Resources & Insights

How Nursing Homes Can Protect their Residents from the Coronavirus

March 9, 2020

Jeff Parent,
Insurance Advisor

Workers not washing their hands before moving to the next patient. Workers failing to use masks, gloves and gowns while in the rooms of contagious patients.

Those are just two examples of violations of infection-prevention protocols observed at nursing homes around the nation long before the novel coronavirus killed thousands and interrupted many more lives this year.

Since the beginning of 2017, government health inspectors have cited more nursing homes for failing to ensure workers adhere to these prevention and control rules than for any other type of violation, a Kaiser Health News analysis of federal records found.

In all, 9,372 nursing homes, or 61%, were cited for one or more infection-control deficiencies, Kaiser’s analysis showed.

Even among nursing homes with a five-star rating for overall quality, four in 10 have been cited for an infection-control lapse. Those include the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., a Seattle suburb, where more than a dozen people have died.

While most of the violations detected by health inspectors were minor, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just issued updated guidance that, in essence, urges nursing homes to ensure they are following infection-control procedures.

CMS also announced that, effective immediately, inspectors will focus exclusively on issues related to infection control and other serious health and safety threats.

As they long have, infection-control protocols call for isolation of sick patients, wearing of masks and gowns by staff and limiting visits by people who are sick. But the government also is telling nursing homes to bar visits by people who have traveled to affected countries.

To further help prevent the introduction of the coronavirus into long-term care facilities, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that nursing homes:

  • Post signs at their entrances instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Ensure sick leave policies allow employees to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Assess residents’ symptoms of respiratory infection upon admission to the facility and implement appropriate infection-prevention practices for incoming symptomatic residents.

Beyond the usual reminders about washing hands, to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases within their facilities, the CDC suggests nursing homes:

  • Restrict residents with fever or acute respiratory symptoms to their room. If they must leave the room for medically necessary procedures, have them wear a facemask (if tolerated).
  • Put alcohol-based hand rub in every resident room (ideally both inside and outside of the room).
  • Make sure tissues are available and any sink is well-stocked with soap and paper towels for hand washing.
  • Identify dedicated employees to care for COVID-19 patients and provide infection-control training.
  • Make face masks, eye protection, gowns and gloves available immediately outside of an infected resident’s room.
  • Position a trash can near the exit inside any resident room to make it easy for employees to discard PPE.

As any administrator knows, with so much misinformation about the coronavirus, it may be harder to control the fear and paranoia we’ve seen since this outbreak began than the actual virus. At the same time, making sure everyone on staff is properly trained and follows protocols will only help calm everyone’s nerves, not to mention slow the spread of the disease.

Looking for additional resources to help improve infection control and prevention? Here are a few:

CDC Resources:

CMS Resources:

Jeff Parent is a CCIG Insurance Advisor. Reach him at or at 720-330-7918.

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

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