The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released Wednesday a number of new initiatives to aid nursing homes during the pandemic including additional funding, testing, training and data.
A fresh $5 billion from the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act will be given to nursing homes by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funds will go towards enhancing COVID-19 infection control, according to CMS
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Nursing homes may use the money to hire staff, implement infection control programs, increase testing or provide technology services to connect residents with their families.
To receive the funds, nursing homes must participate in the Nursing Home COVID-19 Training, which was also announced Wednesday.
The training is online and focuses on best practices of infection control. It will be made available for every nursing home in the country and certification is available for display upon completion.
In addition to the online training, "specialized technical assistance" will be provided to nursing homes that have had infection prevention deficiencies in their most recent inspection or who had recent COVID-19 cases.
CMS will also begin requiring, rather than recommending, that all nursing homes in states with a 5% or more positivity rate test their staff each week. To make that happen, more than 15,000 testing devices will be sent out, with more than 600 devices shipping this week. Nursing homes may use the Provider Relief Fund to test visitors.
Also announced on Wednesday, the White House and CMS will begin releasing weekly lists of nursing homes with an increase in cases. The lists will help ensure states have the information they need to support high-risk nursing homes, according to CMS.
THE LARGER TREND
These new funds are a part of a larger initiative by the government to help protect one of the most vulnerable populations from COVID-19.
CMS has reported over 142,000 nursing home resident cases and more than 38,000 deaths.
This funding follows the $4.9 billion that HHS distributed to nursing homes in May. Those funds were used to offset revenue losses and assist nursing homes respond to the pandemic.
It also follows last week's announcement that HHS will distribute rapid point-of-care diagnostic test instruments and tests to every nursing home in the nation, beginning with the facilities in COVID-19 hotspots.
ON THE RECORD
"From the moment the threat of this virus materialized, the Trump Administration has placed a priority on protecting nursing home residents," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a statement. "Today's multi-pronged intervention represents the latest efforts in fulfilling that unwavering commitment. As caseloads continue to increase in areas around the country, it has never been more important that nursing homes have what they need to maintain a sturdy defense against the virus. These measures will help them do exactly that."
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