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Coronavirus Disease 2019

Guidelines for Preventing & Managing
COVID-19 in Skilled Nursing Facilities


Summary of Recent Changes

06/08/22

  • Antigen testing is acceptable to fulfill the new screening testing requirements for staff and residents.
  • Clarified that response testing can be once weekly for all staff and residents being tested, regardless of the routine screening testing schedule, unless specified by the outbreak investigation to be more frequent.

05/26/2022

  • N95 respirators required for use by all staff that work in resident care areas, or areas accessed by residents for any reason, at all times when working in these areas.
  • Twice weekly screening testing for staff members and weekly screening testing for residents, regardless of vaccination status, until further notice.
  • Pause communal dining and group activities until further notice.
  • Recommendation made by CDC that certain individuals should receive a second booster dose.
Introduction

These guidelines outline actions that Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) should take to help prevent and manage COVID-19, based on the current status of and trends in community transmission in LA County.

COVID-19 Vaccination Guidance:

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is critical to protecting both residents and staff in SNFs. The latest COVID-19 vaccine clinical recommendations are located on CDC’s website: Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the US. Below are key COVID-19 vaccine guidance and resources for SNFs in LA County.

Definition of Up to Date:

An individual is up to date with COVID-19 vaccines when they have received all doses in the primary series (i.e., are fully vaccinated) and all recommended boosters, when eligible.

They are also considered up to date if they have:

  • Completed their primary series but are not yet eligible for a booster dose, OR
  • Received one booster but are not recommended to get a 2nd booster, OR
  • Received one booster but are not yet eligible for a 2nd booster.

Definition of Fully Vaccinated:

A person is considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks following the receipt of either:

  • The second dose in a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna); OR
  • One dose of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson and Johnson/Janssen); OR
  • A full series of a COVID-19 vaccine that has been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization [WHO]; OR
  • The full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial; OR
  • Two doses of any "mix-and-match" combination of an FDA authorized/approved or WHO-listed COVID-19 vaccine administered at least 17 days apart.

Proof of vaccination: Staff and visitors can only be considered fully vaccinated or up to date if they show acceptable proof of vaccination that confirms the above definitions. Proof of vaccination for staff and visitors includes the following as per AFL 21-28 and AFL 22-07.

  1. COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control & Prevention or WHO Yellow Card which includes name of person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided, and date last dose administered); OR
  2. A photo of a Vaccination Record Card as a separate document; OR
  3. A photo of the client's Vaccination Record Card stored on a phone or electronic device; OR
  4. Documentation of COVID-19 vaccination from a healthcare provider; OR
  5. Digital record that includes a QR code that when scanned by a SMART Health Card reader displays to the reader client name, date of birth, vaccine dates and vaccine type.
  6. Additional option for staff only: documentation of vaccination from other contracted employers who follow these vaccination guidelines and standards.

Track, Increase, and Maintain COVID-19 Vaccination & Booster Coverage

  1. All facilities must track all vaccine doses, including additional primary and booster doses, for all staff and residents including verifying vaccination status of new staff hires and new admissions. If a person’s vaccination status is not verified, they are considered unvaccinated.
    1. It is recommended that facilities maintain the following information at minimum in secure/encrypted electronic documents (such as a password protected spreadsheet) for all current residents in a single file and all current staff in a single file:
      1) vaccination status (e.g., up to date, fully, partially, un-vaccinated, or not yet assessed)
      2) the dates of all vaccination doses, including additional primary and booster doses, OR date the person declined. This will a) help facilities anticipate when individuals are due for additional primary or booster doses, b) help facilities’ ability to efficiently implement guidance in this document that depends on vaccination status, and c) allow for easier reporting on vaccination surveys from Public Health, CDPH, and/or NHSN.
  2. All facilities should increase and maintain vaccination coverage, including boosters, for both staff and residents by re-offering the vaccine, providing education, hosting listening sessions including to persons who have previously declined, etc. Please see Best Practices for Improving Vaccination in SNFs for more detailed strategies including building vaccine confidence. Also, as per CMS QSO 21-19-NH Interim Final Rule – COVID-19 Vaccination Immunization Requirements for Residents and Staff, facilities must document when COVID-19 vaccine education took place and provide samples of educational materials used for both staff and residents.

Residents:

  1. Immediately assess all residents on admission, and at regular intervals during their time in the facility, for their COVID-19 vaccination and booster status.
  2. Facilities are recommended to utilize the California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) to help look up verification of vaccination status for residents. Other proof is also acceptable including those listed in the CDPH Vaccine Records Guidelines & Standards.
  3. For residents coming from a hospital, including stays in the emergency department or observation, please ask the hospital to offer COVID-19 vaccine to the resident prior to transfer as per CDPH AFL 21-20.
  4. If a resident is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, immediately contact the facility’s long-term care (LTC) pharmacy to schedule an appointment or delivery of vaccine to get the resident vaccinated.
    1. If the resident is unvaccinated, the first dose should be administered within a week of admission.
    2. Second dosesadditional primary doses, or booster doses should be administered per the CDC recommended schedule. Everyone ages 50 years and older who received any COVID-19 booster dose should receive a second booster dose at least 4 months after their first booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone ages 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should receive a second booster dose at least 4 months after their first booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
    3. If the LTC pharmacy is not able to vaccinate new resident(s) in a timely manner, please notify Public Health at COVID-LTC-Test@ph.lacounty.gov for additional resources.

Staff:

  1. Per CDPH’s Public Health Officer Order on “Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement" updated Jan 25, 2022 and LAC DPH’s Health Officer Order on Health Care Worker Vaccination Requirement updated Jan 28, 2022 all workers* in skilled nursing facilities (including subacute facilities) are required to have the following:
    1. Single dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by September 30, 2021; AND
    2. A booster dose pursuant to Table A in the LAC DPH Health Officer Order for all workers currently eligible for boosters by March 1, 2022. Workers not yet eligible for boosters must be in compliance no later than 15 days after the recommended timeframe in Table A referenced in the LAC DPH Health Officer Order for receiving the booster dose. Note: if a staff member has been fully vaccinated, then infected with COVID-19, they may defer their booster vaccine up to 90 days after date of clinical diagnosis or first positive test. See AFL 21-34.3. Workers that are eligible for a second booster dose should be encouraged to receive it.
  2. Staff who are not vaccinated and/or boosted against COVID-19 due to qualified medical reasons or religious exemptions must undergo routine screening testing and have additional PPE recommendations. Please see relevant sections below. There are no exemptions from testing requirements for those with qualified medical reasons or religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination.

*Please read the full orders for description of who is included in “workers”.

COVID-19 Prevention - General and Administrative Practices

  1. Conduct entry screening.
    1. All persons, regardless of vaccination status, should be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, including a temperature check. Persons requiring signs and symptoms screening include facility staff, essential visitors, and general visitors. Symptoms include but are not limited to the following: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, or not feeling well. Anyone with fever or signs or symptoms of COVID-19 infection is prohibited from entry.
    2. All visitors (general and essential) must be screened prior to entry for any history of close contact to a COVID-19 case within the past 14 days. See SNF Visitation Guidance for definitions of essential visitors and general visitors.
      1. Anyone reporting recent close contact exposure is prohibited from entry, regardless of vaccination status.
      2. This 14-day duration is purposefully longer than the shorter quarantine option for the general public given the high-risk nature of these facilities.
    3. All general visitors entering the facility for indoor visitation must be screened for vaccination status (please see Communal Dining, Group Activities, Visitation for more details).
    4. Facility must counsel general visitors on their exposure risk due to visiting residents with suspected COVID-19 infection (Yellow Cohort) or confirmed COVID-19 infection (Red Cohort) for both indoor and outdoor visits.
    5. An exception to entry screening: Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers, including ambulance transport personnel. They do not have to be screened regardless of the urgency of the situation, as they are typically screened separately and are required to be  up to date with COVID-19 vaccines or undergo regular COVID-19 screening testing per LAC DPH Health Officer Order.
  2. Conduct symptom and temperature screening for all staff and residents.
    1. All staff should be checked for symptoms and fever at least once per shift, including at the beginning of shifts (see Healthcare Personnel Monitoring section below.)
    2. All asymptomatic residents should be assessed for symptoms and have their vital signs, including temperature and oxygen saturation, checked at least every 24 hours, with more frequent monitoring recommended for symptomatic residents under investigation and especially for residents with confirmed COVID-19.
    3. Records should be kept of these staff and resident symptom and temperature checks.
  3. Support good workforce health.
    1. Facilities should have non-punitive sick leave policies to support staff to stay home when sick, if under isolation or quarantine orders, or when caring for sick household members. Make sure staff are aware of the non-punitive sick leave policy.
    2. Make sure that your employees are aware that they may be eligible for benefits such as paid sick leave or workers’ compensation if they become sick with COVID-19, are caring for someone with COVID-19, or if they need to quarantine due to exposure. Workers may also be eligible for paid leave to go to COVID-19 vaccination appointments or to recover from symptoms after getting their vaccination.
  4. Reinforce physical distancing, hand hygiene, and universal source control as per the “Infection Prevention and Control Guidance” with exceptions as described in “Communal Dining, Group Activities, and Visitation”.
  5. Enhanced environmental disinfection with EPA-approved healthcare disinfectants should be performed on high touch surfaces as described in “Infection Prevention and Control Guidance.”
  6. Facilities must demonstrate they have at least a 2-week supply of PPE and other infection prevention and control supplies as well as a plan to optimize PPE supply. Please see “Infection Prevention and Control Guidance” for more details.
Communal Dining, Group Activities, and Visitation

The purpose of these visitation guidelines is to help each facility develop a resident-centered visitation policy that balances the need to protect staff and residents from COVID-19 transmission with the need to provide timely care that optimizes residents’ physical and psychological health in alignment with state and federal requirements.

The following recommendations for communal dining, group activities, and visitation are based upon the most recent CDPH All Facility Letter (AFL) and CMS Quality Safety & Oversight memo (QSO):

Criteria for Communal Dining, Group Activities, and General Visitation
For facilities to allow any gathering, facilities must meet these baseline CMS criteria:

  • Adequate staffing: The facility must not be experiencing staff shortages; AND
  • Supply of 14 days of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and disinfection supplies on hand: The facility must have adequate supplies of PPE for staff, such that all staff wear all appropriate PPE when indicated, and must have adequate essential cleaning and disinfection supplies; AND
  • Access to adequate testing: The facility must maintain access to COVID-19 testing for all residents and staff by an established commercial laboratory; AND
  • Approved COVID-19 Mitigation Plan: The facility must maintain regulatory compliance with CDPH guidance.

1 Per CMS Guidance, contingency PPE capacity strategy is allowable, such as CDC’s guidance Optimizing Supply of PPE and Other Equipment during Shortages. However, facilities’ crisis capacity PPE strategy does not constitute adequate access to PPE.

Communal Dining and Group Activities

As of 05/25/2022, all communal dining and group activities for residents in all Zones should be paused until further notice.

Visitation

General visitation should be supported by the facility provided the facility meets the baseline criteria above.

Resident Rights: Facilities may not restrict visitation without a reasonable clinical or safety cause, consistent with resident rights in the federal regulation Title 42 CFR section 483.10(f)(4)(v), as stated in CDPH AFL 22-07 and CMS QSO 20-39-NH-Revised. Furthermore, residents or their designated representative when the resident does not have capacity, should be involved, and have their preferences prioritized in the determination of essential visitors (e.g., caregivers/essential support persons, compassionate care visitors). Failure to facilitate residents’ visitation rights, without adequate reason related to clinical necessity or resident safety, would constitute a potential violation of this federal regulation, and the facility would be subject to citation and enforcement actions.

  1. Healthcare personnel (HCP) are facility staff directly employed by the facility and are exceptions to visitation restrictions.
  2. Essential visitors are exceptions to visitation restrictions and should be permitted visitation regardless of facility’s outbreak status or COVID-19 status of the resident receiving the visitation. Based on CDPH AFL 22-07, CMS QSO 20-39-NH-revised, and State Public Health Officer Order - Requirements for Visitors in Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings, essential visitors include the following:
    • Ombudsman
    • CDPH surveyors and Public Health workers
    • Students obtaining their clinical experience as part of an approved nurse assistant, vocational nurse, registered nurse, pharmacy, social work, or other healthcare training program. Students may need to be treated as facility staff in regard to routine screening testing if they’re regularly entering the facility (at least once per week).
    • Visitors for legal matters that cannot be postponed including, but not limited to, voting, estate planning, advance health care directives, Power of Attorney, and transfer of property title if these tasks cannot be accomplished virtually.
    • Protection and Advocacy (P&A) program representatives
    • Individuals authorized by federal disability rights laws related to federal disability rights laws such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (e.g., qualified interpreter when video remote interpretation is not possible or sufficient).
    • Compassionate care visitors
      1. Visitors for residents in critical condition including end-of-life situations
      2. Support persons for residents experiencing weight loss, dehydration, failure to thrive, psychological distress, functional decline, or struggling with a change in environment.**
      3. Support persons for residents with physical, intellectual, developmental disability, or cognitive impairment.**
      4.  ** NOTE: The determination of which residents may benefit from in-person visitation and who is the appropriate support person(s) should be made by an interdisciplinary team that includes the care team, resident, and/or resident representative(s), e.g., family, caregivers, ombudsman, etc.
  3. General visitors: General visitors are defined as visitors who do not fall under the definition of HCP or Essential Visitors. Facilities should support general visitation for all residents regardless of cohort status, COVID-19 status, vaccination status, or the facility’s outbreak status. However, Public Health may be more protective and, on a case-by-case basis, can direct facilities with active outbreaks to temporarily cease all general visitation for all residents, both indoors and outdoors, to assist with outbreak investigation and/or management.
    • As of 05/25/2022, until further notice: all general visitors ≥ 2 years old must demonstrate proof of one of the following prior to entering the facility for all indoor visits, regardless of the visitor’s vaccination status, the resident's vaccination status, or the facility’s outbreak status as per the LAC DPH’s “Order of the Health Officer for Control of COVID-19: Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission in Skilled Nursing Facilities”:
      1. A negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 2 days prior to entry; OR
      2. A negative FDA-authorized COVID-19 antigen test result taken within 1 day prior to entry. All point of care COVID-19 viral tests, including both CLIA-waived and over the counter (OTC) self-tests, should be conducted in presence of facility staff who can verify the test result belongs to the visitor and conducted on the appropriate date/time prior to entry.
      3. Visitors who visit for multiple consecutive days are required to show proof of negative SARS-CoV-2 test at least every third day (e.g., test on day 1, day 4, day 7, and so on).
      4. Visitors who show documentation of recovery from a recent COVID-19 infection ≤90 days (i.e. a positive COVID-19 antigen or PCR test result on a sample taken within the last 90 days, but not within the last 10 days) are exempt from the above testing requirement.
    • If a visitor is not prepared with the above proof upon arrival to the facility, the visitor should not be refused entry and the facility, if possible, should be prepared to:
      1. Provide an FDA-approved COVID-19 antigen to be taken by the visitor that is confirmed negative prior to their entry; OR
      2. Offer outdoor visitation that will not require entering the facility for visitors who are unable/unwilling to provide proof or submit to same-day testing at the facility.
    • Please note that the above testing requirements do not apply to essential visitors as defined above nor do they apply to emergency medical services (EMS) personnel including ambulance transport personnel regardless of the urgency of the situation.
    • Once Los Angeles County reaches moderate level of transmission for at least 2 consecutive weeks, general visitors seeking indoor/in-room visits who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines do not need to show proof of a negative SARS-CoV-2 test prior to entry.
    • See Table 2 General visitation
  4. Visitor Requirements:
    • All visitors, essential and general, must adhere to the measures laid out in CDPH AFL 22-07 including the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention or the facility may remove them from facility premises and restrict their entry.
    • For general visitation that is conducted indoors and in-room, visitors must show acceptable proof prior to entering the facility. Please see #3 (General visitors), part b for more details.
      NOTE: Essential visitors are exempt from a facility’s visitation requirements and may have access to a resident in any zone regardless of vaccination status. However, if they are regularly visiting a facility, e.g., once a week or more, then they may be required to be undergo routine screening testing as described below.
    • In addition to AFL 22-07, the following apply to all visitors, essential and general, of SNFs in Los Angeles County:
      1. In a visitor log, visitors should document their name, contact information, and locations within the facility premises they are visiting in order to assist with contact tracing if needed.
      2. All visitors should be instructed to notify the facility if they develop COVID-19 signs and symptoms and/or have a positive test within 14 days of visiting the facility. Facilities should take all necessary actions including infection control precautions based on findings.
  5. Facility responsibilities: Facilities should do as much as possible to support safe in-person visitation:
    •  Facilities should ensure 6 ft physical distancing at all times between resident-visitor groups while also considering individual resident needs (e.g., end-of-life situations).
    • Facilities should limit movement of visitors within the facility to encourage visitors to go directly to and from the resident’s room or designated visitation area.
    • Facilities should disinfect rooms and designated visiting areas after each resident-visitor meeting.
    • Facilities are encouraged to regularly communicate visitation guidelines and expectations with residents, family, caregivers, designated decision makers, etc.
    • Facilities should place clear signage for visitors in relevant languages throughout the facility regarding education on COVID-19 signs and symptoms, infection control precautions including hand hygiene and universal masking, specified entries/exits and routes to designated visitation areas, etc.
  6. Facilities should continue to support other visitation options as described in AFL 22-07 to help keep residents and loved ones connected and minimize social isolation among residents.
  7. The following infection prevention and control measures must be followed for all visitation, essential and general:
SNF Table 2

COVID-19 Testing

Below are recommendations for testing and cohorting in SNFs based upon California Department of Public Health (CDPH) requirements outlined in recent CDPH AFLs:

  • AFL 20-52 Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Mitigation Plan Implementation and Submission Requirements for Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) and Infection Control Guidance for Health Care Personnel (HCP) AFL
  • AFL 20-53 COVID-19 Mitigation Plan Recommendations for Testing of Health Care Personnel (HCP) and Residents at Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) AFL
  • AFL 21-28 COVID-19 Testing, Vaccination Verification and Personal Protective Equipment for HCP at SNFs AFL

NOTE: Interpretation of COVID-19 viral test results does not change after an individual has received COVID-19 vaccination.

General Requirements

  1. Establish a relationship with a commercial lab to do PCR testing with a turn-around time (TAT) of 48 hours or less for COVID-19. Refer to LAC DPH's Laboratory Information to find a lab providing COVID-19 PCR testing. If the 48-hour TAT cannot be met, then the facility should document its efforts to obtain faster turnaround testing results including communication with the local and state health departments.
  2. COVID-19 Antigen point of care testing may be used to complement PCR testing per LA County Antigen Testing Guidance.
  3. Establish cohorting plan as part of CDPH-required COVID-19 mitigation plan.
  4. Report weekly to Public Health the number of staff and residents tested each week for COVID-19, the number who are asymptomatic and test positive, and the number who are symptomatic and test positive, as per the May 26, 2020 Board of Supervisors Motion.
  5. Thorough documentation to demonstrate compliance with testing regulations in accordance with CDPH AFL 20-53.

Testing of Symptomatic Residents or Staff.

  1. Every staff member or resident with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested as soon as possible, regardless of vaccination status. Be aware that older adults may have atypical symptoms of COVID-19 infection including but not limited to delirium (or confusion), change in functional status, change in oral intake, and new or worsening falls with or without fever or more typical symptoms.
  2. All symptomatic residents should be presumed infectious pending test results and should be in quarantine in a private room in the Yellow Cohort, if possible, with priority given to residents with typical COVID-19 symptoms (acute respiratory symptoms). However, if a private room is unavailable, then the symptomatic resident and their roommates should remain in their current rooms with appropriate transmission-based precautions as appropriate for the Yellow Cohort.
  3. During the influenza season, residents with acute respiratory symptoms should also be tested for influenza as per LAC DPH's guidance on management of influenza in context of COVID-19 in SNFs.
  4. Any staff or resident testing positive for COVID-19 should then prompt response testing (see below).
  5. All symptomatic staff must be immediately restricted from working (see Healthcare Personnel Monitoring and Return to Work sections below).

Response Testing. If a single positive COVID-19 case is identified among either staff or residents, the SNF must conduct comprehensive testing of all residents and staff regardless of vaccination status to identify potential asymptomatic infections. All residents and staff should be tested once every 3-7 days (this can be an extension of routine screening testing of residents once weekly in the section below). Response testing can be once weekly for all staff and residents being tested, regardless of the routine screening testing schedule, unless specified by the outbreak investigation to be more frequent. If testing capacity is limited, testing may be prioritized for the residents and staff in the same area (e.g., nursing station, floor, etc.) as the COVID-19 positive individual. Any close contact and exposed residents of confirmed COVID-19 cases will need to be quarantined accordingly in the Yellow Cohort (see below). All residents and staff who test negative will need to be included in response testing until there are at least 2 weeks with no additional infections identified. After 2 weeks of negative testing for residents, the facility could restart routine testing for residents as outlined below, in consultation with local Public Health.

Routine Screening Testing

Routine screening testing must be conducted according to the LA County Health Officer Order as described below. Please note when there are differences in testing requirements, the most conservative testing guidance must be followed. If any resident or staff tests positive, the SNF must report the positive case to LAC DPH and proceed with response testing as described above. Routine screening testing is resumed when no new cases are identified from two sequential weeks of response testing. If COVID-19 point of care antigen tests are used as an alternative to PCR tests, then they should be administered at least twice per week and confirmatory PCR testing should follow LA County's SNF antigen testing guidelines; otherwise, the following guidance still applies.

As of 05/25/2022, all staff, regardless of vaccination status, should be tested twice weekly, until further notice. Antigen testing is acceptable to fulfill this requirement. Staff who work one shift per week or less should be tested prior to each shift.

  1. Staff including regular essential visitors: Routine screening testing of asymptomatic staff includes essential visitors who visit the facility at least once a week.
    1. Outside test results are acceptable if documentation of test date and test result can be provided. However, results from antigen self-tests are not acceptable unless the test is done on site at the facility observed by facility staff who can verify the test result corresponds to the appropriate person for the appropriate date/time.
    2. Please note the absence of test results should not delay or prevent essential visitation.
  2. Residents: As of 05/25/2022, all residents, regardless of vaccination status, should be tested once weekly. Antigen testing is acceptable to fulfill this requirement.
  3. Retesting Previously Positive Staff/Residents
    1. Staff or residents who previously tested positive and are asymptomatic are not included in the above testing requirements and should not be retested for 90 days since the date of symptom onset or date of the first positive test indicating COVID infection.
      • Exception: If a staff or resident develops new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 ≤ 90 days of the initial positive test, if an alternative etiology cannot be identified, then retesting can be considered in consultation with the medical director, infectious disease, or infection control experts.
    2. Staff who previously tested positive and are asymptomatic will be back in the routine screening testing pool after 90 days of the date of previously positive test or date of symptom onset.
    3. Staff and residents who previously tested positive and are asymptomatic will be back in the facility-wide response testing pool and/or in response to an exposure after 90 days of the date of previously positive test or date of symptom onset.
    4. Staff or residents who previously tested positive who re-test positive 90 days or more AFTER the first infection should be managed as a new infection; the person should be isolated and would be exempt from testing for another 90 days.

    Figure 1. Testing Schematic

    SNF Figure 1 Diagram

    Refusal of Testing

    1. Staff: The following restrictions only apply to staff directly employed by the facility.
      1. Staff who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and refuse testing are prohibited from entering the facility until return to work criteria are met.
      2. If outbreak testing has been triggered and a staff member refuses testing, the staff member should be restricted from entering the facility until the outbreak has been closed.
    2. Residents:
      1. Residents (or resident representatives) may exercise their right to decline COVID-19 testing in accordance with the requirements under 42 CFR § 483.10(c)(6). In discussing testing with residents, staff should use person-centered approaches when explaining the importance of testing for COVID-19. Facilities must have procedures in place to address residents who refuse testing.
        • Residents who refuse testing AND who have signs/symptoms of COVID-19 or who are close contact/considered exposed must be placed in the Yellow quarantine cohort (preferably in a single room if symptomatic), until the time-based criteria for discontinuing transmission-based precautions have been met.
        • If outbreak testing has been triggered and an asymptomatic resident refuses testing, the facility should ensure the resident maintains appropriate > 6 feet distance from other residents, wears a mask, and practices effective hand hygiene until the outbreak has been closed.

Cohorting

Facilities should have 3 separate cohorting areas as described below and shown in Figure 2.

  1. Green Cohort: This cohort is reserved for residents who do not have COVID-19. To be in this cohort, residents must have either completed quarantine, cleared isolation, recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection without new COVID-19 symptoms, tested negative and remained asymptomatic after last negative testing, or they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines as per below:
    •  Residents up to date with COVID-19 vaccines who frequently leave the facility for medical appointments (e.g. dialysis residents). Please see "Routine Screening Testing" for additional testing guidance.
    • Newly admitted or re-admitted residents who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Residents who leave the facility for more than 24 hours and are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
    • Residents, regardless of their vaccination status, who leave the facility for less than 24 hours
      • Additionally, residents not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines who leave the facility for less than 24 hours should remain in Green Cohort with additional testing recommendations as described in "Routine Screening Testing".
  2. Red Cohort (Isolation Area). This area is only for residents who have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 with or without symptoms, regardless of vaccination status. Residents may be transferred to the Green Cohort once they have completed the appropriate isolation period as follows:
    • For symptomatic residents:
      • At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of antipyretic medications; and
      • Improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
      • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
        • EXCEPTION: At least 20 days have passed since symptoms first appeared for residents with severely immunocompromising conditions. Please see below for a list of severely immunocompromising conditions.
    • For asymptomatic residents with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19:
      • Regardless of vaccination status, these residents need to be isolated. Additional evaluation including repeat testing should be conducted in consultation with Public Health as soon as possible.
      • Unless cleared by Public Health, asymptomatic residents should isolate for 10 days since the date of first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test without the development of symptoms of COVID-19.
        • EXCEPTION: At least 20 days have passed since date of first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test for residents with severely immunocompromising conditions. Please see below for a list of severely immunocompromising conditions.
      • If they develop symptoms during this 10-to-20-day period, the isolation period should be restarted from the onset of symptoms per the symptomatic resident criteria outlined above.
    • The following are considered severely immunocompromising conditions as per CDC: actively receiving chemotherapy for cancer, hematologic malignancies, being within one year from receiving a hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplant, untreated HIV infection with CD4 count <200, combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, taking immunosuppressive medications (e.g., drugs to suppress rejection of transplanted organs or to treat rheumatologic conditions such as mycophenolate, rituximab, prednisone dose >20mg/day for more than 14 days), or other severely immunocompromised condition as determined by the resident’s primary/treating physician.
  3. Yellow Cohort (Mixed quarantine & symptomatic cohort)
    • This cohort is for the following residents:
      • Residents who have symptoms, including atypical symptoms, of COVID-19 pending test results, even within 90 days of prior COVID-19 infection, regardless of vaccination status.
      • Newly admitted or re-admitted residents ^ that are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
      • Residents who leave the facility for 24 hours or longer and that are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccination. This could be for a non-medical reason (e.g., “out on pass” with family or loved ones) or a medical reason (e.g., emergency department visit) ^
      • Close contact to a known COVID-19 case ^ regardless of vaccination status.
      • All residents on the unit or wing where a case was identified in a resident or HCP ^ regardless of vaccination status. All exposed residents can remain in their current rooms unless sufficient private rooms are available. Signage indicating appropriate transmission-based precautions should be placed outside of these residents’ rooms.
      • Residents with severely immunocompromising conditions/treatments who are newly admitted/readmitted, frequently leave the facility for medical appointments (e.g., chemotherapy), or leave the facility for 24 hours or longer for medical or non-medical reasons, regardless of vaccination status..
      • All residents with indeterminate test results.
      • Residents who frequently leave the facility for medical appointments (e.g., dialysis residents) who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. These residents should be grouped together in the Yellow Cohort. ^

      • ^ Exception: Asymptomatic residents who recently recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days should be placed in the Green Cohort.
    • Private rooms should be prioritized for residents with typical COVID-19 symptoms (acute respiratory symptoms), close contacts, and those with indeterminate test results as they have a higher probability of infection. However, if private rooms are limited or unavailable, then symptomatic residents, especially residents with atypical symptoms, and their roommates should remain in their current rooms with appropriate transmission-based precautions as appropriate for the Yellow Cohort.
    • For multi-occupancy rooms, strategies to reduce exposures between residents should be implemented: Residents with similar risk profiles should be placed in the same room (e.g., group low risk admissions in the same room). Curtains should be placed between resident beds. Staff should change gowns and gloves with appropriate hand hygiene between each resident contact in the same room.

Table 3. Quarantine Guidance for the Yellow Cohort

Indication to quarantine in Yellow CohortRoom Placement Duration of Quarantine Testing
Close contacts and those exposed to a confirmed case in the same unit/wing regardless of whether the close contact occurred inside or outside the facility, e.g., while "out on pass"

Exception: asymptomatic residents who recently recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days should remain in the Green Cohort
 Quarantine in place. All exposed residents should remain in their current rooms to avoid movement of residents that could lead to new exposures. At least 14 days following the last exposure (day 0). PCR test collected on day 12-14 should result negative before moving to Green Cohort. PCR testing three times on day 1, day 5-7, AND day 12-14 after the last exposure (day 0).
New admission/re-admission
OR
Left the facility >24 hrs
AND
Are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines

Exception: asymptomatic residents who recently recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days should be placed in the Green Cohort

New admission/re-admission: If not up to date, do not mix this group w/ any other resident groups in the Yellow Cohort (e.g., do not room with exposed/ close contacts, or symptomatic residents).

Left facility >24 hours: Place with other new admissions/re-admissions (preferable) if not up to date. Otherwise, quarantine in place, avoid movement of residents that could lead to new exposures.

Up to date: Do not need to quarantine.

NOT up to date: 14 days from date of admission. PCR test collected on day 12-14 should result negative before moving to Green Cohort.

Up to date: PCR testing total of two times; immediately on admission (<72 hrs) AND on day 5-7 after admission.

NOT up to date: PCR testing total of two times; immediately on admission (<72 hrs) AND on day 12-14 after admission.

Symptomatic Prioritize for single occupancy rooms. At least 10 days AND at least 24 hrs since last fever without fever-reducing medication AND improvement in symptoms One PCR test performed immediately
Atypical symptoms of possible COVID-19 (e.g., delirium/confusion, change in functional status, change in oral intake, and new or worsening falls) Quarantine in place, avoid movement of residents that could lead to new exposures. No minimum duration One PCR test performed immediately
Asymptomatic with indeterminate test results (excluding new admissions, re-admissions, close contacts, or exposed residents) Prioritize for single occupancy rooms At least 2 days have passed since collection of confirmatory negative test without development of new symptoms Collect confirmatory PCR test within 48 hours of the initial indeterminate test
Moderately to severely immunocompromised who are newly admitted/readmitted, frequently leave the facility (e.g., for chemotherapy), or leave the facility >24 hours Consider applying same guidance as for residents not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines who are new admissions/re-admissions, frequently leave the facility, or leave the facility >24 hrs.
Not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines: 
Frequent outside visits (e.g., dialysis)

Exception: asymptomatic residents who recently recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days should be placed in the Green Cohort
Do not mix this group with any other resident groups in the Yellow Cohort (e.g., do not room with exposed/close contacts, symptomatic residents).    Until resident is up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and/or no longer frequently leaving the facility. As per routine screening testing guidance
NOTE: If a test result is positive for COVID-19, the resident should be moved into the Red Cohort for isolation.  

 

Figure 2. Cohorting

SNF Figure 2 Diagram

 

Special Staffing Considerations in Cohort Areas

  1. Staff assigned to the Red Cohort should not care for residents in other cohorts if possible. If staff must care for residents in multiple cohorts, they should visit the Red Cohort last and should doff PPE and perform hand hygiene prior to moving between cohorts.
  2. With prior approval from Public Health, asymptomatic staff with lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection may be allowed to work in the Red Cohort. They will need to be able to keep separated from uninfected staff. This includes having dedicated breakrooms and bathrooms until they are no longer considered infectious.
Infection Prevention and Control Guidance

Below are general and COVID-19 specific recommendations. For more information on infection control recommendations, visit https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/basics/index.html.

General Requirements

  1. California Department of Public Health (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHCQ/LCP/Pages/AFL-20-52.aspx) guidance requires that facilities employ a full-time, on-site infection preventionist who will monitor compliance with infection control guidance.
  2. CDPH also requires SNFs to have a CDPH-approved COVID-19-specific mitigation plan and to provide infection prevention and control training and updated infection control guidance to its HCP. 

Universal Source Control

Residents

  1. All residents must be provided a clean mask daily.
  2. Medical-grade surgical/procedure masks are required for any resident that is COVID-19-positive or assumed to be COVID-19-positive.
  3. All residents, if tolerated, should wear a mask when outside their room including those who regularly leave the facility for care (e.g., dialysis), unless they are not able to wear a mask or if they are participating in an activity where masking is not required as outlined in "Communal Dining, Group Activities, and Visitation".
  4. Residents should remain in their room during an outbreak when possible and appropriate.
  5. Residents who due to underlying cognitive or medical conditions cannot wear a mask should not be forcibly required to wear one (and should not be forcibly kept in their rooms). However, masks should be encouraged as much as possible.
  6. Contraindications to mask wearing: a mask should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove it without assistance.
  7. Face shields with a drape may be offered to residents who are not able to wear masks.

Staff

  1. As of 05/25/2022, all staff, regardless of vaccination status, must wear an N95 respirator or higher for universal source control at all times when working in resident care areas and/or areas that residents may have access to for any purpose, including the Green Zone, until further notice.
  2. Please see Cohort-Specific Transmission Based Precautions and PPE section for appropriate mask use for each cohort.

Physical Distancing

  1. All staff, regardless of vaccination status, must adhere to physical distancing of at least 6 feet throughout the facility while on facility premises including in break rooms and in common areas, including when not providing resident care.
  2. Residents should keep at least 6 feet apart during group activities and communal dining except during special circumstances described in “Communal Dining, Group Activities, and Visitation”.
  3. All visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet from persons they are not visiting (e.g. other resident’s visitors, staff, and other residents) while in resident rooms and common areas.

Hand Hygiene (HH)

  1. Healthcare personnel (HCP) and all other staff members should perform HH before and after ALL resident encounters including in multi-occupancy rooms as per WHO’s 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene.
  2. Facilities should have a process for auditing adherence and providing feedback on recommended HH practices by HCP.
  3. All staff, residents, and visitors should perform HH frequently including every time they enter and exit the facility, resident rooms, and common areas; before and after eating; after using the restroom; etc.
  4. Make sure HH supplies, such as soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers (ABHS), are readily accessible and well-stocked throughout the facility including at facility entrances, near resident rooms including areas where HCP don and doff PPE, at nursing stations, on medication carts, in common areas, etc.

Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette:

  1.  Support respiratory hygiene such as cough etiquette by residents, staff, and visitors.
  2. Encourage all residents, staff, and visitors to perform HH after contact with respiratory secretions or contact with contaminated materials (e.g. tissues).

Transmission Based Precautions and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

HCP should follow transmission- based precautions for each cohort including standard precautions and wearing of appropriate PPE while providing resident care as detailed below.

Figure 3. PPE in Each Cohort

SNF Figure 3 Diagram
  1. General
    1. Facilities must regularly audit their HCP’s adherence to appropriate PPE use.
    2. Post appropriate Transmission-Based Precautions signage outside of each resident room: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/TransmissionBasedPrecautions.htm
    3. Post signage on the appropriate steps for donning and doffing PPE in donning and doffing areas: lacounty.gov/acd/docs/CoVPPEPoster.pdf
    4. Facilities should follow CDC’s strategies to optimize the supply of PPE and equipment to have at least a 2-week supply of PPE and other infection prevention and control supplies, e.g., medical-grade surgical/procedure masks, N95 respirators, gowns, gloves, goggles/face shields, hand hygiene supplies (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/index.html).
    5. If there are PPE shortages, the facility should make and document efforts to acquire more supply and can consider contacting Public Health’s PPE Coordinator by email for inquiries about PPE supplies: DPHPPECoordinator@ph.lacounty.gov
  2. Standard precautions for all resident care
    1. Gloves should be changed between every resident encounter including in multi-occupancy rooms.
    2. Hand hygiene should be performed as per CDC's 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene including before donning and after doffing gloves. Please see above section on Hand Hygiene (HH) for more details.
    3. Respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette must be followed at all times including during resident care.
    4. Environmental cleaning recommendations should be followed where applicable before and after patient care. This includes properly disinfecting shared equipment, e.g., blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters before and after vital checks.
  3. Face masks and N95 respirators
    1. In all the cohorts (Green, Yellow, and Red Cohorts), all staff regardless of vaccination status must wear N95 respirators when providing resident care, working in resident care areas, or working in areas where residents may access for any purpose.
      1. If there is a need to preserve supply, N95 respirators can be worn in extended use (same N95 for duration of the shift).
    2. N95 respirators should be worn for all aerosol generating procedures (suction, ventilation, CPR, nebulizer treatments, etc.) for all cohorts including the Green Cohort regardless of the staff's vaccination status if the facility has an active outbreak.
    3. NIOSH-approved N95 respirators with an exhalation valve can be used as protection (i.e. as PPE) and source control when there is no anticipated high velocity body fluids as per CDC, in which case either a surgical N95 respirator should be used or a face shield can be worn without compromising the fit of the respirator.
    4. Initial and annual N95 respiratory fit testing is required for all staff per California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA).
    5. Cal-OSHA no longer allows for re-use (over multiple shifts) of N95 respirators or extended use (with multiple residents in the same shift) when used for respiratory protection for confirmed or suspected cases, (e.g., in Yellow and Red Cohorts). However, staff may wear N95 respirators in an extended fashion if they are not interacting with confirmed or suspect cases of COVID-19.
    6. If there is a shortage of N95 respirators, facilities should make efforts to acquire more supply including documented communication with Public Health (see contact information above). If, despite these efforts, the facility is still experiencing a shortage, facilities could consider extended and/or re-use of N95 respirators and must document their reasoning in a written risk assessment.
  4. Eye protection
    1. Eye protection, which can be goggles or face shields, should be worn when staff are providing resident care, within 6 ft of residents, or while in resident rooms in all cohorts.
    2. Donning and doffing single-use eye protection for each resident encounter is recommended if there is sufficient PPE supply. However, if there is not sufficient PPE supply, extended use (worn over multiple resident encounters in a single shift) can be considered with proper storage between resident encounters that ensures no sharing between staff. If that cannot always be ensured, it’s advised to wear eye protection for the duration of the shift including in common areas, e.g., hallways.
  5. Gown use
    1. Gowns should be used for each resident encounter in Yellow and Red cohorts for COVID-19 precautions. Resident care in the Green cohort is not required for COVID-19 precautions but may be needed for transmission-based precautions for another pathogen.
    2. Gowns should be changed (donned and doffed) between every patient, included those in multi-occupancy rooms) regardless of the cohort.
    3. If there is a shortage of gowns, facilities should contact LAC DPH immediately for guidance.
    4. The same gowns should never be worn for care of both COVID-19 positive and negative patients.
    5. Re-use (over multiple days) of gowns is not allowed.

Environmental cleaning:

In addition to CDC guidelines, the recommendations below are referenced from the California Department of Public Health AFL for Environmental Infection Control for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

  1.  Facilities must have a plan to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces (including high touch surfaces such as light switches, bed rails, bedside tables, etc.) and equipment in the patient room.
  2. All staff with cleaning responsibilities must understand the contact time for the cleaning and disinfection products used in the facility (check containers for specific guidelines).
  3. Ensure shared or non-dedicated equipment is cleaned and disinfected after use according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  4. Routine cleaning and disinfection procedures (e.g., using cleaners and water to pre-clean surfaces prior to applying an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant to frequently touched surfaces or objects for appropriate contact times as indicated on the product’s label) are appropriate for COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
    1. For a list of EPA-registered disinfectants that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 pathogen) go to: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
  5. Set a protocol to terminally clean rooms after a patient is discharged from the facility. If a known COVID-19 resident is discharged or transferred, staff should refrain from entering the room until sufficient time has elapsed for enough air exchanges to take place (more information on air exchanges at https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/environmental/appendix/air.html#tableb6)

Healthcare Personnel Monitoring and Return to Work

Monitoring

All HCP should routinely self-monitor for symptoms of possible COVID-19 and the facility should screen all HCP for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the start of shifts as per the LAC DPH COVID-19 Infection Prevention Guidance for Healthcare Personnel. For return to work for HCP refer to the following sections:

Inter-facility Transfers

Facilities are required to follow transfer and home discharge rules as listed on the LAC DPH website (http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/NCorona2019/InterfacilityTransferRules.htm).

Resources

Relevant Webinars

Reliable sources of information about COVID-19 infection prevention/control and vaccination in SNFs:


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