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Pfizer Vaccine Announcement. Pfizer and its partner in COVID-19 vaccine development, BioNTech, issued a press release this morning announcing that preliminary results of their Phase 3 trial show the vaccine is 90% effective 7 days after the second dose, with no ill effects. The trial so far includes over 45,000 participants, and the results analyzed the first 94 COVID-19 cases contracted by participants who received either the vaccine or a placebo. The press release affirms that the companies expect to have enough data to apply for an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the third week of November. They say they will be able to produce 50 million doses by the end of the year and 1.3 billion in 2021. Three other companies are on track to complete their trials in the next three months. The potential that vaccines will be available soon makes it all the more urgent to afford long-term services and supports staff highest priority for vaccinations to protect both these critical workers and the vulnerable people they serve.

Concerns About Hospital Capacity. At a special Monday press conference, Governor Mike DeWine featured hospital leaders expressing alarm at the rapidly growing number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Currently 2,533 COVID-19 patients are in Ohio hospitals, a 350% increase in less than two months. Representatives of all three of the state's hospital zones as well as a rural hospital spoke to similar conditions in their areas. While none indicated that their hospitals are in imminent danger of reaching capacity, they all found the trend extremely concerning if it continues. As Governor DeWine consistently does, the hospital officials placed the blame on lack of precautions in the larger community, particularly at large social gatherings.

Updated COVID-19 Reporting Fact Sheet for SNFs. We updated our fact sheet that lists the various ways SNFs must report test results. We continue to receive questions from members who want to make sure they comply with all of the confusing, frequently-changing requirements. The fact sheet includes both reporting to government agencies and notification of families and separates the requirements for reporting point-of-care antigen testing results from results of all types of tests. We encourage you to bookmark or download the fact sheet for future reference.

Facemasks vs. Surgical Masks. In the recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines on respiratory protection for long-term services and supports workers, the federal agency drew a clear distinction between surgical masks and facemasks, writing that facemask "are not considered PPE for the wearer, but can assist in source control." Surgical masks, on the other hand, "offer both source control and protection for the wearer against exposure to splashes and sprays of infectious material from others." In neither case, though, do the masks provide respiratory protection for the wearer because they are loose-fitting and can allow droplets in. For more on distinguishing between face masks and surgical masks, see these FDA guidelines.

HHS SNF Quality Incentive Payment Formula. AHCA obtained and forwarded to us the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS's) 8-page explanation of their methodology for calculating the Provider Relief Fund SNF Quality Incentive Payment (QIP). The first installment of the QIP was paid last week, based on COVID-19 case data for September, and another payment based on mortality data is coming. The document explains both of these calculations, although they are extremely complex. In our quick review, however, the document does not address why the initial payments only amounted to to $250 million. HHS's intent is to use this methodology for future QIP distributions.

State Distributes Gowns to SNFs. According to an Enhanced Information Dissemination and Collection System (EIDC) notice last Friday, the state is shipping some number of gowns to SNFs. The notice read as follows:

Beginning next week (November 9, 2020), the Ohio Department of Health's Receipt, Stage, Store (RSS) warehouse will begin distributing an allotment of one (1) case of medical and one (1) case of non-medical gowns to each of Ohio's registered nursing homes. The direct delivery of these PPE items is intended to support the sustainment of the nursing home PPE needs.

•       Nursing homes will receive a direct shipment of PPE through the following delivery methods:
o       UPS Shipment
•       Shipment tracking information will be emailed to the point of contact for each facility receiving a shipment through UPS.

PPE Temperature Control
With fluctuating climatological conditions of the fall season and in order to maintain maximum efficacy and shelf life expectancy, PPE storage must meet the following requirements:
•       Remain in their original packaging until needed
•       Store In a hazard-free environment (clean air)
•       Keep away from direct sunlight
•       Store In a climate-controlled area, with humidity and temperature within the acceptable range specified on the packaging
•       Normal climatic conditions should not exceed +86 °F (+30 °C) and not exceed 80% Relative Humidity (RH)

OHCA will continue to advocate that the state back up normal PPE supply channels so all providers can be assured of 30 days of necessary PPE items, with particular attention to N95 respirators.

Recording from Thursday's GBAC Webinar. OHCA’s Mandy Smith, Gavin MacGregor-Skinner of Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), and Brant Insero of ISSA provided a complimentary webinar on infection control and the GBAC Star Certification. Dr. MacGregor-Skinner shared information on infection control management issues SNFs face nationally, with focus on residents who wander and N95s. The discussion included the benefits of GBAC Star Accreditation for public perception and marketing. OHCA is partnering with ISSA to support this program. GBAC Star is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation for facilities, providing third-party validation that certified facilities implement strict protocols for biorisk situations. The meeting recording and slides are available, and Dr. MacGregor-Skinner also provided us with this link to a straight talk presentation.