Northam directs release of COVID-19 data on specific nursing homes, announces $246M in CARES Act funding

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that $246 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will go to Virginia’s long-term care facilities, which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday also brought another major announcement from Northam: the Virginia Department of Health is now required to release COVID-19 data for individual long-term care facilities, which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities, throughout the state.

Northam and state officials, despite the severity of the situation in these facilities, had not budged on releasing this individualized data. Virginia code on patient and facility privacy was given as the reason why.

The federal government had been releasing the data for individual facilities for about two weeks now, but it’s been inconsistent at best.

The data released Friday shows multiple facilities across the state are currently facing outbreaks, including more than a dozen in Tidewater. At least 67 deaths have been reported in the area, including 17 at Northampton County’s Heritage Hall, 8 at Consulate Health Care of Windsor in Isle of Wight and 28 between 3 different Suffolk nursing homes.

The data breaks down outbreaks by:

  • current outbreaks
  • outbreaks pending closure
  • closed outbreaks

Use the drop down tab at the top right hand corner to change between the three (* represents less than 5 cases or 5 deaths)

Multiple facilities in Tidewater are in the process of their outbreaks being considered closed, which require two incubation periods (28 days) to pass without onset of a new illness. Once that happens the Virginia Outbreak Surveillance System (VOSS) has to officially label the outbreak as closed, VDH says.

Two nursing homes in the region are considered closed outbreaks, including Consulate Health Care of Windsor, where eight people died.

The data comes the same day the Virginia Department of Health reported 55 new long-term care COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s total of long-term care deaths to 1,000. That’s 62% of Virginia’s 1,602 overall COVID-19 deaths.

“The lockdowns of long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19 have been hard on residents and their families,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “These actions will help support long-term care facilities as they ease those restrictions, while keeping their residents safe and ensuring that the public gets accurate information on the spread of this virus in these facilities.”

Related: Northam says phase 3 will allow gatherings up to 250 people, open pools at 75% occupancy, increase gym capacity to 75%

The funding will help nursing homes and assisted living facilities with staffing shortages, increasing infection control measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) and comply with new testing requirements, which require baseline testing all of Virginia’s long-term care facilities and ongoing testing when facilities enter the first phase of their reopening process. The state’s guidelines for reopening are here.

Most of the funding will go to nursing facilities, which receive Medicaid payments. Northam and the General Assembly agreed in April to increase Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes $20 per resident per day.

VDH has been working with the Virginia National Guard to conduct “baseline” testing, AKA point prevalence surveys, which means testing all residents and staff in the same time period. The goal is to complete baseline survey for all nursing homes by July 15.

To view the data on specific facilities, click here.

To read more about the funding, click here.

In response to Northam’s announcement, the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living saying the additional funding would help ensure tests are done in a timely manner.

“Virginia’s long-term care facilities want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reunite residents and family members at our facilities. Ensuring the health and safety of our residents is paramount as Virginia begins phased reopening of long-term care facilities for visitation and activities.

“Weekly COVID-19 testing for residents and staffs will require the capacity of private labs to conduct the tests and have results in a timely manner. The state must ensure this capacity is in place given what we know about the asymptomatic spread of this virus.

“Adequate funding to cover the costs of this testing is also critical. VHCA-VCAL estimates COVID-19 testing of staff alone will cost $4.5 million per week across all nursing facilities in the Commonwealth and an estimated cost between $16,000 and $18,000 for the average Medicaid nursing facility each week to test their staff.

“We appreciate the state’s recognition of the financial needs that our nursing and assisted living facilities will face as they work diligently to prevent future outbreaks. As Virginia moves forward with reopening, continued state and federal funding is going to be critical to ensure the safety of residents and care providers at Virginia’s nursing and assisted living facilities, which are already struggling to absorb skyrocketing costs that have come with dealing with COVID-19.

“As part of today’s reopening announcement, the state is also disclosing information that nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been reporting about COVID-19 cases to numerous state agencies since the onset of the pandemic about COVID-19 cases.

“This information shows what we have known for months, which is that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts seniors with chronic conditions and the dedicated staff who care for them. We know that full transparency and real-time, accurate data being made available will validate our calls for assistance that nursing homes and assisted living centers have been making since the beginning of this pandemic.”

– VHCA-VCAL President and CEO Keith Hare

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