The leader of the nation’s largest nursing home association is calling on federal lawmakers to give long-term care providers a significant portion of coronavirus relief funding. The demand came even as a top industry economist observed that the nation is undeniably in a recession.

“We need Congress to step up for the workers, the frontline workers in these healthcare facilities,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said Wednesday. 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides free coronavirus testing to all individuals, including Medicare and Medicaid patients, and requires employers to provide additional protections for healthcare workers. Employees at companies with fewer than 500 employees must be granted paid medical leave under the law.

In addition to mandating paid leave for people who work for companies with under 500 employees, the new law will boost the federal government’s Medicaid match by 6.2 percentage points.

It also will increase the federal Medicaid funding match by 6.2%. But Parkinson said more is needed, and that healthcare workers need to be a part of  the economic stimulus package reported to be hovering around $1 trillion. 

“In that stimulus package, there’s going to have to be significant resources allocated to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare providers in order to be able to hire and retain the workers that we need to beat down this virus,” he said. 

The association also stated that providers are in dire need of personal protective equipment and have begun encouraging providers to try and extend its use over time. 

“There just isn’t enough out there in the existing stockpiles and supplies. We have done some of our own surveys that suggest really over the next week or two weeks we’re going to see that curve go up dramatically,” AHCA/NCAL Chief Medical Officer David Gifford, M.D., said Wednesday. 

In other pandemic-related news Thursday:

Recession is here

The virus is largely to blame for pushing the economy into recession, according to Beth Burnham Mace, the NIC’s chief economist, who spoke Thursday at a McKnight’s Online Expo session.

She expects the recession will continue through the second quarter of 2020.

Some supporting evidence is obvious, she noted. The Dow Jones Industrial average has quickly dropped by 33% since its all-time high. Some of her other observations from her popular session: 

  • The housing market may falter.
  • The full impact of coronavirus-related damage will not be known for a while.
  • Facility occupancy rates remain locally driven.
  • Construction as a percent of inventory also ranges widely. It’s high in places such as Atlanta and San Antonio but low in San Francisco and San Jose.

Climbing death toll 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there were 10,442 total cases of novel coronavirus in the United States — with 150 deaths — as of Thursday afternoon. China, which reportedly has taken draconian measures to keep individuals contained to their homes and hometowns, notably said there were no new local infections for the first time since the coronavirus crisis began three months ago. Some experts, however, questioned the reliability of such assertions in light of the country’s initial apparent reluctance to be candid about the epidemic that originated there.

AHCA’s feel-good, letter writing and donations campaign

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living debuted a website Thursday night called “Care Not Covid.” It encourages people to send messages of support and caring to nursing home and assisted living residents. “At a time when visitors are banned from facilities, it could be a real help to residents who can’t have visitors,” a spokeswoman said.

The site features numerous creative ideas by providers and others that are easing seniors’ negative effects from being isolated during the pandemic. Included is at least one facility staging its own card-writing campaign to offset seniors’ feelings of loneliness.

The site also has a sub-section that encourages donations to local facilities. For residents, it suggests things to help keep residents connected with loved ones and engaged with various activities. For example, it solicits donations of devices such as tablets, laptops, e-readers and portable music players . It also requests puzzles, board games, books and craft supplies. 

Meanwhile, ideas for staff include equipment and supplies such as hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol-based), disinfectant wipes, bandanas, aprons and cleaning gloves.  

  • Also on the “good news” front, regarding programs that providers might want to emulate, one major operator noted Thursday that appeals for donations of unneeded or surplus personal protective equipment had already reaped results.
  • … as had its call for homemade greetings and drawings for residents.