The second Delawarean who died from complications with coronavirus was a resident of Little Sisters of the Poor in Newark. Since then seven more residents have tested positive for the virus. Public Health officials on Saturday said a second care facility – HarborChase – in Wilmington has six residents from a memory care unity who have tested positive – five of them are now hospitalized.
“Responding to multiple cases of COVID-19 in such facilities is among our greatest concerns,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “The populations who live in these facilities are at the highest risk for COVID-19, based on their age and underlying health conditions. Our DHSS team is working closely with the facility’s staff to make sure that the residents with COVID-19 are isolated from other residents, and that staff follow strict safety protocols regarding care of the individuals with the virus and also screening of all who enter the facility.”
On March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued aggressive measures for nursing homes nationwide to follow with respect to safety at their facilities:
- Restricting all visitors, effective immediately, with exceptions for compassionate care, such as end-of-life situations;
- Restricting all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel and other personnel (i.e. barbers);
- Cancelling all group activities and communal dining;
- Implementing active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory systems.
In cases of compassionate care, CMS advises that visitors will be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, and the visits will be limited to a specific room.
On March 16, DHSS issued further restrictive and specific guidance to all facilities serving older adults, including screening protocols for visitors, requirements for disinfecting rooms, and reinforcing resident and staff hygiene.
Secretary Walker said as difficult as it is for loved ones not to visit residents of long-term care facilities during the coronavirus crisis, those visitor restrictions are in place to help keep vulnerable residents safe. DHSS’ Division of Health Care Quality (DHCQ) is continuing to work closely with long-term care facilities in the state to verify that such strong measures are in place at each facility, and if, not, to assist them in implementing stronger protocols.