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How Nursing Homes Must Battle COVID-19

Mark Napier

As of this writing (4-7-20), US deaths from COVID-19 are increasing hourly. Many of these deaths have occurred in nursing homes. It is well-documented that the virus spreads rapidly. If an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks, it is now suspected by medical authorities that the infected person’s respiratory droplets can remain in the air for up to three days. So, nursing Homes are on the front lines in battling COVID-19.

Nursing home residents generally are elderly people with co-morbidity conditions that make them more at risk than healthy, younger persons. As we age, in general, our immune systems weaken. To assist nursing homes, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have continually issued and updated their guidance for nursing homes. Nursing homes must take reasonable steps to comply with these guidelines, some that include the following:

* Strict immediate compliance with all CMS and CDC infection control guidance.
* Prohibition of all visitors, volunteers, and non-essential healthcare personnel to the facility.
* Prohibition of all resident group activities or gatherings, including communal dining facilities.
* Strict screening for fever of all personnel entering the facility, except EMS responding to an urgent medical need.
* Use of face masks by all personnel and by all residents having to leave their room for any reason.
* Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), such as face shields, eye protection, and gowns by all personnel who attend to residents who have or who are suspected of having the virus.
* Daily screening of all residents for fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
* Separate staffing and Isolation for all residents who have or are suspected of having the virus.

Nursing homes will likely need state and local leaders’ assistance to address some of these needs, particularly acquiring the proper PPE to treat virus patients and COVID-19 tests. If you have any questions or concerns about the care your loved one is receiving in a nursing home, please feel free to contact Mark Napier at mnapier@fmr.law.

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