New rules for nursing homes and assisted-living tied to COVID-19

New rules around nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been put in place in Washington to focus on protecting older adults – a population more likely to be severely hit by COVID-19 (coronavirus) – during the ongoing outbreak of the illness.

The rule changes, which were announced March 10 by Governor Jay Inslee, center on visitors, screening, and precautionary measures.

Effective the same day they were announced and continuing until April 10:

  • Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the room of the resident they’re visiting. This doesn’t apply to end-of-life situations.
  • All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening steps and take reasonable precautionary measures. The latter include wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
  • All visitors must sign a visitors log. Owners and operators of facilities must retain that log for 30 days.
  • Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
  • Residents of nursing homes or assisted-living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated from other people.
  • Owners and all staff of facilities are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.

“The risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 appears to be higher in people 60 years or older and in those with chronic health conditions,” Inslee said. “And we know there is an increased risk among people while live in congregated settings, such as long-term care facilities. We need to protect our older adults, and these rules will help.”

Deaths of at least 12 residents of a nursing home in Kirkland have been attributed to coronavirus cases.

Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington this month because of COVID-19. The declaration calls for certain state agencies and the National Guard to be involved with official government responses to and assessments of coronavirus-related incidents.