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State’s Long-Term Care Facilities Make Progress in Fighting COVID-19

Walz, state leaders today announced progress on the five-point battle plan announced in May, outlined areas for improvement

7/21/2020 10:58:15 AM

[ST. PAUL, MN] – Minnesota continues to make progress on Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s five-point battle plan to limit and stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. While residents of long-term care facilities still make up a majority of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota, data shows that efforts to identify and contain the spread of COVID-19 in various congregate care settings have been successful.

“With an aggressive multi-pronged strategy, this battle plan is helping ensure Minnesota’s long-term care facilities are more resilient and better prepared to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still more work to do. Together with our partners in congregate care settings, we must continue to take action to protect our most vulnerable Minnesotans as this pandemic continues.”

“Residents of long-term care facilities include our elders, parents, grandmothers, and grandfathers, as well as younger adults living with illness, traumatic injuries, memory loss, or disabilities, and they are all invaluable members of our community,” said Lt. Governor Flanagan. “One of the most difficult aspects of the COVID—19 pandemic has been its impact on long-term care facilities. We must continue learning and working to keep residents and staff safe during this challenging time.”

Among the elements of the five-point plan that have been successfully implemented include:

  • Developed testing criteria and a process for facilities to request testing services, making it possible to expand testing for residents and workers in long-term care facilities.
  • Implemented a Nurse Triage Line to provide test results and information on COVID-19 and streamlined the billing process for using the state’s testing partnership, to provide testing support and troubleshooting to clear barriers faster.
  • Developed a system for prioritizing and disbursing personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities, including an emergency supply and response system, to ensure these materials are available when needed.
  • Utilized a scheduling software system to connect facilities with staffing needs to available staff, as well as develop triggers and a notification system for when a facility needs additional staffing. In June, 112 shifts were filled through this system, representing 36 percent of available shifts. There are more than 1,100 qualified healthcare professionals signed up in the database.
  • Leveraged partnerships at all levels, including state and federal agencies, as well as long-term care associations and regional healthcare coalitions to improve long-term care testing, staffing, PPE distribution, and patient surge capacity and discharge.

“COVID-19 is still part of our lives, and there will continue to be cases, including in long-term care facilities,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “But we’ve made progress. We’re better positioned to limit the spread of COVID-19 and continue to improve every day. Moving forward, we will continue focusing on infection prevention to stop the start of outbreaks and to ensure one case in a facility doesn’t end up being a major outbreak.”

As of July 21, the most recent data shows that:

  • Half of Minnesota’s 368 nursing homes have never had a reported case.
  • Only 24% of Minnesota’s nursing homes currently have an active outbreak.
  • 77% of Minnesota’s 1,692 assisted living facilities have never had a reported case.
  • Only 8% of Minnesota’s assisted living facilities currently have an active outbreak
  • The growth in the number of facilities with a new outbreak has slowed significantly
    • Early May - average of 23 new facilities per day
    • Mid-June - average of 7 new facilities per day
    • Week of July 13 - average of 6 new facilities per day
  • Though still unacceptably high, deaths have sharply declined from past weeks.
    • 137 - May 17-23
    • 61 - June 7-13
    • 13 - July 12-18

Facilities with both large and small outbreaks have successfully stopped the spread of the virus. Of the total 1,165 outbreak facilities, 714 or 61% have had 1-2 cases to date. Of these, 538 or 75% have had no COVID-19 cases for 28 days. As for the 95 facilities with larger outbreaks of 20 or more cases, 51 or 54% percent have been free of COVID-19 cases for 28 days.

“Governor Walz’s five-point battle plan helped enhance testing in long-term care settings and we are thankful for the support we received from the State of Minnesota,” said Annette Greely, President and CEO of Jones-Harrison Residence in Minneapolis. “Testing our residents and staff in partnership with the National Guard was a game changer in our ability to contain the spread of COVID-19 and take the necessary measures to ensure the safety, health, and wellness of our residents and staff. We appreciate the collaborative partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and know through this plan we are better prepared in our ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.”

“We are forever grateful for how our employees, community, and the State of Minnesota rallied around our location when we experienced an outbreak,” said Michelle Solwold, Campus Administrator at Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in Brainerd. “It was always about collaboration and the well-being of residents. That’s how we got through the hard days, and that’s what long-term care facilities across the state will continue to need as we move through the pandemic. The team’s support means so much.”

Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced a five-point battle plan to limit the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities on May 7. In the months leading up to that announcement, state officials had been working with long-term care providers to help them implement and maintain strict infection control measures to help reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 in facilities.

On July 10, MDH released guidance providing expanded access to people designated as essential caregivers. On June 17, MDH began allowing window visits and outdoor visits with some limitations. The continued updated guidance helps facilities balance COVID-19 prevention with the general well-being of residents to limit the harms of social isolation.

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