More COVID testing required for ltcf
Tue, 09/15/2020 - 11:47am admin
HOWARD COUNTY - At the Community Call meeting organized by Regional Health Services of Howard County, it was announced new rules going into effect for long-term care facilities.
On Aug. 26, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced regulations meant to prevent COVID-19 from entering nursing homes by detecting cases quickly and stopping transmission.
According to the directive, “Swift identification of confirmed COVID-19 cases allows the facility to take immediate action to remove exposure risks to nursing home residents and staff.”
This means all facilities in the United States are required to test residents and staff for COVID-19. This includes others entering the building. At this point, even doctors are treating patients remotely.
Nursing home staff members are to be tested based on the extent of the virus in the county. Unfortunately, Howard County falls into the red zone, meaning all staff at the four nursing homes (Evans Memorial, Accura HealthCare and Country Winds Manor in Cresco and Colonial Manor of Elma) are required to test twice a week, on Thursdays and Mondays.
These precautions are good to keep residents safe but are ultimately hurting the facilities, who have to pay $38, more or less, depending on the type of test kit.
During the community call on Sept. 2, it was announced Accura received 150 kits and a testing machine. Evans was in outbreak status, with residents improving and recovering. They will be doing twice-weekly testing as well.
Country Winds Manor and Colonial Manor are waiting on machines, but Colonial Manor has been doing weekly testing for staff, with one testing positive. There was no update for Riceville Family Care & Therapy Center.
How are counties graded?
Counties are determined to have high, medium or low positivity rates. In this area, Howard and Winneshiek are in the high level, which means there has been over 10% of positivity in the previous week.
The latest data from the CMS for Aug. 20-26 showed Howard was at 21.6% and Winneshiek was 13.9%. The large numbers for both were due to outbreaks at one long-term care facility in each county.
Counties graded as medium are for those with a 5-10% positivity rate. Those area counties are Chickasaw at 9.6% and Mitchell at 5.7%.
Positivity rates under 5% are considered low. They include Floyd at 4.0% and Minnesota’s Fillmore at 3.6% and Mower at 4.8%.
The CMS states, “If the county positivity rate decreases to a lower level of activity, the facility should continue testing staff at the higher frequency level until the county positivity rate has remained at the lower activity level for at least two weeks before reducing testing frequency.”
“For residents or staff who test positive, facilities should contact the appropriate state or local entity for contact tracing.”
According to corona virus.iowa.gov, on Tuesday monring, Sept. 8, the 14-day average of positive cases for Howard County had dropped to 11.9, Winneshiek was at 7.2. Chickasaw was 12.0 and Mitchell was at 14.3.