the form of vaccines that have already been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by regulators. Still more vaccines await in the pipeline, perhaps for January or February.
On October 5, CANHR wrote the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) urging it to withdraw its deceptively named nursing home oversight plan – Quality and Safety State SNF Survey Model – that would divert its inspector workforce by requiring inspectors to conduct collaborative monitoring visits at skilled nursing facilities. CANHR’s letter also urges CDPH to rescind a new duty statement for nursing home inspectors that requires inspectors to spend 30 percent of their time advising and assisting nursing home operators on regulatory matters.
An October 2020 report by Altarum presents the findings of a survey of residents on how their lives have been impacted by the Covid-19 restrictions. Residents reported a drastic reduction in social activities and a steep increase in feelings of loneliness. The report – Experiences of Nursing Home Residents During the Pandemic – includes direct comments from residents in their own words that speak powerfully to the urgent need to end the extreme isolation that’s been imposed on them.
There’s a big election coming up in November. If you live in an assisted living or nursing facility, you should be aware that you do not lose your right to vote just because you move into long-term care. However, you might face a number of practical barriers to exercising your right to vote, and many of these barriers will be exacerbated in the context of COVID-19.CLICK HERE for guidance for residents planning to exercise their right to vote this November.
The White House’s Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes released an extensive report reviewing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and making recommendations to improve safety in nursing homes related to infection control. The report sets forth dozens of potential “action steps” for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other federal and state agencies to take to foster better infection control involving: COVID-19 testingproviding PPE and training staff to use itupdating resident visitation and cohorting policies to be more sensitive to the balance between safety and quality of life; andsupporting staff/caregivers.
On September 17th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a memo to the states, restoring visitation in nursing homes. CMS is requiring facilities to permit visitation whenever a facility has had no new COVID outbreaks for 14 days and the community positivity rate is less than 10%. Facilities required to permit visitation are encouraged to have outdoor visitation, weather permitting, but are also required to accommodate indoor visitation, including in resident rooms, when outdoor visits are unavailable.
Please help support SB 1207 (Jackson) by urging Governor Newsom to sign it. This critical bill codifies federal standards that require skilled nursing facilities to have an alternative source of power to protect resident health and safety and maintain safe temperatures for 96 hours during any type of power outage. CANHR and Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County are co-sponsoring SB 1207.The Legislature gave final passage to SB 1207 on August 31 and sent it to the Governor for his signature.