DOH Issues Additional Guidance on COVID-19 for Nursing Homes

March 10, 2020

By: Craig W. Anderson

On March 6, 2020, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) issued guidance regarding precautions and procedures that all New York State nursing homes must take to protect the health and safety of residents and staff in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

This guidance, issued in the form of a Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) as DAL NH 20-04, reminds nursing homes of the importance of checking the Health Commerce System (HCS) to be informed of updates and provides specific protocols that must be implemented.  The guidance also sets forth certain required protocols, some of the more significant of which are as follows:

  • Signage and visitors. Facilities must post signage addressing visitation restrictions at all public entrances to the nursing home, as well as in foyers and vestibules leading into the facility and on the nursing home’s website (the DAL includes the recommended sign).  Facilities must also have staff available to screen visitors for symptoms or potential exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Staff screening, furlough and reporting.  Staff must be screened for respiratory symptoms upon arriving at work; those staff who show symptoms of COVID-19 must not be permitted to remain at work and must not return to work until completely recovered.  Staff who have had potential exposure to COVID-19 must be furloughed for a period of at least 14 days (regardless of whether the staff member is symptomatic or not). Further, facilities that have a reason to be concerned that a staff member may be infected with COVID-19 must send the person home and contact the New York State Department of Health.
  • Infection control policies. Facilities must review, and reinforce, their infection prevention/control policies and procedures with all staff, residents, and visitors (which specifically includes “standard, droplet and contact precautions” and “hand hygiene practices and respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette”). Additionally, facilities must conduct daily, frequent cleaning and disinfection of commonly touched environmental surfaces using “EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant.”
  • Infected residents. Facilities must notify DOH immediately of any residents suspected of being infected. While awaiting transfer, the resident must be isolated in a separate room with the door closed and should be given a surgical or procedure mask (not an N95) to wear.

We urge nursing home facilities to review this guidance to protect the health and safety of residents and staff during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure utmost compliance with DOH directives. Should you have any questions on this guidance, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys in our Health Care Practice, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.