Delaware strengthens guidance for long-term care facilities
Over half of the state's COVID-19 deaths have come at long-term care facilities throughout the state.
And Gov. Carney has updated his state of emergency order to change how those facilities approach the pandemic.
The new guidelines are directed at long term care, residential homes and personal care agencies and facilities that assist people with intellectual disabilities.
One of the key goals is to keep staff that have the virus, but are asymptomatic or show only mild symptoms - from spreading it to an especially vulnerable population.
The order calls for each facility to assign one group of staff members to care for known or suspected COVID-19 residents.
And all staff are required to wear some type of face covering. That includes those not providing direct care, like custodial workers.
And Delaware Division of Public Health director Dr. Karyl Rattay outlines some other requirements being put in place.
"We feel it's really important that all staff in all facilities are being trained. Being trained on appropriate screening, being trained on identification of COVID-19, what do the symptoms look like, what is it you should be looking for, how do you go about getting expedited testing, which is so important."
The order requires all staff at facilities complete state mandated training by April 20. Medical directors at these facilities must also complete additional training by April 27.
Rattay says keeping a close eye on staff and their health is also necessary.
"Screening every single staff every single day for any symptoms that may be COVID related, which we've expanded our list of symptoms, that's really, really important."
Rattay adds when staff or residents develop symptoms, testing needs to be expedited.
Carney's order also requires facilities to designate a room, unit or floor for those with COVID-19 or people they are concerned they might be infected. It also requires they have a room, unit or floor as an observation area for new residents or re-admitted residents to go for 14 days to be watched for symptoms.
The order says returning residents to their nursing facility is a priority and those admitted or seen at a hospital for COVID-19 can return to their facility – as long as the facility follows approved measures from the Division of Public Health (DPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if residents must temporarily go to other facilities, every effort must be made to transfer them back to their original facility as soon as possible. And a negative COVID-19 test cannot not be used as a requirement to return to a nursing facility.
The state is also designating Governor Bacon Health Center to serve as a non-acute alternate care site for "patients who are discharged from the hospital, have some Activities of Daily Living needs, and are unable to return to their homes in the community or in a long-term care facility due to caregiver or staffing challenges."
The order also lays out a process for making remote notarization of documents possible for residents of long-term care facilities.
As of Wednesday, state health officials report 28 of the 46 COVID-19 deaths in Delaware have been connected to long-term care facilities.
The full update to the State of Emergency order can be seen here.
This story has been updated.