COVID Update #246
HFAM Update, MDH Webinar Recap, AHCA/NCAL 'What they are Saying'
HFAM Update

Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  As always, you and your teams provide quality care to Marylanders in need. Today, the number of skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and assisted living campuses with at least one active COVID-19 case is the lowest it has been in a year— 57 and 48 respectively. That is simply awesome. Take pride in that, celebrate that, and remain diligent in your efforts to block out and fight the virus and provide quality care.
While the majority of patients, residents, and many of the staff in our sector were vaccinated as part of the national CVS/Walgreens pharmacy program and in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), given the short vaccine supply and the varied capacity of our sector’s LTC pharmacies, it won't likely be until the end of March that we have an ongoing State of Maryland long-term vaccination plan for new admissions and new staff.
Rest assured, federal and state leaders are not ignoring our sector. We were literally the first to get the vaccine in Maryland. With the CVS/Walgreens federal program, Governor Hogan needed to allocate Maryland vaccines to the program, and he did. MDH is currently working on getting second doses into the arms of about 2,000 people in our sector who got first doses at third clinics
Since the CVS/Walgreens clinics have ended, we have actively been working with MDH leaders on the next steps. On the way immediately forward, we face two challenges:
  • Vaccine – Supply is still short of demand and need in Maryland. (NOTE: We wrote the board a couple of weeks back, and Governor Hogan said yesterday, vaccine supplies will get much better on or about March 29, 2021.)
  • Getting LTC pharmacies operational in our sector for vaccine distribution. Not all pharmacies have the same capacity or the desire to operate in the same way as CVS/Walgreens. 
The good news is that the positivity rate now is MUCH lower than it was last year, and MDH will have an operational plan in place by the end of the month. Just as last year, when we waited for the first vaccines in much more demanding circumstances and with MUCH higher positivity rates, we need to wait a bit more for a systemic MDH approach for our sector's next and long-term vaccine distribution phase. I wish that were not the case, but given the current vaccine supply and our LTC pharmacies' current operational capacity, it is where we are for now.  
The current vaccine situation is not a failure of advocacy or will. It is simply where we are given current national supply levels and LTC pharmacy capacity. And together, we will get through it. That said, with the vaccination of new admissions and new employees in this short-term limbo, it is critical that all remain diligent on infectious disease protocols.
As Always: 
  • People first, quality counts.
  • Be prepared to deploy people and PPE around your organization.
  • Our sector MUST double our efforts on infectious disease protocol, staffing, PPE, observation, and testing.
  • Train, train, and train teams again on infectious disease protocol.
  • Recognize that COVID-19 fatigue is an issue across the county, not just in our sector.
  • Overcommunicate with residents, patients, families, staff, and government partners.
  • Sound alarms early.
  • Know that WE WILL get through this and that you are saving lives!
  • Work with your hospital partners, and coordinate with local and state regulatory partners.
  • Take and document your action; keep a timeline.
  • CLICK HERE for the Dr. Katz Video, and please see the Donning and Doffing Checklist we have been sharing.
So again, as I and others enter this Shabbat, and we all enter the weekend, celebrate the victory that active COVID-19 cases are the lowest point in over a year. I know that I, HFAM, your teams, and the families of the Marylanders in your care profoundly and genuinely appreciate you.
Joe DeMattos
President and CEO
MDH Webinar Recap

Yesterday, the Maryland Department of Health held a webinar call to update the long-term care sector on COVID-19 developments and best practices. The call was recorded, in case you were unable to join or would like to review the topics discussed, which included:

  • Maryland Epi Updates
  • Variants of Concern - Dr. Monique Duwell
  • Vaccine Update
  • CDC and CMS Guidance Review/Clarifications
  • FAQ

You can also view the webinar's PowerPoint presentation here and the chat box here.

If you have any questions, please email
What They Are Saying: COVID-19 Vaccines Enable Long Term Care Facilities To Reunite Residents With Their Loved Ones

As more residents and staff in long term care facilities receive the COVID-19 vaccines, new cases continue to decline. Weekly cases are now the lowest they’ve been since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking data in May 2020, indicating that the vaccines are effective. In fact, CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance that allows more indoor visitation in nursing homes. Many facilities are starting to welcome family and friends back into their buildings.

We cannot lose the progress we’ve made. In the short term, nursing homes and assisted living communities must have ongoing and rapid access to the vaccines. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has requested that the Biden administration allocate between 50,000 and 75,000 doses per week to the LTC pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, and that governors lend their support to ensure long term care residents and staff remain a priority.

Moving forward, we must work toward policy reforms that will help strengthen the long term care profession. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing systemic issues, such as staffing shortages, chronic Medicaid underfunding, and aging physical structures. AHCA and LeadingAge and released the Care For Our Seniors Act this week, a reform package that will address these challenges and help improve the overall quality of care in America’s nursing homes. Long term care leaders are eager to begin working collaboratively with lawmakers on solutions that will secure a brighter future for current and residents and generations to come.

WATCH an AHCA/NCAL video celebrating vaccine distribution across long term care facilities.
2021 HFAM Conference
The 2021 HFAM Conference “Together We Re-Imagine” will be held in person October 4 – 7, 2021 at the Maryland Live Hotel and Casino in Hanover, Maryland. Hundreds of long-term care leaders will connect, share best practices and discuss actionable insights on how we can reflect, reform, rebuild, and revolutionize quality care. You and your teams will not want to miss this opportunity as we come together again.

Visit the conference website to learn more and register.
Did you miss HFAM's previous alerts?

Visit our website to view all previous HFAM alerts, as well as guidance
from our federal and state partners.
Thank you.

We cannot thank you enough for the dedication and diligence in doing all that you can for the residents in your communities. HFAM continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic with our state and national partners and will do all we can to support you during this time.