Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday the state is making progress toward slowing the spread of COVID-19 cases in assisted living, skilled nursing and nursing homes.

The governor’s Five-Point Battle Plan to mitigate the effects of the novel coronavirus in long-term care facilities was rolled out in May and included testing, a nurse triage line, prioritization of personal protective equipment, a scheduling software system for staff members, and partnerships. 

“With an aggressive, multi-pronged strategy, this battle plan is helping ensure Minnesota’s long-term care facilities are more resilient and better prepared to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Walz said. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still more work to do. Together with our partners in congregate care settings, we must continue to take action to protect our most vulnerable Minnesotans as this pandemic continues.”

Although long-term care facility residents in assisted living communities, nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities still comprise the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in the state, Walz and state health officials said they have seen a dramatic drop in numbers over the past two months.

According to the state, 77% of Minnesota’s 1,692 assisted living communities have never had a reported coronavirus case. Only 8% of those communities currently have an active outbreak.

The growth in the number of long-term care facilities with a new outbreak has slowed significantly, Walz said. The state has gone from an average of 23 new facilities per day reporting an outbreak in early May, to an average of six facilities per day as of the week of July 13.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • What long-term care providers don’t know about respiratory personal protective equipment can prove costly. For providers that never required staff members to wear face coverings, it may come as a shock that mandatory deployment of N95 or other respirators triggers a host of extensive and costly compliance obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Through their efforts to keep staff safe and comply with OSHA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, many providers unwittingly have exposed themselves to OSHA violations by requiring respirator usage without first taking certain regulatory compliance measures.
  • Citing privacy laws, California refuses to name assisted living communities with six or fewer beds that have had COVID-19 cases. Three-fourths of California’s assisted living homes have six or fewer beds. San Diego County health officials won’t release the names of any local facilities affected by the virus. By contrast, data on COVID-19 in all of the state’s nursing homes is readily available online. 
  • St. John’s Village in Woodland, CA, announced that it is closing the nursing facility part of its retirement community after fighting a coronavirus outbreak in March. The community, which also offers independent living, assisted living and memory care, said it decided to close its Stollwood skilled nursing facility after realizing the financial struggles it would face in the future.
  • A Quincy, IL, senior living community has created a COVID-19 care unit after an employee tested positive. Adams Pointe, an Americare assisted living and memory care facility, tested all residents and employees and found one resident and three employees of Arbors memory care were positive. Americare started a cohorted care-in-place strategy, establishing separate care units.
  • America’s oldest citizens say they’ve been through worse, but many older adults are feeling the stress of COVID-19 and prolonged social distancing measures, according to a study from the University of Georgia. And most are using a wider range of communication tools to stay in touch.
  • The Quest Program at Third City Christian Church in Grand Island, NE, visited residents of the Lodge Riverside Retirement Community, carrying signs, waving and saying hello through the glass windows. 
  • Social distancing and other measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 have been difficult for residents of Long Island, NY’s assisted living communities and nursing homes. Local clergy talk about how they reach out to those who miss family visits and in-person pastoral care.