As the senior living industry continues its battle COVID-19, industry leaders say they are thankful that a recent executive order from the president affecting immigration visas exempts healthcare workers involved in treating people with coronavirus.

The Trump administration extended a freeze on green cards for new immigrants and signed an executive order suspending new H-1B, L-1, J and other temporary work visas for skilled workers through the end of the year. The order also blocks seasonal workers on H-2B visas, with the exception of food service industry workers.

The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said workforce recruitment and retention is “one of the most pressing challenges confronting long-term care providers and has only been exacerbated by this pandemic.

“Immigrants make up a vital part of the nation’s healthcare workforce, with one in four direct care workers being an immigrant,” AHCA / NCAL said in a statement. “Battling this pandemic in long-term care requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and no matter where you come from, any individual that is willing to put their life on the line to serve our vulnerable residents at this time deserves our appreciation and support.”

Similarly, LeadingAge said although the executive order places a pause on visa allocations through the end of the year, it exempts individuals whose work is involved in COVID-19 medical care in hospitals or in medical research.

“LeadingAge supports extending visa allocations that would allow all of our members providing critical healthcare services during the coronavirus pandemic with the opportunity to supplement their workforce,” the organization said in a statement. “Several are in dire situations, and they need to meet the growing need for staff during this crisis.”

Businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have said the visa suspension would stifle economic recovery after the damage done by the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to published reports.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • A central Florida continuing care retirement community celebrated a woman’s 109th birthday with a Zoom call to her family and friends, as the coronavirus pandemic kept them apart. The Mayflower of Winter Park helped Midge Ruff mark her milestone birthday.
  • Fellowship Senior Living in New Jersey was chosen to be on the forefront of COVID-19 onsite antibody testing by Somerset County in partnership with the Bernards Township Department of Health and Advocare Basking Ridge Pediatrics. Fellowship was given the rare opportunity to test all employees throughout the senior living organization and residents of Fellowship Village in April and May. 
  • Long-term care facilities across most of Nebraska have the green light to start welcoming back visitors. Facilities must meet the state’s Phase 3 requirements, including testing all staff and having space to quarantine in case of a breakout.
  • The first phase of a long-term testing plan for senior living and long-term care facilities began Wednesday and will continue through Sept. 30 in Oregon. Following the initial baseline test, long-term care communities will be responsible for the cost of testing in Oregon.
  • Outdoor visitation has begun at some long-term care facilities in Indiana as the state health department allows facilities with no new COVID-19 cases to reopen this month. But health officials say the risk is still high and urged long-term care facilities to consider when now is the right time to open.
  • Wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected long-term care insurance policies? U.S. News and World Report examines issues that have arisen in the past few months.
  • AARP Delaware has issued recommendations for long-term care facilities to protect residents.