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Note: The updated methodology is inside the updated spreadsheet for weekly county positivity rates: Rates of county positivity are posted here.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an update to the methodology the agency employs to determine the rate of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positivity in counties across the country. Counties with 20 or fewer tests over 14 days will now move to “green” in the color-coded system of assessing COVID-19 community prevalence. Counties with both fewer than 500 tests and fewer than 2,000 tests per 100,000 residents, and greater than 10 percent positivity over 14 days – which would have been “red” under the previous methodology – will move to “yellow.” This information is critical to nursing homes, which are required to test their staff for COVID-19 at a frequency based on the positivity rate of their respective counties.
Under guidance CMS issued on August 26, 2020, nursing homes must test staff at a frequency of once monthly if the facility’s county positivity rate is less than five percent. Staff testing frequency increases to once weekly if the county positivity rate is between five and 10 percent. Finally, testing frequency increases to twice weekly if the county positivity rate exceeds 10 percent.
CMS heard concerns from some governors of rural states that the frequency guidelines did not work well for some rural areas. They were concerned that some rural counties had seemingly high comparative positivity rates as a result of low amounts of testing, rather than actual positivity in the community. This resulted in a significant burden for nursing homes being required to conduct staff testing at a higher frequency than necessary. In response to these concerns, the Trump Administration acted swiftly and decisively, and implemented the change to the positivity rate calculation in order to accommodate rural counties. The new, resulting methodology reduces burden while still requiring facilities to conduct testing to at a frequency that can detect COVID-19 early to keep nursing home residents safe.
Changes to Staffing Information and Quality Measures Posted on the Nursing Home Compare Website and Five Star Quality Rating System due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Memo #QSO 20-34-NH
Posting Date 2020-06-25
Fiscal Year 2020
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is committed to transparency about changes in publicly reported information on nursing homes during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Changes to the Nursing Home Compare Website and Five Star Quality Rating System:
• Staffing Measures and Ratings Domain: On July 29, 2020, Staffing measures and star ratings will be held constant, and based on data submitted for Calendar Quarter 4 2019.
o Also, CMS is ending the waiver of the requirement for nursing homes to submit staffing data through the Payroll-Based Journal System. Nursing homes must submit data for Calendar Quarter 2 by August 14, 2020.
• Quality Measures: On July 29, 2020, quality measures based on a data collection period ending December 31, 2019 will be held constant.
Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:
Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
When: Wednesday, March 25, 2020, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern Time)
During this COCA Call, presenters will provide a COVID-19 update and discuss strategies for healthcare facilities to optimize personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies such as eye protection, isolation gowns, facemasks, and N95 respirators.
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General issued two new reports that address the identification, reporting and investigation of incidents of potential abuse and neglect of our nation's most vulnerable populations, including seniors and individuals with developmental disabilities. OIG issued an early alert in 2017 based on the preliminary findings of this work. Our resulting work, released in June 2019, identify thousands of Medicare claims that indicate abuse and neglect of beneficiaries, including beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities. If you suspect someone is the victim of abuse or neglect, contact law enforcement immediately.
CMS Could Use Medicare Data To Identify Instances of Potential Abuse or Neglect
Incidents of Potential Abuse and Neglect at Skilled Nursing Facilities Were Not Always Reported and Investigated
Nursing homes can have the most beautiful policies and procedures for infection prevention and control in the world, but if staff aren’t following through on them, they are a waste of paper, notes Deb Patterson Burdsall, PhD, RN-BC, CIC, FAPIC, an infection prevention and control consultant and faculty member at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in Arlington, VA.
“So monitoring and auditing infection prevention processes in the facility is a critical component of quality care,” says Burdsall. “Unfortunately, the focus on infection prevention has not always been well-supported because infection surveillance, monitoring whether proper supplies are available and used correctly, and watching whether staff are performing hand hygiene and correctly using personal protective equipment all take time, which means the effort costs money.”
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