COVID-19 Minnesota State Veterans Homes Update
MDVA is continuing to work closely with the Minnesota Departments of Health and Public Safety, Nursing Home advocacy groups, the Ombudsman Office and others for latest information and guidance regarding COVID-19.
Our priority is to protect the health and safety of Minnesota Veterans, including the Residents in our five Minnesota Veterans Homes, and our employees. All Minnesota State Veterans Homes are adopting the State of Minnesota community mitigation strategies to:
- Limit the spread of COVID-19
- Keep our residents and staff safe
- Reduce stress on our healthcare systems
We are very pleased with the high level of participation in our vaccine program among both Residents and staff. The Minnesota Veterans Homes’ skilled nursing facilities and Domiciliary Program have both administered the first and second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Staff and Residents have provided very positive feedback about receiving the vaccine, understanding the importance of the vaccine in keeping all safe and healthy.
The Minnesota Veterans Homes (MVH) follow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 testing requirements for long-term care facilities. All CMS-certified facilities across the country must comply with this requirement.
CMS criteria to implement mass testing of Residents includes active COVID-19 cases at a facility and a Community Case Rate (calculated by CMS). Based on these criteria, MVH staff are conducting mass testing of Residents. This team completes the testing by collecting the swabs from Residents.
Testing all Residents assists in controlling the coronavirus. MVH are required to obtain a consent form from a Resident or Resident Representative to complete the testing. Residents or Resident Representatives may refuse to provide consent for testing.
Based on current testing criteria, MVH is required to conduct weekly tests of all Residents if there is any active COVID-19 present. The testing process includes registering all Residents and documenting both their acceptance or refusal of each test and any current symptoms they are exhibiting. If a Resident is exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or a reduced oxygen saturation, MVH may need to place the Resident in isolation even if testing is not desired.
The staff of the Minnesota Veterans Homes have also been participating in routine COVID-19 testing at the facility since September 2020. Frequency for testing is guided by the community transmission rates and current exposure of COVID-19 in a facility. Staff are tested for COVID-19 at least weekly in all Minnesota Veterans Homes skilled facilities. The Domiciliary program, which doesn’t have the same regulatory requirements, is testing staff monthly and as needed.
The goal of staff testing is to identify staff who may be asymptomatic and need to quarantine to stop the spread of the virus. Our observations are that as the community sees an increase in COVID-19 exposure and transmission, so do the Minnesota Veterans Homes.
The safety and health of Minnesota Veterans Homes Residents and staff has guided our response to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. We recognize how physical isolation impacts Residents in long-term care facilities, and the effects on families and loved ones. MDVA is fortunate to have some of the most involved families, and we look forward to returning to some level of visits; however, we have had to accept a new normal in our Homes and for our Residents.
We have been pleased to offer a variety of visits during this challenging time. More details on types of visits are available here.
All Minnesota Veterans Homes have procedures in place to allow family visits on their campus. Visits happen in a variety of ways depending on staff and facility layout. We encourage you to contact your Minnesota Veterans Home directly to schedule a visit that works best for you and your loved one.
At times, a facility may need to turn back the dial on visits. We may need to temporarily suspend visits with limited notice because of new COVID-19 exposure and/or increased COVID transmission rates in the local community. This change in visitation status may happen quickly and will be communicated to you directly by the Home and updated on the COVID-19 Information Line.
If a Minnesota Veterans Home moves into an outbreak status, we will communicate changes to our procedures.
The Minnesota Department of Health and CMS visitation guidance supports long-term care facilities’ efforts to balance the need to protect Residents from COVID-19, ensure healthy social and emotional connections with family and friends, and limit unintended harms of social isolation during the ongoing pandemic. This guidance sets forth a cautious and measured process that we have used to determine the most appropriate visitation policy to protect our Residents and staff.
Core Principles of COVID-19 Prevention:
- Screening all who enter the facility for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Denial of entry of anyone who has symptoms
- Hand Hygiene
- Face Covering and Masks
- Social Distancing
- Instructional signage throughout the facility and proper visitor education
- Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces
- Appropriate staff use of PPE
- Effective cohorting of Residents
- Resident and Staff Testing
- Physical barriers to prevent spread of infection
Visits should be person-centered and considerate of the Resident’s physical, mental and psychosocial wellbeing and support their quality of life.
We need to recognize that this virus is still spreading throughout our state and we may need to return to more restricted visitation if we experience positive cases of COVID-19 in our setting or identify a broader risk of exposure both in our setting and/or the broader community.
For more information on the status of visitation at a specific Veterans Home, please contact the Home directly or call our COVID Information Line at 651-757-1599 or 1-833-454-0147 to hear a recorded daily update.
Admissions, Leaves and Passes
COVID-19 has caused significant changes in the operations of skilled nursing facilities across the country. Because of the pandemic, all Minnesota Veterans Homes paused new admissions in March as we implemented extensive infection prevention protocols and effort to ensure our current Residents and staff were safe from the virus.
We are admitting new Residents, as we are able, based upon the COVID-19 infections at each location.
Residents who are admitted or return from a leave or pass may be required to quarantine based on their vaccination and clinical health status. The Residents may admit to a different unit than they will reside in later during their stay.
We will work with Residents and families to complete admission paperwork prior to coming to the facilities. Forms that must be signed in person will be completed in an area of the facility that limits potential exposure. Personal belongings are limited at this time during the admission. Our Homes will ensure that person-centered care is addressed at the time of admission and that an appropriate communication plan is put in place via phone or video conferencing between the Resident and family. We want to ensure that you feel comfortable with the care being provided. Once the 14-day isolation period has passed, the Resident will transition to their rooms.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs appreciates your understanding as we navigate this challenging situation. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Home Administrator.