Additional CMS Requirements to Prevent COVID Infections from Under-Vaccinated Nursing Home Staff:

According to Provider Magazine, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has compiled lists of additional precautions beyond the CDC’s Interim IPC Guidance for Nursing Homes  that facilities should take to prevent the occurrence of COVID-19 nursing home infections from unvaccinated workers. While vaccinations for nursing home workers are currently mandated, current staff members who are exempt from receiving the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, or newly-hired workers who have yet to receive both doses of the series, still pose a threat of causing COVID nursing home infections while working with the vulnerable elderly. Since putting residents at unnecessary risk for nursing home infections is tantamount to nursing home neglect, facilities would be wise to implement the most relevant precautions for  their nursing home population.

The precautions are outlined in the following CMS QSO memos: QSO-22-07-LTC, QSO-22-09-LTC, and QSO-22-11-LTC. While not every precaution outlined in the QSO memos is required, nursing homes are urged to form precautionary policies based on these memos according to residents’ vulnerability to COVID-19 nursing home infections. The following list includes a few suggested measures a nursing home might take to stave off COVID nursing home infections by unvaccinated workers:

  • Allow less-vulnerable residents to be cared for by unvaccinated staff who wear N95 masks while preventing immunocompromised residents from having direct contact with unvaccinated workers
  • Increase the frequency at which unvaccinated workers are tested for COVID-19 (the current testing requirements as posed by CMS and the CDC guidance , which is based on COVID transmission within the wider community, may be exceeded as a facility sees fit)
  • Implement social distancing measures
  • Reassign unvaccinated staff to non-patient care duties or remote work

Nursing home understaffing issues resulting from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and from the vaccine mandates that followed might pose challenges to facilities attempting to implement certain of the above precautionary measures. For example, staffing shortages might impact a nursing home’s ability to shift crucial but under-vaccinated workers into non-patient care; however, irrespective of the strain placed on staff, precautionary efforts need to be taken such as the additional CMS requirements to prevent COVID infections, or else these homes will have exposed their vulnerable residents to nursing home neglect.

Fighting for Your Loved One

Even in the aftermath of a pandemic, Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet specific health and safety requirements and to provide such care as to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. To meet these standards, the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives must be equipped to avoid the poor care that amounts to nursing home neglect or abuse. This includes the prevention of nursing home infections and nursing home understaffing. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.