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March 15, 2022

In this Issue:

  1. March Forth Together: Write a Letter to the Editor
  2. Updated CMS Guidance on Visitation, Quarantine, and Testing
  3. Increased Funding for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Included in Spending Bill
  4. President Announces Nominee for ACL Administrator/Assistant Secretary for Aging
  5. Advocates in Massachusetts Push for COVID-19 Remembrance Day

March Forth Together: Write a Letter to the Editor

On February 28, 2022, President Biden announced groundbreaking nursing home reforms, including the creation of a minimum staffing standard, increased oversight of nursing homes, and heightened scrutiny of how nursing homes spend taxpayer dollars. Throughout the month of March, we are taking action to support these, and other, nursing home policies to bring meaningful change in the lives of nursing home residents.

TAKE ACTION THIS WEEK March 14 - 18: Write a Letter to the Editor

Letters are still one of the most widely read sections of the local news, and a great way to get your voice heard by members of your community and elected leaders on key issues of the day. It is important that your voice is heard in support of the Biden Administration's recently announced nursing home reforms.

1.)   Read our Letter to the Editor Guide for tips on how to formulate your letter, information on what to highlight in the nursing home reforms, and talking points you can use in your letter.

2.)   Use our online tool to easily send your letter to multiple local and national media outlets.

3.)   Encourage others to send letters too!

Updated CMS Guidance on Visitation, Quarantine, and Testing

On March 10, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated their guidance (QSO-20-39-NH Revised).  According to the new guidance, residents, regardless of vaccination status, can choose not to wear face coverings or masks when other residents are not present and have close contact (including touch) with their visitor. Visitors should wear face coverings or masks and physically distance when around other residents or healthcare personnel, regardless of vaccination status.

The guidance was also updated to align with the CDC's use of the term "up-to-date" with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses rather than "fully vaccinated."

Whether a resident should be quarantined depends on factors such as vaccination status, exposure to someone with COVID-19, and length of time outside of the facility. The guidance states that if a resident who has been outside the facility has had a close contact with an individual with COVID-19, they should be tested for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status.  A resident with a close contact who is not up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccine doses is to be placed in quarantine.  A nursing home may also opt to test residents, who are not up-to-date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, without symptoms if they leave the nursing home for over 24 hours.  Facilities may also quarantine residents, who are not up-to-date with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses and who leave the facility, if uncertainty exists about their adherence or the adherence of those around them to recommended infection prevention measures.

CMS has updated its testing guidance QSO-20-38-NH to state that long-term care residents and staff with COVID-19 symptoms or who have had close contact with someone in the facility who tested positive must be tested immediately, regardless of vaccination status.  This memo was also revised to align with the CDC's use of the term "up-to-date" with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses rather than "fully vaccinated."  Facility staff who are not up-to-date on their vaccines should be tested according to community transmission guidelines.

Increased Funding for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Included in Spending Bill

Last week, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022. The omnibus FY 22 spending bill includes increases for Older Americans Act programs including $19.8 million for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (compared to $18.8 million in FY 21) and $18.9 million for Elder Rights Support Activities (compared to $17.9 million in FY 21). The bill will now go to the President's desk for his signature.

President Announces Nominee for ACL Administrator/ Assistant Secretary for Aging

President Biden announced Rita Landgraf as his nominee for Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Assistant Secretary for Aging. Dr. Landgraf served as the Cabinet Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services for eight years before her current role as Director of the University of Delaware Partnership for Health Communities. She is also a former State President of AARP.

Advocates in Massachusetts Push for COVID-19 Remembrance Day

Dignity Alliance Massachusetts is advocating to pass H. 4224 in the Massachussetts state legislature which would establish the annual observance of COVID-19 Remembrance Day on March 10th.  Though the bill has not yet passed, Dignity Alliance Massachusetts honored victims and survivors of COVID-19 in a resolution on March 10th acknowledging the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adults, people with disabilities, and residents of nursing homes.  Codifying the remembrance day via a state bill would honor those lost and help ensure that the tragedy is not repeated.

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