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DOH Issues FAQ on “Cohorting” of Residents

The Department of Health (DOH) issued guidance on May 13th clarifying its requirements for nursing homes to separate residents into cohorts based on their COVID-19 status and staff those cohorts appropriately. This guidance followed up on DOH’s April 29th Dear Administrator Letter (DAL), which reiterated a series of previously required safety measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and, for the first time, required:

“Having protocols to separate residents into cohorts of positive, negative, and unknown as well as separate staffing teams to deal with COVID-positive residents and nonpositive residents. In order to effectuate this policy, nursing home facilities should transfer residents within a facility, to another long-term care facility, or to another noncertified location if they are unable to successful separate out patients in individual facilities.”

LeadingAge NY and its members raised several questions on how this policy would be implemented. DOH’s May 13th Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Nursing Home Cohorting document addresses situations involving small numbers of COVID-19-positive residents and small facilities with limited clinical staffing; defines the terms “positive,” “negative,” and “unknown” in relation to residents; and discusses protocols for COVID-19-negative roommates of residents who test positive for COVID-19. These clarifications are somewhat helpful and provide needed flexibility in certain situations. Nursing home members should review and operationalize this guidance.