headshot of Sen. Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads in the U.S. — with 6,362 cases reported across all 50 states, deaths at 108 and recoveries at 17 as of Tuesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University — the Senate on Tuesday did not vote on a relief bill passed by the House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised action this week.

“It is my intention that the Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps, above and beyond what the House passed, to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm,” he said on the Senate floor. President Trump previously said he would sign the bill.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released an analysis on Tuesday that found that 62% of people aged 80 or more years are at risk of serious illness if infected with the coronavirus. The spots with the highest share of those older than 60 at risk are Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin, the study authors said.

Good news for senior living residents, however, came in an announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about a temporary telehealth expansion. Retroactive to March 6 and for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, CMS will pay for Medicare telehealth services furnished to beneficiaries under broader circumstances — for instance, outside of rural areas and in any healthcare facility and in beneficiaries’ homes rather than strictly in a physician’s office, skilled nursing facility or hospital, as usually required.

“Medicare beneficiaries will be able to receive a specific set of services through telehealth, including evaluation and management visits (common office visits), mental health counseling and preventive health screenings,” CMS said. “This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries, who are at a higher risk for COVID-19, are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital which puts themselves and others at risk.”

Continued challenges

The virus continues to challenge senior living operators and real estate investment trusts, however, with pain points ranging from changes in normal operating procedures to negative financial effects in addition to the illness or death of residents.

At a time of restricted visitation, when mail, telephone and electronic exchanges increasingly are standing in for in-person communication, staff and residents of a Brookdale independent living and assisted living community in Illinois reported difficulty getting their mail when a postal carrier refused to have his temperature taken and answer screening questions at the community. Staff members traveled to the local post office to pick up the mail.

Ventas said Tuesday that because of the virus, it was withdrawing its previously provided financial guidance for the year. “There are now strong indications that tours and move-ins are beginning to slow and the pandemic raises the risk of an elevated level of move-outs. The operating costs of Ventas’s partners are increasing as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the REIT said, adding that the company expects the trends to accelerate.

Organizations serving the industry also have been affected. The Senior Dining Association announced Monday that it was postponing its second national conference, which was to be held April 26 to 29 in Orlando. The organization said it is looking at new dates in August or September at the same location. SDA’s announcement followed the postponement, cancellation or move to virtual for other industry events, notably Argentum’s Public Policy Institute & Fly-In, Brookdale’s Investor Day, and annual meetings of AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine and the American College of Health Care Administrators

More cases, deaths in senior living

Several recent COVID-19 cases, in addition to ones previously reported, have involved senior living residents or staff members, sometimes leading to death:

  • A husband and wife now have died from the virus in Washington state. One, previously reported as being ill, was a resident of Van Mall, a Leisure Care independent and assisted living community in Vancouver, WA, and the other lived in a small adult family home.
  • A second resident of Lambeth House, an independent and assisted living community in New Orleans, has died of the virus, the Louisiana Department of Health reported Tuesday. The resident was 80 years old. Twelve other cases have been reported there.
  • A 77-year-old male resident of Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale, FL, has died of COVID-19, according to media reports, and test results are pending for the cause of a second death at the community.
  • Camellia at Deerwood, a Grace Management independent living, assisted living and memory care community in Jacksonville, FL, reported Tuesday that four residents have tested positive for the virus, according to actionnewsjax.com.
  • Two residents of All Seasons West Bloomfield independent living community in West Bloomfield, MI, have tested positive for COVID-19, the community told residents and family members on Tuesday.
  • A resident at Westminster Canterbury Richmond, Richmond, VA, tested positive, the community reported.
  • An employee at The Forum at Rancho San Antonio, a Life Care Services retirement community in Cupertino, CA, has tested positive for COVID-19, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • COVID-19 reportedly has been diagnosed in a staff member at Kensington Redondo Beach, an assisted living and memory care community in Redondo Beach, CA. Also, a supervisor and two residents reportedly have symptoms but have not received a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Welltower said Tuesday that as of Monday, two residents of the REIT’s senior living communities had reported positive tests for COVID-19.

Related Articles