There is currently a lot of new information and misinformation circulating online and in the news around the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly in relation to mandatory staff testing and visitation. We thought it best to clear up this confusion so you have the most accurate information as it related to the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center.
First and foremost, in-person visitation remains on hold due to the nursing home having an active COVID-19 positive employee. The difference with this case compared to previous cases relates to how this infection was identified. We usually discover employee infections through our mandatory weekly testing, however this time the report came to us based on an employee taking a test on their own in the community. Although the employee was not working in the building with a known active infection, they did work during the virus’ incubation period. Based on this discovery and the science that is known about community based spread, we must report it and therefore push visitation back to be safe.
Second and while on the topic of employee testing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued national guidance regarding mandatory employee testing for COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities. This is meant to be a benchmark that our industry should follow across the board, specifically in states with low community based spread or who do not have comprehensive understanding or infrastructure in place to test employees on a large scale. Beyond that, each facility defers to their specific state’s Department of Health (DOH) for testing regulations. For us in New York State, we must continue to test our employees weekly for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and quick identification if infections among our workforce. This measure is to protect our residents and one another from the spread of infectious disease because we have to consider the close proximity and confined spaces we work in.
Third, the nursing home had a visit by the NYS DOH to do a check-in with us on our infection control methods and visitation plan among other things. We’re proud to report is that we passed the survey without issue and our visitation plan for the future is in order. This means that, according to our state DOH, we’re following every precaution possible to protect our residents from infectious diseases. You may be wondering how that could be true if we have had a handful of COVID-19 infections over the last few months. The answer to that question is this: we do not have any control over what happens outside our walls. We educate our staff, provide ample amounts of PPE, and follow infection control guidance by the book, but we cannot influence the community-at-large any more than we can influence the law makers who choose which regulations we must adhere to. As the community around us goes about their lives as they normally would, sick or not, they put essential healthcare workers like our staff directly at risk of infection. Statistically, they are bound to be exposed based on this kind of reckless behavior.
Over 7.6 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 to date, with or without symptoms. More than 213,000 people in our country have died since late February and we’re still four months away from the year mark. We urge you to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, remain socially distanced, and stay home if you are sick. It is the very least we can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. That becomes even more crucial now as we approach flu season. COVID-19, influenza, common cold, and allergies all seem similar but have very contrasting differences. We’ve included a simple chart that explains the basics and differences between them. This chart is meant to serve as a general guide and does not replace the importance of speaking with your physician or seeking medical treatment if you are ill.
As we move forward, we continue to receive well-intended but sometimes contentious phone calls from resident families asking when visitation will begin or “when this will all be over.” We do the best we can to answer these questions, but please understand that it is not our staff making these rules, although we do have the difficult task of enforcing them. A more productive and helpful use of your personal time and efforts would be to call your elected officials on a county and state level to ask when regulations will change. Your stories, experiences, and hopes for a better future can help us in the long run. Until that time, we will continue doing the work we’re trained to do and we will continue to protect those in our care from harm as best we know how.
Lastly, remember that we update our 24/7 hotline daily with up-to-date information on campus news related to COVID-19 but you will receive communications via email or phone message when significant changes or events occur. Thank you for your continued support and for placing your trust in us to do the right thing. We know it isn’t easy, but we must continue to serve you and your loved ones through this pain and hardship.
Symptomatic LHRC Residents Tested for COVID-19 – 31
LHRC Residents Tested for COVID-19 – ALL*
LHRC Residents Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 2
Symptomatic HP Residents Tested for COVID-19 – 0
HP Residents Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 0
Employees Tested Weekly for COVID-19 (State Mandated) – ALL
LHRC Employees Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 1
HP Employees Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 1
Former COVID-19 Positive Employees Recovered – 6
*not counting resident or representative declinations.
President and CEO