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Hastings senator wants COVID patients moved out of nursing homes

Unified Command confirms seven more cases of COVID-19. (source: KNEP)
Unified Command confirms seven more cases of COVID-19. (source: KNEP)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 1:53 PM CDT
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Senator Steve Halloran, Legislative District 33, wrote to Governor Ricketts (see below) encouraging a needed change in policy regarding management of positive COVID-19 residents in Long Term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes. Senator Halloran was joined by a total of 24 members of the Legislature. 22 who cosigned the letter dated June 1, 2020 and two who requested to have their names added after the letter was sent.

The letter urges Governor Ricketts to require that positive cases in Long Term Care Facilities and Nursing Homes be relocated, quarantined, and cared for in facilities separate from the Nursing Home and Long-term Care Facilities. The goal should be to keep positive COVID-19 cases from the vulnerable community so they do not put the other residents at risk of contracting the virus. Current policy requires that positive cases remain in these facilities, which has resulted in 98 deaths out of the total state death count of 195.

"It just seems logical that if someone comes down with COVID, is positive, that they should be relocated and be allowed to not be kept in the facility so they don't put the other residents at risk," Senator Halloran said.

Senator Halloran noted “Long Term Care facilities are managing to cope under the current circumstances, but they are not designed to handle a pandemic of a contagious virus.”

Senator Halloran emphasized that 50% of the State’s COVID-19 deaths are centered in care facilities. This is alarming, unacceptable, and must be addressed. “Hospitals are not “overwhelmed” with COVID-19, but Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities are being overwhelmed. Nebraska’s elderly are not expendable!”

Although the letter was hand delivered on June 1st, Senator Halloran has not yet received any correspondence from the Governor, his staff, or potentially affected state agencies. Senator Halloran has additional concerns that the Governor, according to his press conference on June 11th, is considering removing current restrictions in place in Long Term Care Facilities, putting the extremely vulnerable population in even more potential danger of contracting the Coronavirus.

Governor Ricketts addressed the issue in his Friday COVID-19 press conference.

"We've set up a policy where the best practice is if somebody tests positive in a facility and they can be isolated. So we can make sure they're not infecting anybody else. That that is the best practice to keep them in the facility isolated so they're taken care of by people they're familiar with, their surrounding they're familiar with," Governor Ricketts said.

Senator Halloran responded that he will continue to push for a change in the policy. He sited that some care facilities do not have the proper space to isolate residents to keep others safe. He plans to bring up examples of long-term facilities across Nebraska that have been faced with this issue.

in trying to deal with this specific situation of caring for Long Term Care Facilities.

(Editor's note: The link in this news release is from the "Route50" newsletter which is affiliated with an organization called the "Government Media Executive Group LLC.")

Here is the text of Senator Halloran's letter to Governor Ricketts:

"June 1, 2020

The Honorable Pete Ricketts

Governor of the State of Nebraska

State Capitol, Room 2316

Lincoln, NE 68509

Governor Ricketts,

Long-term care residents are among the hardest hit population groups in Nebraska, accounting for the vast majority of the state's 153 coronavirus deaths.

in Nebraska, including 35 with cases among residents.

Our current state COVID-19 policies require nursing homes and Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities to house positive COVID-19 cases. This is the same policy that New York, New Jersey, and Michigan adopted with devastating death tolls amongst the elderly populations in those states.

Nebraska can, and should, do more to protect the vulnerable population in our long-term care facilities. Positive COVID-19 cases should be removed from the vulnerable community so they do not put the residents at risk of contracting the virus. Those residents testing positive should be relocated, quarantined, and cared for in a separate facility. While LTC facilities are managing to cope under the current circumstances, they are not designed to handle a pandemic of a contagious virus. Most LTCs do not have the luxury of having adequate space to properly isolate. Also, while they are staffed with loving, caring and competent staff, they are not able to be staffed with personnel trained in treating a contagious virus.

Governor Ricketts, we ask that you specifically define a policy to protect our vulnerable nursing home communities. The current policy of requiring positive COVID-19 residents to remain in the nursing home creates an environment which will promote the spread of this virus in these vulnerable communities resulting in more deaths. This policy should be changed to require that all positive COVID-19 residents be relocated, quarantined, and cared for in facilities separate from the Nursing Home and Long-term Care Facilities. Hospitals are not “overwhelmed” with COVID-19, but Nursing Homes are being overwhelmed. Nebraska’s elderly are not expendable!

Sincerely,

Senator Steve Halloran

My fellow Senators joined with me in support of this letter:

Senator John Arch – District 14

Senator Carol Blood – District 3

Senator Kate Bolz – District 29

Senator Tom Brewer – District 43

Senator Tom Briese – District 41

Senator Machaela Cavanaugh – District 6

Senator Robert Clements – District 2

Senator Wendy DeBoer – District 10

Senator Steve Erdman – District 47

Senator Tim Gragert – District 40

Senator Mike Groene – District 42

Senator Matt Hansen – District 26

Senator Sara Howard – District 9

Senator Megan Hunt – District 8

Senator Brent Linstrom – District 18

Senator John McCollister – District 20

Senator Adam Morfeld – District 46

Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks – District 28

Senator Dan Quick – District 35

Senator Tony Vargas – District 7

Senator Lynn Walz – District 15

Senator Anna Wishart – District 27"

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