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November 23, 2020

Ohio Three-Quarters Red in Latest CMS Positivity Data. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) returned to their normal practice of publishing county-level COVID-19 positivity data for SNF staff testing on Monday. The new table shows 65 of Ohio's 88 counties as red (twice-weekly staff testing), with the rest yellow. The table has no impact on resident testing, which is facility-specific, depending on the existence of an outbreak at the building. It also has no impact on staff testing in assisted living communities. Ohio reported 11,885 total new cases today, although that number reportedly is inflated by results that were not reported over the weekend. On the other hand, there apparently are thousands of antigen test results not yet tallied. The state also listed 282 new hospitalizations and a total of 4,358 COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Mortality-Based QIP Payments Coming Soon? It seems the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may be preparing to pay the mortality-based component of the SNF Quality Incentive Program (QIP) in the coming days. HHS did not make an official announcement, but they posted a revised table of QIP payments by state that totals $331 million. The previous version of the table, which included only the case-based QIP payments, totaled $250 million. Ohio's amount rose from $10.8 million to $13.6 million. The table does not indicate how many SNFs qualified for the second payment, although apparently 6 Ohio centers that did not get the first payment will get the second.

NHSN Office Hours. The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is offering a webinar entitled, "Office Hours: Review November Changes to LTCF COVID-19 Module Pathways: Resident Impact and Facility Capacity and Staff and Personnel Impact." Unfortunately, the first two opportunities to participate in the office hours were today, but the program is identical, so tomorrow's 11:00-11:45 a.m. session is available. Use this link to register.

New CDC Guidance on Patient Management for Flu and COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new guidelines for SNFs on this topic. As with other CDC and CMS guidelines targeted at SNFs, the latest recommendations also may be informative for other facility settings. The guidelines address placement of symptomatic but untested patients, testing for both viruses, patient placement post-testing, and clinical management.

Controlling Board Approves Funding for LTSS HVAC Grants. Today, the Controlling Board approved $30 million in funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Department of Aging to award grants to long-term services and supports providers and older people for COVID-19-related air quality projects. The agenda item stated:

Funding will be used to provide a "COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Grant" that will allow Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) assessments and HVAC system/indoor air quality upgrades to occur. This program would improve the indoor air quality and reduce potential infection due to COVID-19 at eligible non-profit or for-profit non-governmental nursing homes, assisted living centers, adult day cares, and individuals within Ohio.


Grant assistance will be provided in two areas: "Facility Inspection and Assessment" and "Facility Maintenance and Improvement" to provide support for maintenance, ventilation, and filtration activities. BWC will disperse one grant per facility. Eligible applicants will receive up to $15,000 in grant money to improve indoor air quality. An example would be to hire a HVAC professional to analyze a facility's system and identify upgrades or deferred maintenance to bring the system into peak operation to reduce airflow contaminants and improve the facility's overall indoor air quality. Funds may also be used to provide enhancements to the HVAC systems or purchase equipment to improve ventilation and indoor air quality. Examples of eligible costs are portable air filtration systems, new filtration systems, or maintenance on the current systems. The recommendation under this program is to prioritize the execution of deferred maintenance/repair or replacement.

The Department of Aging will disperse $2,000,000 in grants to assist individuals 60 years of age or older. The agency will utilize the Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).

No information is available yet about when and how providers will be able to apply for this funding.

General Assembly Passes Legislation Protecting HCICs. Last week, the Senate adopted several amendments to House Bill 151, a measure originally dealing with chiropractors. One of the amendments, which came after OHCA asked the DeWine Administration for help with liability concerns for health care isolation centers (HCICs), clarified that the liability protections previously enacted in House Bill 606 apply to HCICs and moved up the effective date of those protections as applicable to HCICs. The House of Representatives subsequently concurred in the Senate amendments, and the bill now awaits the Governor's signature.