A printed copy of this letter is being mailed to all PioneerCare staff, residents, tenants, and families…
To All PioneerCare Staff, Residents, Tenants and Families,
It has now been two months since President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the global coronavirus pandemic – two months that for many of you probably seem like a lifetime.
Despite Fergus Falls’ relative success in slowing the spread of COVID-19, we are beginning to see increasing infection in our area and around the state – especially with our more vulnerable populations.
I have an important message today about testing for all. This week has been a flurry of rapidly evolving news. This past Sunday the White House announced its recommendation to test ALL long-term care staff and residents in the next two weeks and directed states to make a plan. On Wednesday, Governor Walz announced his plan to implement regional mobile testing teams for priority COVID-19 testing of ALL residents and ALL staff in long-term care. He directed the state epidemiologists and the National Guard to conduct the testing until more permanent Strike Teams for Testing are in place. Beginning yesterday COVID-19 testing will take place at 10 congregate care settings each day, and will increase up to 20 sites a day by next Thursday. The State’s goal is to conduct 10,000 tests each day starting next week. The tests will be prioritized for nursing homes and assisted living settings where COVID-19 is present. These are facilities like our Care Center and our Pioneer Cottages Memory Care. We are seeking clarification how Independent Living buildings, such as Pioneer Pointe, will be prioritized. Because we do not have a positive case in any of our settings, we are unsure what priority we will be given.
This approach to facility-wide testing on a single day is referred to as a “point prevalence survey,” or PPS, and provides information on the overall number of affected individuals in the facility. This strategy will help identify symptomatic and asymptomatic infected residents or staff. Residents who test positive will be cohorted on a dedicated unit or transferred to a COVID-19 specific facility. Staff who have a positive COVID-19 test will not work. Asymptomatic staff with a positive COVID-19 test will not work. Return to work procedures will be strictly followed. Any staff required to be temporarily off work will be afforded all protections under the CARES Act. Regarding negative tests – negative tests only represent a single point in time and should not create a false sense of security. Repeat PPS testing will be conducted every seven days until there are two consecutive weeks of no new positive test results.
PioneerCare has informed MDH of our interest to voluntarily participate in facility-wide testing of ALL residents and ALL staff. We have requested Monday, May 18th as our testing date, but that is yet to be confirmed by MDH. It is MDH who will determine our level of priority and the actual testing date. We are asking everyone to be prepared to mobilize for testing quickly if/when it happens. All staff, residents, tenants and families will be notified if we get a positive test.
This is big news, but it is good news given the circumstances. I want you to know that PioneerCare, along with our Medical Director Dr. Colt Edin, supports this action. I am asking for your support as well. While testing is only one component of PioneerCare’s broad-based response strategy, testing will help us assess the scope and magnitude of outbreaks and guide additional prevention and control efforts designed to further limit transmission among residents and staff.
Lastly, a quick word on the Governor’s action lifting the Stay at Home order and replacing it with a Stay Safe order. As of this writing, the Stay Safe order changes nothing for our settings. While the rest of the state begins to open up, MDH is requiring long-term care providers to leave all restrictions in place, including visitor restrictions. Staff should continue to do their best to take extra precautions while off duty. We continue to monitor this issue daily and will keep you promptly updated with any developments toward re-opening our buildings.
I will end by stating that from day one our top goal at PioneerCare has been the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents and our staff. As new information has poured in nearly every day, I am so grateful for how you have responded with a profound sense of urgency to keep residents safe, and to ensure their lives are filled with love and human connection despite the many restrictions we have in place. I am also grateful for how you care for yourselves, your families, each other, and our greater community. I urge you to keep leading by example as you follow the Governor’s Stay Safe order and wear your source control masks in public settings. I have said it from the beginning, and I will say it again – the better Fergus Falls does at mitigating the spread of this virus, the better chances our long-term care facilities have at doing the same.