Work underway on guidelines for long-term care facilities

Thursday, June 4, 2020

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds and Dr. Caitlin Pedati addressed concerns of family members whose loved ones live in long-term care facilities. Those individuals have been without family visits since March.

"As businesses reopen, activities resume, and life gradually gets back to normal, family members with loved ones in long-term care facilities are asking when they will be able to be reunited again," Reynolds said at Thursday's press conference.

"I understand that this time of separation has been extremely difficult for residents of long-term care facilities and their loved ones. I've heard stories of spouses that have been married for over 60 years who rarely spent a day apart until these last three months. Of sons and daughters who worry that they are missing precious time with an elderly parent. And about the serious concerns about the impact this separation is having on the mental health and well-being of all long term care residents," she said.

"I want Iowans to know that our team along with the Department of Public Health, and Iowa's long-term care associations, have been reviewing the reopening guidance from the CDC and have developed guidance to safely resume visitation in Iowa's long-term care facilities," Reynolds continued.

Pedati, State Public Health Medical Director and Epidemiologist, then shared about the additional work being done to support long-term care facilities, the staff and the residents they serve.

Pedati noted that it's important to keep in mind that even before COVID, health care providers knew that this represented a vulnerable population, as they are residents who may be older or have underlying conditions and they live in a congregate or close setting.

"Local and state public health as well as clinical partners throughout the state, work very closely to provide a variety of types of support to facilities depending on what it is they need. Now sometimes that support is going to come in the form of subject matter expertise, on things like infectious disease, or epidemiology. Sometimes it will come in the form of resources such as testing and PPE, or having a team information sharing and communication," she said.

These resources are offered in close cooperation with a variety of groups, and that includes state regulatory partners, long-term care associations, quality improvement organizations and state infection prevention networks. It also includes the staff, the patients and their families.

"We know this has been a very difficult time for patients and their families. We understand this has been a challenge for everybody. So we're looking forward to sharing some guidance later today (Thursday) on how to start safely easing some of the control measures that have been in place with the spread of COVID-19 and protect staff and families," Pedati said.

She explained information provided on at coronavirus.iowa.gov will give county-by-county information which will be assessed such as the epi curve, and cases over time, as well as trend lines.

"This is important because it helps facilities, local public health and all of us to understand local virus activity. Understanding this local virus activity is important because it's going going to inform the readiness to move through three phases that are going to be described in the guidance," she said.

Those guidelines will address things like visitation of family, as well as of healthcare personnel, trips outside of the facility; dining practices and group activities.

"We will also continue to reinforce the important strategies of screening for symptoms, using PPE, and cohorting or grouping patients together when needed," she said.

Continued testing of staff and residents will continue to be an important part of the reopening process.

"We will offer baseline testing assessments to residents and staff in the facilities, continue to prioritize testing for any symptomatic staff or resident, and also continue to offer testing when individuals are transferred out of an acute care setting to a long-term care setting," Pedati said.

Pedati also stressed the importance of continuing to follow handwashing, social distancing and stay at home recommendations.

Reynolds added, "I want to thank Iowa's families for their patience during this time. Again, I know it hasn't been easy but it really was a necessary step to protect the health of loved ones and others. I also want to assure you that their continued health and safety remains one of our highest priorities," she said.

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