First, deep and genuine thanks. With smaller teams, in the largest and most rapid surge of COVID-19, we have seen, and under tremendous pressure, you and your teams are providing quality care to Marylanders in need and saving lives. We are all frustrated because we have open beds in our settings to provide care; we just don’t have the necessary staff. Rest assured that in the coming several weeks we will overcome this challenging time of the surge.
Maryland’s COVID positivity rate is high and growing. As such, COVID cases are increasing across all healthcare settings and in some education settings. Today, the majority of Maryland's skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and many assisted living campuses have a COVID outbreak— most are isolated and some are growing in the number of cases. It is fair to expect the number of cases to increase given the highly contagious nature of Omicron and the community-at-large positivity rate. Fortunately, the vaccines and boosters do work, and even with breakthrough cases of Omicron, the severity and mortality rate of the virus are tremendously reduced.
We continue to work with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and National Guard leaders on the deployment of troops to assist the most urgent need in centers with non-medical tasks. These troops will NOT serve in medical roles such as nurses aides, but they will be able to help in dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, testing, or in moving people around in centers. We should be able to count on this limited number of troops late this week or early next week and they will likely be phased in. Let’s be thankful, and deploy them! We expect to update on his again ASAP.
In Maryland and across the nation there is both a PCR and POC testing shortage. Nationally, leaders at AHCA/NCAL last night and pushed for the federal deployment of POC testing supplies to our sector. I was in touch last night with MDH about state POC testing supply help. We expect to update you on this again ASAP.
Board of Nursing
The Board of Nursing and other parts of MDH continue to be impacted in various degrees by the cyber-attack that took place several weeks ago. Throughout the process, Karen Evans, the Executive Director of the Board of Nursing, has been proactive in outreach to HFAM and other stakeholders.
On Friday, January 7 at 2:30 pm HFAM, LeadingAge Maryland, and the LifeSpan Network will host a 90-minute Zoom meeting with Ms. Evans so she can provide our sector with an update and answer any questions. While this call is open to all in the sector, it will be most beneficial for HR managers, administrators, and directors of nursing.
We are working with MDH on the grant agreement relative to the $25 million being provided to skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers. The grant uses must be defined broadly to include workforce retention, recruitment, testing, vaccination, and administering COVID therapies. Stay tuned for specifics.
CRISP Reporting Change
As of this Friday (tomorrow), CRISP will be changing the reporting so that SNFs will be able to enter the accurate number of facility beds, available/staffed/open beds, and resident census. Any empty but unstaffed beds should be counted in the total bed count but NOT in the available/staffed/open beds. This means that when populating the “available beds” tab, please be sure to list the total beds that are available, staffed, and open. It is important to note that real-time jumps in positive testing will continue to impact data that is reported, after being reported.
Winter Storm Warning
Beginning this evening until early tomorrow morning we are expecting another winter storm with snow and ice throughout most of Maryland. Travel could be very difficult and hazardous conditions could impact commutes. Be sure to check local weather alerts for updates specific to your location. And, regardless of your location, we remind everyone to plan, act and adjust to the situation at hand in any weather or other emergency—and in accordance with OHCQ requirements.
Per established protocols, skilled nursing and rehab centers are expected to work with local emergency management and government officials during a severe weather event and report problems and failures as outlined in disaster plans and state regulations. We urge HFAM members and all skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers in Maryland to be proactive:
HFAM Vaccine Promotion Video
Now is NOT a time for any of us to let down our guard – together, we must continue advocating for people to receive the vaccine and the booster. We are eternally grateful to Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Adrienne Jones, as well as Cherie Taylor and Renee Harris of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington for recording this HFAM public service video to help encourage people living and working in skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and on assisted living campuses to get vaccinated—and to get the booster!