Coronavirus Outbreak Reported at U.S. Nursing Home

Coronavirus Outbreak Reported at U.S. Nursing Home

Coronavirus Outbreak Prompts Long-Term Care Facilities to Follow Updated Infectious Disease Guidelines, Provide Stay Well Tips for Staff, Residents, and Visitors

Managing the care of more than 2.2 million people living in U.S. long-term care settings, many with underlying health complications, without the spread of rapidly growing pathogens, is difficult and can cause severe complications to residents. And during a viral outbreak, such as the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19), nursing homes will become even more challenged. The new virus is thought to spread primarily via droplets in the air, similar to other respiratory viruses, such as influenza, and has been identified in more than 85,000 people worldwide and led to nearly 3,000 deaths, said officials from the World Health Organization.

Unfortunately, an outbreak of the novel contagious illness has become known at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle. The event has left four residents dead and many others – including care staff – hospitalized. Also, of the nursing home’s 108 residents and 180 staff members, more than 50 have shown signs of possible COVID-19 infections, officials said. In Illinois, the coronavirus disease should be especially worrisome for nursing homes. In the final state inspection report of 2019, more than 100 facilities were cited for various violations of the Nursing Home Care Act, a statute that provides nursing home residents and their families with the assurance that proper and safe care will be received.

American Health Care Association Releases Secondary List of Coronavirus Guidelines for U.S. Nursing Homes to Follow

The Washington state event has prompted a secondary round of precautionary tactics and new outbreak guidelines at America’s elder care facilities set forth by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. The update outlines several additional steps facilities should be taking since the previous updates sent on Friday, February 28, 2020.

The updated guidelines designed for facility owners, management and long-term care staff, states:

“Since COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through droplets in the air, very similar to how influenza spreads, centers should use the strategies known to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses which includes:

  • Monitor your staff and visitors for following hand washing or use of alcohol hand gels.
  • Review your contact isolation procedures and make sure staff follow them consistently.
  • Review plans for cohorting residents in the same room or wing who become sick to prevent the spread to other residents and staff, should the outbreak continue to grow.
  • Remind staff, contractors, volunteers to stay home if they are sick (see detailed guidance here).
  • Starting now, post notices for visitors who are sick to stop visiting and work with families on alternate ways to visit their family members, like Skype, phone calls and email. Check with the local health department if they are recommending more restrictive criteria for visitations as COVID-19 spreads.
  • Stay in close contact with your local and state health department.
  • Make sure your infection preventionist signs up for health department announcements as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcements.
  • Monitor the CDC COVID-19 website for the latest information on Coronavirus prevention strategies, testing guidance and recommendations for health care workers.
  • Centers need to review testing guidelines for testing of persons under investigation suspected of COVID-19.
  • Make sure your staff are aware and keep up with CDC and your local health department guidelines (which are changing) as to when to contact them for testing suspected cases.
  • You should provide information to your staff and their families on what they can do to protect themselves.”

Long-term care facilities are required to have plans in place to monitor and prevent infections, and the CDC has issued specific guidance to long-term care facilities for strategies for avoiding the spread of COVID-19. Review the full update from the CDC here.

Coronavirus Prevention and Stay Well Tips for Residents, Family Members and Illinois Local Ombudsmen

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care also released its own set of support documents for COVID-19 prevention in nursing homes including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actions for all persons such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Stay home when you are sick. (Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, and shortness of breath.)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For Individuals Receiving Long-Term Care

  • Stay informed about what your facility is doing to prevent infection.
  • It is important that the facility has a process for notifying residents, family members, and visitors so everyone can take steps to decrease the chance of spreading the infection or getting ill.
  • Remind facility staff to wash their hands often and cover their mouths when they cough.
  • Use your voice! It’s okay to remind your healthcare provider to practice good hygiene.
  • Ask your facility to post signs to encourage good hand hygiene and cough etiquette for staff and visitors.
  • Ask your facility about their infection prevention plan and policy for visitors.
  • Ask your facility about their staff’s sick leave policies in order to ensure that sick staff members are staying home.

For Family Members and Friends of Those Receiving Long-Term Care

  • Stay home if you are sick! Visitors can inadvertently spread infections in long-term care settings.
  • If you’re unable to visit your loved one in the facility, find creative ways to communicate with them like email, phone calls, FaceTime, or asking a healthy friend or family member to drop by for a visit or to deliver a note.
  • Wash your hands, practice good cough etiquette, and observe facility staff to ensure they are doing so too.
  • Encourage good hand hygiene by placing alcohol-based hand rub inside your loved one’s room.
  • Stay informed about what the facility is doing to prevent infection, and ask questions about its infection prevention policies.

For Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs

  • Stay home if you are sick!
  • Wash your hands, practice good cough etiquette, and observe facility staff to ensure they are doing so too.
  • Follow your program’s policies and procedures and connect with your
    supervisor and/or State Ombudsman with questions about state protocols.
  • Keep informed by following your state and local public health sources to understand COVID-19 activity in your Illinois community.

There has not been an outbreak of COVID-19 reported in Illinois, but WGN9-TV in Chicago is reporting the Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County Department of Public Health announced a fourth person tested positive for coronavirus with another case suspected at the University of Chicago Medicine. The largest outbreak in the U.S. is related to the Kirkland, Washington nursing home, near the highly-populated and tourist destination, Seattle. As of March 3, 2020, the U.S. confirmed its seventh coronavirus death.

Respected Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home or due to a dangerously low level of care staff, they may be entitled to compensation. Please contact us now for a free consultation with one of our skilled nursing home attorneys or call us at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Are Illinois Nursing Homes Prepared to Prevent Coronavirus from Spreading?

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