In a media availability with reporters today, the President of the Long Term Care Association of North Dakota called upon everyone in the state to help get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
Shelly Peterson says for the past three weeks, visitation at long term care and skilled nursing facilities has been shut down in an effort to protect residents from the novel coronavirus. She says the guidance comes down from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and is based on current positivity rate in each county. She says as of today, there are currently 1,400 active cases of COVID-19 within these facilities. Peterson says community spread has a direct impact on longterm care, and with the holidays coming up she says isolation from families will be very difficult for residents. Peterson says CMS allows for outdoor visitation, but that isn’t the best option for North Dakota.
"We were trying to create safe inside space - because we think we can do that, we know facilities can do it. Facilities and basic care and assisted living are allowed to do it, so we'd really like to hopefully see that CMS would allow it."
Peterson says once numbers in the community get back down, more visitation could be allowed. But until that time, it’s too dangerous for residents.
She also says Governor Burgum’s recent action to allow COVID positive health care workers who are asymptomatic should be helpful. The workers would be restricted to COVID units, and would be pulled from work at the first sign of symptoms. Peterson says this was something the Long Term Care Association was advocating for.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, this is something we never thought we'd be asking for - to have COVID positive individuals in a facility - but we're at extreme measures right now with very high rates, and we need to get capable, willing staff that can do this safely back into the facilities. But the key is to do it by following all the guidance and being very, very careful."
Peterson says masking, hand washing and social distancing are the best ways to stop the spread.