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State mandates COVID-19 testing plans for long-term care facilities

State mandates COVID-19 testing plans for long-term care facilities

Illinois long-term care facilities must develop their own individualized COVID-19 testing plan and document an established relationship with a testing lab, under a new rule filed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The rule requires each facility to “comply with infection control practices,” including testing all residents and staff for COVID-19. The facilities must have an arrangement with a laboratory to have those specimens tested, and they must report to public health officials the number of residents and staff tested, and the number of positive, negative and indeterminate test results.

Each facility shall test residents and staff when they are experiencing an outbreak or when directed by state or local health officials where the chance of transmission is high.

Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday that many of the state’s long-term care facilities have been cooperating with efforts to ramp up regular testing, but the administration has “received some pushback from owners and industry representatives.”

“Long-term care residents are some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans,” Pritzker said. “That’s why strong compliance from many isn’t good enough to counteract any heel-dragging at any privately held nursing homes.”

Violations of the new rule will typically result in fines, he said.

Pat Comstock, executive director of the Health Care Council of Illinois, which represents about 300 long-term care facilities, said in a statement that they appreciate the administration’s continued focus on protecting residents and staff.

“We encouraged facility-wide testing since the beginning, and many facilities have proactively contracted with laboratories or partnered with hospitals to test residents and staff,” Comstock said. “In accordance with this new regulation, nursing homes will submit testing plans to the state and welcome feedback from epidemiologists and other public health experts.”

Matt Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association, said they learned of the rule during Thursday’s press conference and were reviewing it.

State data released Saturday showed at least 2,402 COVID-related deaths linked to long-term care facilities, accounting for half of the state’s total deaths.

Pritzker said there are now 10 response teams, some with Department of Public Health nurses and others with contract nurses, that are each visiting an average of two facilities a day to help with swab testing, training staff and reviewing personal protective equipment and hygiene practices.

Pritzker said some facilities have opted out, preferring to work with local agencies or health providers.

To date, the state has shipped about 45,000 testing kits to long-term care facilities.

There were 104 COVID-19 related deaths reported on Thursday, bringing the state’s total death count to 5,186. An additional 1,527 cases were reported, bringing the state’s total to 115,833 in 100 counties.

The state’s seven-day testing positivity rate is 8.3 percent after an additional 25,993 tests have been processed. There have now been 829,966 completed tests.

CVS Health announced Thursday that it’s opening 24 additional COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites in the state, adding to the 16 it already has up and running. The sites will be able to complete 2,000 tests per day.

As all regions of the state prepare to enter phase three on Friday, Pritzker said the earliest regions can begin phase four is on Friday, June 26. Phase four would allow public gatherings of up to 50 people.

The 28-day tracking period for all four regions will reset on Friday, and officials said they will closely track the data in the coming weeks to determine whether the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers continue to trend downward.

“Let’s not move backward,” He said. “But instead, let’s move forward together.”

Pritzker also reiterated the administration is looking at issuing another rule related to penalties for businesses that disobey the stay-at-home order, though he did not say when it might be issued.


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