Nursing homes to limit access to residents
To reduce coronavirus risk, visitors to be screened
WITH THE ELDERLY particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, the Baker administration is putting in place a series of measures to shield residents of nursing homes from visitors and workers carrying the disease.
Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services, said nursing homes “will be directed to actively screen and restrict access to visitors to ensure the safety and health of residents and staff.” They will also be asked to confirm their employees are not sick.
Anyone who displays signs of infection, such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath, will not be admitted. Similarly, anyone who has traveled internationally in the last 14 days or come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or even lives in a community where a “community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring” will not be permitted to enter a nursing home.
These kinds of precautions may be hard to enforce. At Meadow Green Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Waltham, which is following protocols issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, visitors and vendors are being asked to fill out a short questionnaire detailing their health and recent travel activities.
Belle said no visitors have been turned away yet, but keeping up the paperwork is difficult. With his residents being so frail, Belle said it might make more sense to stop visitation all together rather than require nursing homes to police visitors.
“What the governor of Connecticut mandated – no visits to nursing home centers – sounds drastic, but it’s prudent,” Belle said. He said the current approach of screening visitors is “a hard task to maintain.” Connecticut directed its nursing homes to limit visitors primarily to family and friends of dying patients on Monday.
At Meadow Green, there has been success in monitoring the health conditions of staff with daily meetings. If a staffer reports a sick child or spouse, they’re asked to notify the home’s administrators.
The 123-bed facility has been on top of ordering supplies, but those are limited because demand is so high. Instead of receiving an order of four boxes of gowns, for example, Belle said the facility received two.
“The unfortunate part is people have been abusing the marketplace, so vendors are limiting us now,” said Belle.
The Department of Public Health issued a guidance to nursing homes on coronavirus on February 27, and will update that on Wednesday with new screening requirements. Sudders said she will also hold a conference call with nursing home operators to discuss details.
Berkshire Rehabilitation & Skilled Care Center in Sandisfield, which is located in Berkshire County, posted on Facebook about the facility’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus to its residents. “In addition to the common cold and more serious illnesses, including Influenza, we now have another illness we are working hard to avoid: Covid-19.”
Gov. Charlie Baker and top aides at a State House press conference said a lot of their focus is on the elderly because of their susceptibility to the virus. He said seniors should avoid large crowds, sporting events, and public transportation to avoid potential contact with the virus. He also urged people who live in households with vulnerable individuals like elderly parents to avoid large crowds.Baker said the rise has prompted him to rethink his future interactions with his 91-year-old father. “We’re probably gonna have a lot of conversations over the phone over the next few weeks. And I probably won’t be spending as much time with him physically,” Baker said.
The World Health Organization says that the fatality rate in China, where coronavirus was first detected, is 21.9 percent for those over 80. For those aged 10 to 39, the fatality rate is just .2 percent.