On July 22, 2020, CMS announced four new policies pertaining to nursing homes during the COVID-19 public health emergency. First, CMS allocated to nursing homes an additional $5 billion from the Provider Relief Fund established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Second, CMS will require nursing homes in states with a COVID-19 test positivity rate of 5 percent or greater to test all nursing home staff each week. CMS’s distribution of rapid point-of-care testing devices to nursing homes will support this mandate. Third, CMS, in partnership with the CDC, will implement an online, self-paced, on-demand training for nursing homes on COVID-19, which will be required to receive funding from the Provider Relief Fund Program. Finally, CMS will send to the states, as part of the weekly Governor’s report, a list of nursing homes with an increase in cases.
The new funds will be available “to build nursing home skills and enhance nursing homes’ response to COVID-19, including infection control.” The funds can be used, among other things, for hiring additional staff, implementing infection control “mentorship” programs with subject matter experts, increasing testing, and providing additional services, such as technology for remote family visits. The new funding supplements the $4.9 billion distribution to nursing homes announced by CMS in May (as previously reported in Health Headlines on May 26, 2020).
The training that will be made available by CMS and CDC is based on the experience of the Task Force Strike Teams deployed by the White House since July 18, 2020 to provide onsite technical assistance and education to nursing homes experiencing outbreaks. The Task Force Strike Teams comprise clinicians and public health service officials from CMS, CDC and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. The focus of the Task Force Strike Teams has been on keeping COVID-19 out of facilities, detecting cases quickly, preventing transmission and managing staff. The training will be available to all nursing homes. Specialized technical assistance will be provided to nursing homes that have been found to have infection prevention deficiencies during the most recent CMS inspection and had recent COVID-19 cases.
CMS’s announcement is available here.