Virginia Department of Health notes importance of testing and community’s role in reopening long-term care facilities

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The Virginia Department of Health held a teleconference Thursday to expand on its guidance to safely reopen long-term care facilities.

The VDH is working on addressing outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state and offering guidance for a safe reopening.

With the support of the Virginia National Guard, the VDH has been conducting baseline testing in long-term care facilities.

As of July 1, 213 nursing homes have been tested or are in the process of being scheduled to be tested. They hope to have this testing complete in all facilities by July 15.

While this testing is done by the state, any repeat testing will be the responsibility of the facility.

Governor Northam announced a funding package of $246 million through the CARES Act that could help with those efforts.

"Testing, PPE supplies, staffing and outbreak control... A majority of those funds will go to nursing homes. And it also includes approximately $56 million for continued testing support," Dr. Laurie Forlano, VDH Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have also mandated that certified nursing homes in Virginia complete an onsite Focused Infection Control Survey.

Those must be complete by July 31. 98 percent are already done.

Dr. Forlano noted that it's going to take more than testing to safely reopen long-term care facilities.

"This is not just about testing. It's definitely an important component but it's also about having other infrastructure and readiness in place," Dr. Forlano said.

She said it’s also important that staff in these facilities have knowledge about infection prevention and control.

There have been 241 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state.

While the VDH has offered guidance to the facilities, they say the greater community also plays an important role.

"All of these things that were doing at the community level are so very important, and I think some of us can forget that sometimes," Dr. Forlano said.

She said wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance only helps the general population, but it also loved ones in these facilities.

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