DOH Issues Updated Nursing Home Testing Guidance
On Oct. 27th, the Department of Health (DOH) issued Dear Administrator Letter (DAL) NH-21-23 updating its guidance on nursing home COVID-19 testing to align with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance issued on Sept. 10th. The key points of the DAL are as follows:
- Any staff not yet fully vaccinated, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and those who have a qualified medical exemption or other accommodation are to be subject to routine testing based on community transmission level per CMS guidelines. Facilities in a county with a red or orange community transmission level must conduct routine testing of unvaccinated staff twice weekly. The routine testing intervals can be found in CMS QSO-20-38-NH REVISED.
BinaxNOW Antigen Test Distribution
- The State will continue to provide BinaxNOW antigen tests directly to nursing homes monthly, based on availability, to support the second weekly staff test (surveillance testing). It is important to note, according to the DAL, that the BinaxNOW cards distributed by DOH are not meant to be used for outbreak testing or the first weekly surveillance test. The DAL states that it is the facility’s responsibility to procure and pay for all testing supplies for outbreak testing.
- The DAL reminds facilities that COVID-19 screening is still required for staff, residents (daily), and all persons entering the facility.
Testing of Staff with Higher Risk Exposure or Residents with Close Contact
- For those staff or residents who have close contact with someone positive for COVID-19, as defined by CMS and CDC guidance, when the facility is not in outbreak status, the DAL refers facilities to CMS QSO-20-38-NH REVISED.
- Notably, the DAL also references the CDC guidance, Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes and Interim Guidance for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
- DOH now aligns with CMS’s guidance that outbreak testing can be conducted either via contact tracing, if close contacts can be identified, or via facility-wide broad-based testing.
- Again, DOH references both the CMS QSO and the CDC guidance, Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes.
Nursing Home and ACF Weekly Staff Testing Surveys
- In a separate communication from DOH, LeadingAge NY was informed that the weekly nursing home and adult care facility (ACF) staff testing surveys are shifting to a monthly schedule beginning Nov. 3rd.
LeadingAge NY also took the opportunity to once again advocate for a reduction in the daily Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) survey. Click here for a letter that you can send to the Governor urging the State to make this needed change. We also understand that BinaxNOW tests are in short supply, and we will be following up with the Department to seek additional allocations for outbreak and other rapid testing.
Finally, LeadingAge NY would like to ensure members are aware that Executive Order (EO) 4 on health care staffing shortages, issued by Governor Hochul in September, was extended this week until Nov. 26th.
Contact: Mark Kepner-Clough, email@example.com, 518-867-8383 ext. 125