Coronavirus update 05/01/2020
Coronavirus pandemic update May 1st, 2020
While every day holds new COVID-19 developments, this last week there were some positive developments at the Federal and state levels regarding testing and personal protective equipment for nursing homes. These are critical issues around which we have been advocating actively.
First, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will expedite the direct shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country. Shipments of surgical masks, gloves, eye protection and gowns are expected to begin the first week of May, starting with the New York, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas. They amount to about a week’s worth for Genesis. Although this won't eliminate the global shortages that we have experienced, it will help.
Second, the Administration has raised COVID-19 testing of residents, patients and employees at nursing homes to the highest priority level if they are exhibiting symptoms.
We have been vocal in the media, calling for PPE and access to faster, broader testing, which are critical to curtailing the spread of the virus in nursing homes. (See Genesis Healthcare CEO, George Hager on Fox News and in this CNN.com article, as well as this opinion piece by me on FoxNews.com).
We are grateful to the Administration for recognizing the critical need for our heroic frontline workers and loved ones in our care. Some states have stepped up, as well, particularly to facilitate testing, such as Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and West Virginia.
However, there is still a long way to go to overcome this unprecedented health crisis in nursing homes. The PPE shipments will provide some immediate help, but even a FEMA document obtained by Politico acknowledges, skilled nursing facilities' need for more. Moreover, many areas won’t see a shipment until late June and early July.
Regarding testing, we and the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), the sector’s advocacy association, have been pleading for universal testing at skilled nursing facilities. That means the Administration and states should provide priority access to testing for all nursing home residents, patients and employees regardless of symptoms. The AHCA/NCAL recently called for this, as well as a fund set up by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to help pay for it.
In this vein, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced it would contribute an additional $130 million in funding to nursing homes by the end of this week, demonstrating concrete action to address the situation.
We are thankful for the increasing collaboration and support we are seeing from local, state and federal health officials in the fight against this pandemic, which is far from over in nursing homes. In the meantime, our advocacy and loyalty to the people in our care, their families and our employees, who are on the frontlines every day, burns bright.
Dr. Richard Feifer
Chief Medical Officer