caregiver touching hand of wheelchair-bound older adult

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect long-term care facilities, Pennsylvania is rolling out a program meant to help operators respond to the crisis, and Rhode Island is tightening up its visitation guidelines in an effort to protect residents and staff members.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced the launch of the Long-Term Care Resiliency, Infrastructure Supports, and Empowerment program to support assisted living communities, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care settings battle COVID-19, recover and rebuild.

The LTC RISE program, funded by an $80.5 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began Jan. 1 and replaces the Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams (RCAT) program.

The LTC RISE program, which will end July 31, 2023, allows long-term care providers to take advantage of improvement project opportunities, including infection prevention and control and emergency preparedness best practices, outbreak response plans and professional development. 

LTC RISE also will continue to offer RCAT prevention and response support, including a 24/7 call center, as well as technical assistance, assessment and feedback, training and incident management coaching. Providers also will be able to access testing support, personal protective equipment and staffing assistance once all other avenues have been exhausted.

“Long-term care facilities face unique challenges during a disease outbreak,” Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Randy Padfield said in a statement. “Providing a wide range of support options that meet their needs allows them the flexibility to support their staff and clients in a way that makes sense for each facility.”

Most communities eligible for the RCAT program will continue to be eligible for the LTC RISE COVID-19 prevention and response support program.

The new program is a partnership among the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Penn Medicine in partnership with Temple Health, Pennsylvania State University, LECOM Health and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare.

Rhode Island visitation

Meanwhile, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health on Monday announced new regulations requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the state’s assisted living communities and nursing homes.

All visitors also must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The new requirements went into effect immediately.

The policy, McKee said in a statement, “will help alleviate pressure on [nursing home and assisted living] operations and keep residents, staff and visitors safe.”

Visitors must produce a negative rapid antigen test result from within the previous 48 hours or a negative PCR test result from within the previous 72 hours. Electronic or paper proof will be accepted. Vaccinated visitors will not have to continually demonstrate vaccination status once they show proof of vaccination.

Providers can deny entrance to any visitor or essential caregiver who refuses to show a negative test result or proof of vaccination, unless they have an approved exemption.