COVID-19 Response Plans for ALFs
COVID-19 Response Plans for ALFs available here. HHSC advises this document is a “living” document with frequent updates as guidance changes. Links to vital information included.
Version 3.3.1 (revised 8/4/2020) of the COVID-19 Response for Assisted Living Facilities is accessible here:
TALA President interview by Emily Foxhall of the Houston Chronicle.
TALA President interview by Chris Fox with CBS News Radio. The story ran on KRLD in Dallas, and on Texas State Networks, which is 134 radio stations statewide including KLBJ in Austin and WOAI in San Antonio.
UT Center for Aging - FREE Specific Trainings
The Center for Excellence in Aging Services and Long Term Care for The University of Texas School of Nursing, is offering FREE education along with specific trainings on Infection Control via webinar.
Please visit their COVID-19 Resources page for more information at https://www.utlongtermcarenurse.com/covid-19-resources/
LTC Providers Required to Report COVID-19 to HHSC
ALF Required Reporting Cases of COVID-19 to HHSC
HHSC has modified when AL communities should report positive COVID cases through the TULIP system. Beginning immediately, communities should report ONLY the first positive case(s) and ONLY the first positive case(s) after at least fourteen days of no cases. Essentially, HHSC would like for AL communities to notify the agency at the start of any potential outbreak but to cease reporting each new case identified as part of that reported outbreak.
Local health departments will likely have different reporting requirements. Many local jurisdictions continue to request significant information from ALs about COVID-19 outbreaks and any indication of spread. Changes to reporting requirement for HHSC does not impact the duty to report to your local health department.
COVID-19 Cases in LTC Facilities on Public HHS Website
Texas’ Attorney General sent a letter to HHSC at the beginning of July explaining that the agency was required to make public information about the presence of COVID-19 in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities. HHSC has complied with the letter, and almost immediately, TALA and its members noticed errors and discrepancies in the data. HHSC would like for all communities who notice errors in the reported data to reach out to their HHSC Regional Directors. The website has a disclaimer about the accuracy of the data, but each community should try to correct posted misinformation.
The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Long-term Care Regulatory (LTCR) has issued a Provider Letter for assisted living communities and related professions.
||Guidance on COVID-19 Response in Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) Note: Replaces PL 20-13
||Suspension of Certain LTCR Requirements during COVID-19 Outbreak
Restrictive Visitor Policies
Long-term care communities are under new direction to significantly limit visitors to their communities and any potential outings by residents. Assisted Living Providers received Provider Letter PL 20-23, and Governor Greg Abbott mentioned similar restrictions in his March 19th Executive Order #3. The provider letter invokes Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 247, Section 247.064(d), which says that a resident’s right to visitation can be restricted in order to protect the health and safety of residents.
If a resident leaves the community for any reason and then returns, the resident must be screened and temperature checked. If the resident fails any portion of the screen, the resident may be allowed to return but should be kept in isolation per the CDC’s protocol.
Requesting Personal Protective Equipment
Responding to COVID-19 has put an enormous strain on the country’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, gloves and gowns. Because of the national shortage and prioritization of PPE to acute care settings, long-term care facilities are feeling the pinch. HHSC has an informative website (https://hhs.texas.gov/about-hhs/communications-events/news/2020/03/resources-ltc-providers-request-ppe) specifically for long-term care providers. All communities must attempt to purchase necessary PPE through private distributors. Save copies of emails and responses, because the documentation will be necessary for requesting any PPE from the strategic national stockpile.
The Department of State Health Services is utilizing the state’s 22 Regional Advisory Councils to manage PPE shortages. Assisted Living Communities may request PPEs from their local RACs (find contact information here: https://dshs.texas.gov/emstraumasystems/etrarac.shtm). Long-term care providers need to use the State of Texas Assistance Request (STAR) process, and prioritization for PPE distribution.
The Center for Disease Control put out advice for medical providers regarding the conservation of PPE. Find that information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/index.html
Changes for Nurses
Governor Greg Abbott has announced several initiatives to increase the pool of nurses able to respond to COVID-19. The Texas Board of Nursing has a webpage dedicated to the changes (https://www.bon.texas.gov/COVID-19.asp).
The City of Austin has announced new control measures for all assisted living communities and nursing homes. Beginning immediately, communities will screen all residents, employees, visitors, and volunteers for elevated temperatures prior to entering the community. http://www.austintexas.gov/news/control-order-issued-combat-spread-covid-19-among-vulnerable-populations
To stay up to date on the Houston area:
City of Houston Health Department :
Harris County Health:
NIH (National Institute of Health)