Wisconsin Health Officials Promise Senior Care Facilities More Help With Coronavirus

Mar 4, 2020

State of Wisconsin health officials are promising more outreach about the novel coronavirus to nursing homes and other long-term care sites for older Wisconsin residents.

Several of the COVID-19 victims in the state of Washington lived at an elder care facility. Health officials say the virus may be a greater risk to seniors, because of their age and potential underlying health problems.

READ: As Coronavirus Looms, Many Nursing Homes Fall Short On Infection Prevention

At a Wisconsin State Capitol briefing on the virus Wednesday, John Sauer of LeadingAge Wisconsin spoke up. His group represents nursing homes, assisted living and independent facilities.

Sauer told state health officials that he's getting a lot of questions about protecting residents and staff — includging the lack of availability of masks. "How the medical community, the long-term care community ... have access to those, or is there any priority setting?," he asked. "In addition, when do we go to isolation? And, is there recommendations about negative pressure rooms?”

A negative pressure room is a type of isolation facility. And, the World Health Organization says only wear a mask if caring for a suspected COVID-19 patient, or if you're coughing and sneezing, and then also frequently clean your hands.

State Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm told Sauer that her agency has distributed federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines for long-term care facilities.

"But as a baseline, we need to find the gap specific to Wisconsin in the CDC guidance and start driving Q&A, technical assistance toward answering those,” Palm said.

State health officer Jeanne Ayres said if a long-term care resident is not feeling well, the CDC is clear on some points: "One of the things right now in the guidance is don't bring them to the congregate dining. I know that puts an extra pressure on the staffing."

State health officer Jeanne Ayers at the informational briefing on COVID-19.
Credit Courtesy of WisconsinEye

Ayres added the state will hold a webinar for long-term facilities next week. 

During the state briefing, questioners also asked for more information on what to do at correctional facilities and about concerns that COVID-19 will hurt the Wisconsin tourism industry.

State health officials acknowledged the concerns, but emphasized there are no new cases in Wisconsin and the risk to the public remains low.

However, they continue to urge everyone to do frequent hand washing and practice other "respiratory etiquette" like covering your cough and sneeze. 

Editor's note: Audio courtesy of WisconsinEye.

Support for Innovation reporting is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman.

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