Elevating the Post-Acute and
Long Term Care Profession

March 8, 2021

Latest CMS Positivity Figures Show More Progress. This week's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 county positivity ratings are out. The Ohio table demonstrates continued improvement, and more should be coming next week as the state reported a significant decrease to around 2,000 total cases over the weekend. This week's CMS table only has 9 red counties left in Ohio: Belmont, Butler, Clermont, Jefferson, Licking, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Warren. Medina and Washington Counties turned from red to yellow, which triggers routine, in-person visitation for SNFs in those counties that do not have outbreaks. Highland, Marion, Miami, Montgomery, and Perry Counties turned green this week. Unfortunately, the Department of Aging still has not announced any change to the COVID-19 testing frequency for either SNFs or assisted living communities.

New CDC Guidance Rewards Vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance entitled, "When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated." Intended for the general public, the guidance is broken into three sections addressing what's changed, what hasn't changed, and what we know/what we are still learning. Importantly, the what's changed section affirms that fully vaccinated people (two weeks past their last required shot) can feel safe gathering indoors, without masks, with other fully vaccinated people or with unvaccinated people from no more than one other household. As CDC previously stated, fully vaccinated people who are exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine, and they added that these individuals do not need to be tested unless they have symptoms. Other precautions such as masking and social distancing in public and avoiding medium and large gatherings still are recommended.

The new guidelines do not apply to congregate care settings. There is a specific provision that, "if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms."

Nonetheless, the guidance provides a further incentive for health care workers to get vaccinated because full vaccination now offers some relaxation of restrictions on their private lives.

Governor Lowers Vaccine Eligibility to 50. Only a week after his last expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, Governor Mike DeWine today lowered the age eligibility to 50 (Phase 2B). He also added people with type 2 diabetes and end-stage renal disease (Phase 1D). All told, the state estimates this latest expansion, which is because of increased availability following approval of the Janssen vaccine, includes approximately 1.4 million Ohioans. The Governor also emphasized the state's centralized vaccination scheduling site, gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Changes to CMS SNF Visitation Guidance? The CMS Chicago Regional Office issued an interesting invitation today to one of their weekly "real time" webinars. While the invitation is boilerplate, the title suggests it may be something more: "Revised Nursing Home Visitation Guidance." The half-hour program is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. You can register here. While we have heard CMS is working on visitation changes to respond to vaccination of a large percentage of SNF residents through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care, we are not privy to any specifics.