Regulatory protocol for elderly care facilities during virus emergency becomes law

By John McPhaul

Sen. Miguel Romero Lugo on Sunday applauded the signing of a bill requiring that public and private establishments that house elderly people comply with protocols and necessary measures to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

The measure includes homes for adults with disabilities that are licensed by the Family and Children Administration, and geriatric homes licensed by the Anti-Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Certainly, our elderly people require more attention and care during this pandemic,” the senator said. “This measure seeks that the establishments where they reside take all precautions at the administrative level, with the staff and with the residents to minimize as much as possible the possibilities of outbreaks of COVID-19 within these facilities.”

Romero Lugo also stated that “the measures to be implemented arise from experience and best practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

“It is imperative that minimum, clear and uniform measures be established so that all establishments protect those in their care,” he said.

As part of the protocols for facility residents, medical or nursing staff will screen all residents for coronavirus-related symptoms, while guiding them to report any related symptoms.

The use of masks will be imperative for all personnel or visitors within the establishment, as will the use of gloves and constant hand disinfection.

In addition, a six-foot distance between residents will be maintained in the common area.

In the event that a resident has a fever or COVID-19 symptoms, they will be transferred to an isolated room with a closed door. If this is not possible, the greatest possible measures will be taken to achieve isolation. The staff dedicated to caring for an isolated individual may not have contact with the rest of the residents.

The establishments must notify the families or contact persons of the residents about a possible infection; the Health and Family departments will carry out the corresponding tests to determine the spread of COVID-19.

As for the personnel of the establishments, anyone who shows symptoms related to the coronavirus -- or who resides with someone who presents symptoms -- must immediately notify the administration and will not be able to report to work. The information should be kept confidential; however, the establishment will notify the Department of Health to carry out the corresponding test for the staff or anyone in their homes.

All staff will take their temperature and will be evaluated upon arrival at the establishment. In addition, social distancing of at least six feet of distance between each must be practiced, except in cases where a pressing situation prevents it.

The staff should also frequently practice handwashing for 20 seconds with soap and water, in addition to using hand sanitizer, which will be accessible to staff at all times.

Face-to-face meetings will also be avoided and, if necessary, should be held briefly and in a large area to accommodate staff remaining at least six feet apart.

The administration must limit access to visitors. During visits, restrictions due to the pandemic should be posted in a visible place.

Likewise, the administration must have hygiene and cleaning stations, as well as easily accessible garbage cans. Staff will frequently clean and disinfect all high-contact areas.

It has been shown that the elderly population is the most at risk of presenting severe symptoms of COVID-19 if a person within a home is infected with the novel coronavirus.

The senator said that in the news media and social networks it has been shown how depressing the experience with the elderly population was in the state of New York.

Of the nearly 613 senior care facilities in New York State, more than half reported positive cases, for a total of 4,630 cases as of April 11. Those centers have recorded more than 1,439 deaths from the pandemic.

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