Focus on coronavirus prevention narrows in on visitors

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2020

Since news of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak became known in January, healthcare facilities all over the nation have been watching and preparing for the virus’s inevitable arrival. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can spread between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with a person with the virus and through inhaling respiratory droplets from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. How easily the virus spreads from person-to-person varies.

At this time, there is no vaccine and no definitive treatments for COVID-19. Unfortunately, the population hit hardest by this infection is also one of the most vulnerable- residents living in long-term healthcare facilities. In recent days, regulators and health officials have worked to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities through increasingly more stringent guidelines and recommendations. Chief among them are measures for screening and limiting visitor access.

March 9, the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) called for screening visitors with the following criteria:
  • Showing signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
  • In the last 14 days, has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, or under investigation for COVID-19, or are ill with respiratory illness.
  • International travel within the last 14 days to countries with sustained community transmission.
  • Lives in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring.

Due to the heightened threat of transmission, visitors with any of these criteria will be denied entry into long-term healthcare facilities. Facilities are encouraged to screen all potential visitors about the criteria, offer temperature checks and educate them about infection transmission precautions. Additionally, visitors that gain entry may be asked to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or to limit their visit to certain locations. Facilities are also advised to review how they handle visits from volunteers and vendors and take action to prevent transmission.

Prevention of infection is a daily priority for America’s long-term healthcare facilities, the arrival of COVID-19 and management of external threats are added challenges. However, The Compliance Store has been following the guidance from CMS about COVID-19 closely and we have created several resources to help providers. From action plans to policies on visitation, we have easy-to-use materials to help address the threat. To learn more, go to www.TheComplianceStore.com.