COVID-19 UPDATE #99
November 13, 2020
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM CMS
On a call yesterday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma made two key announcements. The first is CMS or state surveyors will be calling nursing homes that report new cases of COVID and/or report shortages of PPE and/or staffing to offer assistance. They will ask several questions to see how they can help the facility acquire resources such as staffing, PPE, or testing supplies. We have been told the questions will be similar to the following:
  • Do you have enough PPE in the facility for one week?
  • Do you have enough staff in the facility to care for residents in proper cohort sections? 
  • What percentage of your staff completed the CMS/CDC training online? 
  • What is the frequency of resident/staff testing currently? 
  • How did your outbreak occur (staff, residents, visitor, vendor, other)? 
  • What is the availability of test kits? For all residents/all staff? How long will they last?

If you receive one of these calls, please share your experience, including any resulting assistance, with the American Health Care Association (AHCA) by emailing COVID19@ahca.org.

The second vital announcement is CMS will be publishing a list of facilities that have completed the CMS 3 to 4 hour QIO trainings. 
DSHS LEADERSHIP SHARES UPDATE ON SURVEY ACTIVITY
In an email WHCA received today from Candace Goehring, Director, Residential Care Services (RCS), the following information was shared regarding survey activities in Washington:

“My team and I have been reviewing the CRU intake reports as well as closely monitoring the community/county COVID transmission rates and have decided to continue to hold on the full reimplementation of survey and inspection activity. RCS will continue to provide focused infection control inspections and investigations as well as immediate jeopardy (2 day) investigations and other intake investigations for serious allegation of substandard care or services.

Our team will continue to evaluate our full regulatory functions regionally and at the state level frequently to determine resumption of other activities and functions.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We appreciate all that you are doing to protect residents, clients and caregivers.”

WHCA will continue to keep members apprised of information coming from RCS regarding survey activity as we receive it.
DEAR ADMINISTRATOR LETTER PROVIDES INSIGHT ON COVID-19 TESTING OF RCS STAFF
In a Dear Administrator letter to all providers dated November 13, information on COVID-19 testing of Residential Care Services (RCS) staff is shared. The letter states, “Residential Care Services is initiating testing of all RCS staff and contractors who perform on site regulatory functions, consultations or training at any of the facilities, agencies and homes regulated by RCS. Testing frequency will occur weekly with test results reported to the employee and their supervisor. This surveillance testing is for the purpose of diagnosing COVID-19 for asymptomatic staff. Any staff identified as COVID-19 positive will be immediately quarantined with test results reported to the local health jurisdiction according to reporting requirements. Employees will return to work when they meet return to work requirements established by the Department of Health.”

If providers have questions, they can reach out to the RCS Policy Unit via email.
DEAR ADMINISTRATOR LETTER TO SNF PROVIDERS SUMMARIZES PILOT FOR MODIFIED OFF-SITE CASE MIX ACCURACY REVIEWS
In a Dear Administrator letter to skilled nursing providers dated November 13, 2020, Residential Care Services (RCS) provides results of the Pilot for Modified Off-Site Case Mix Accuracy Reviews (CMAR). The letter summarizes the pilot, provides pilot evaluation responses, shares recommendations, and indicates the resumption of CMAR visits. Providers are also given contact information for Donna Zaglin, RAI Coordinator – Case Mix Accuracy Review Program Manager, if they wish to email or call at (360) 725-2487 with questions or to get additional information.
FIT TESTING TRAINING TO BE OFFERED VIRTUALLY
In collaboration with Employer Resources Northwest (ERNwest), WHCA offered fit test training around the state over the past few months. Because some members were not able to get to a training location, we have once again worked with ERNwest to offer the training virtually. This training covers proper fit test training for N95 respirator use, and is free for WHCA members. If you wish to register, click on the links below for the date that works best for you.

November 24 | 1 PM
December 2 | 10 AM

If you have questions or need additional information, please email Diana Hitchings or call her at (800) 562-6170, extension 116.
COVID TECH CONNECT SENDING SMART DEVICES INTO HEALTHCARE FACILITIES
COVID Tech Connect, a project dedicated to getting smart devices into hospitals nationwide, announced that it is sending 16,000 devices to hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country to connect patients and their loved ones. This announcement is possible in part due to a donation of devices from Google and the $4M the project raised, including a grant from Google.org, an anonymous donor, and thousands of individuals on the project’s GoFundMe campaign. This support will expand the project’s work to equip hospitals, senior care facilities, and hospice centers across the country with smart devices so that critically ill COVID-19 patients can connect with their loved ones.

“One of the most heartbreaking parts of the COVID-19 crisis is that so many people are dying alone,” said Sara Rodell, one of the six female founders of COVID Tech Connect. “We knew immediately that this was a problem that technology could solve. There are times where technology is a ‘nice-to-have’ but this time, technology was a ‘need-to-have’,” said Anjali Kumar.

Back in March, six tech industry leaders came together to kick start the project that would become COVID Tech Connect. COVID Tech Connect project is an example of how fast an idea can grow with a diverse team The effort has received national attention from celebrities like Ariana Grande, Kerry Washington, and Natalie Portman who tweeted their support and matched donations. Google.org made a $500,000 grant to support the organization’s operations and infrastructure; and an anonymous donor helped purchase thousands of additional devices.

COVID Tech Connect is currently offering 15 smart devices per facility, giving priority to those in greatest need. If you are a hospital, senior care facility, or hospice center in need of smart devices, please visit covidtechconnect.com to apply.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
WHCA continues to post resources and information as it becomes available on our website. If you have questions or need additional information, please call the WHCA office at (800) 562-6170.