Once again, Trump has waited too long to act. Last week, the Trump administration issued a new set of “critical recommendations” to operators and their governing entities. “Nursing homes have become an accelerator for the virus,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services noted in a statement detailing the new guiding statements. “Hundreds of facilities across the country are experiencing increased numbers of cases among residents.”
The administration made clear that it wants every single person within a nursing home to have his or her temperature checked, and be screened for other possible signs of the novel coronavirus. Trump also said that COVID patients should have their own buildings or units, and dedicated staffing teams.
Another recommendation calls for all nursing home personnel to don a face mask “for the duration of the state of emergency in their State.”
Nursing homes are still not taking infection control intervention seriously. An initial wave of surveys this past month found that more than one-third (36%) of facilities still did not follow proper hand washing guidelines and one-fourth did not use personal protective equipment properly. The agency is trying to protect the industry from accountability by announcing it had suspended all regular survey investigations. The agency’s first recommendation simply stated, “Nursing homes should immediately ensure that they are complying with all CMS and CDC guidance related to infection control.” “Both of these are longstanding infection control measures that all nursing homes are expected to follow per Federal regulation,” CMS officials said in a statement.
Any person in a nursing home, whether they’re staff, residents or visitors, must submit to a temperature check before being allowed in, the recommendations specify. And top management should supply appropriate PPE to be used any time staff members interact with residents.
In addition, the administration formally called on facility managers to pursue consistent assignment of separate staffing teams (for infected and non-infected residents) “to the best of their ability.” As with recommendations regarding PPE, officials hedged on the firmness of their advice, tacit acknowledgement that providers should do their best in light of PPE and worker shortages in many places.