State leaders: new strategy to help long-term care facilities open back up from COVID-19 shutdown

State leaders: new strategy to help long-term care facilities open back up from COVID-19 shutdown

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A new strategy has been announced from state leaders that could allow long-term care facilities to open back up from the statewide COVID-19 shutdowns.

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In order to life the restrictions on these facilities, the departments of Health and Human Services are requiring them to meet several factors:

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  • Develop an implementation plan and post that plan to the facility’s website, if the facility has a website, that specifies how the reopening and visitation requirements will be met.
  • Administer tests within 24 hours of a resident showing COVID-19 symptoms and complete baseline testing as required in the Secretary’s Orders for skilled nursing facilities issued on June 8 and for personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate care facilities issued on June 26;
  • Develop a plan to allow visitation that includes scheduling and other safety measures;
  • Develop a plan for cohorting or isolating residents diagnosed with COVID-19 in accordance with PA-HAN 509;
  • Establish and adhere to written screening protocols for all staff during each shift, each resident daily, and all persons entering the facility;
  • Have adequate staffing and supply of personal protective equipment for all staff;
  • Be located in a county that is either in the yellow or green phase of the Governor’s Reopening Plan; and

Once a facility meets the required prerequisites, the facility will enter a three-step process of reopening:

Step One: From the date the facility enters step one, a facility must maintain no new COVID-19 cases among staff or residents and have no spread in the facility for 14 consecutive days in order to enter step two.

Step Two: While in step two, facilities are required to maintain no new cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents and have no spread in the facility for 14 consecutive days to progress into the final step.

Step Three: The final step allows LTCFs to operate as outlined for the remainder of the Governor’s COVID-19 Disaster Declaration as long as there are no new COVID-19 cases among staff and residents for 14 consecutive days.

If a new COVID-19 case is known, facilities will cease implementing their reopening plan and wait until they have no new COVID-19 cases for 14 consecutive days before re-entering step one.

Each step of the plan includes specific criteria for conducting dining, activities, non-essential personnel, volunteers, visitors and outings.

Visitations will only be allowed in steps two and three as long as the facility determines a resident is able to safely see visitors and will prioritize those with diseases causing progressive cognitive decline and residents expressing feelings of loneliness. A facility must designate visitation hours, locations (preferably outside or a pass-through not typically occupied or frequented by residents), and screenings to permit a visitor into the building. During the entirety of the visit, social distancing and infection control protocols must be followed along with enforcing the proper hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and universal masking. Facility staff will monitor visits so all safety guidelines are met and enforced. After each visit concludes, staff will need to sign out the visitor and properly disinfect the designated visitation location.

As of June 19, the Department of Health distributed over 2,300 shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) to all LTCFs in Pennsylvania. This PPE included 306,944 gowns, 336,559 face shields, 1,023,800 gloves, 2,807,570 N95 masks and 1,175,200 surgical masks.