COVID-19 Coronavirus and Impact on Nursing Homes, Long-Term Care Facilities and Senior Centers

Updated 5/8/2020 11:45 a.m.

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The Vermont Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project promotes the rights of people getting long-term care services. If you have questions or concerns, contact us. Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are working and available by phone during the COVID-19 crisis. Call us at 1-800-889-2047 or fill out our online form.

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the State of Vermont has placed prohibitions and restrictions on visiting nursing homes, residential care homes and assisted living residences. This is because older people are more likely to get seriously ill from the virus. (See page 2 of the Governor’s Executive Order Executive Order No. 01-20.)

Here’s a summary of the restrictions and prohibitions placed on visiting nursing homes, residential care homes and assisted living residences:

1. Nursing homes

Visitor access is prohibited.

Exemptions to the prohibition are:

  • Medically Necessary Personnel
  • Visitors for residents receiving end-of-life care

2. Residential Care Homes & Assisted Living Residences

Visitor access is prohibited.

Exemptions to the prohibition are:

  • Two designated visitors for each resident
  • Medically Necessary Personnel
  • Visitors for residents receiving end-of-life care

Note: Any visitor to a nursing home, residential care home or assisted living residence will be screened using the recommendations issued by the Vermont Department of Health.

Do not go to a facility if you are sick or may have been in contact with someone with the virus. Consider using the phone or the internet to visit with a loved one.

Adult Day and Senior Centers & Food Delivery

On March 17, 2020, providers of Adult Day Centers received state instructions to temporary close operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those instructions remain in effect. Even though they are closed, the providers may offer and provide alternative services by phone or essential in-person services to adult day participants in their own homes. You can contact the Adult Day Center in your area to ask if services are being offered.

While adult day and senior centers are closed, home delivered meals are an option for those who need them. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging for more information about nutrition services at 1-800-642-5119.

The State of Vermont’s guidance to adult day and senior centers, along with other information about congregate sites and long-term care facilities, can be found on the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living website.

COVID-19 testing and prevention in nursing homes, residential care homes or assisted living facilities

What is being done about COVID-19 in long-term care (LTC) facilities?

The Vermont Health Department (VHD) is contacting all long-term care facilities proactively to review strategies to prevent COVID-19 infection and develop plans to respond immediately if an infection is identified.

VDH also provides COVID-19 testing at admission, discharge, and for certain residents who require regular care outside of the long-term care facility.

Survey and Certification, the state agency regulating long-term facilities, is examining long-term care facilities to determine if requirements related to implementing proper infection control practices to prevent the development and transmission of COVID-19 are being followed properly.

What steps can LTC facilities take to prevent and control COVID-19?

Staff should:

  • Wear personal protective equipment, such as facemasks and gloves.
  • Wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after contact with each resident, after using medical equipment, and after taking off masks, gowns, and/or gloves.
  • Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer in all resident-care areas, including both inside and outside resident rooms.
  • Practice cough etiquette/hygiene.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Clean residents’ hands after toileting or eating.
  • Clean and disinfect medical equipment between residents and areas of the facility.

 What should the administrations of LTC facilities be doing in response to COVID-19?

  • Complete a self-assessment designed to determine if the LTC facility’s infection control plan and protections are adequate to address COVID-19.
  • Communicate frequently with the Vermont Department of Health and Survey and Certification to share facility conditions, obtain the most up-to-date information and resources, and ask for help as needed.
  • Put a plan in place for frequent communication with residents and families about facility conditions and individual resident updates.

What can you do if you have concerns about the facility’s infection control practices or other issues?

  • Talk to the director of nursing or administrator about your concerns and ask what they will do to address them.
  • Contact the Vermont Long-Term Care Ombudsman program for assistance. Ombudsmen advocate for residents and can help resolve your concerns.
  • File a complaint with Survey and Certification.
    • Survey and Certification is currently focusing only on complaints classified as “Immediate Jeopardy.” This means that the problem/concern has caused or could cause serious harm, injury, impairment or death. If you believe your concern rises to that level, make sure to indicate that in your complaint.
    • File a complaint even if you don’t think it is Immediate Jeopardy. The complaint will still be entered into the system. The federal government will be issuing guidance about how these complaints will be handled.

What happens if a resident or staff person at a long-term care facility tests positive for COVID-19?

  • If a case of COVID-19 is identified within a long-term care facility, VHD contacts the facility to provide recommendations and infection control support. VHD also begins contact tracing to try and determine the source of the infection and how the infection may be spreading.
  • When a resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at a long-term care facility, testing is offered to all staff and residents at the facility. In addition to the initial test, residents and staff are re-tested at 3 days, 7 days, 10 days and 14 days after the initial test. Staff and residents may decline testing, and facilities may decline universal testing. When it comes to any symptomatic or exposed residents or staff who refuse testing, they should be treated as presumptive positive (treated as if they have the virus).

More information: The Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) website and Vermont Health Department (VHD) website.

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