On March 10, the House passed the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic relief bill aimed at helping the country recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On March 11, President Biden signed the bill into law.
In December, the CDC prioritized skilled nursing and assisted living residents and staff members in phase 1a of vaccine rollouts. Now, across the nation, long-term care operators are hosting vaccination clinics for their residents and staff. There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the U.S., with multiple others showing promise in Phase 3 clinical trials. All of this comes as good news. Despite it, Ruth Katz, senior vice president of policy at LeadingAge, warns that as of January 3, 2021, about 50% of nursing home workers were declining to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In response, operators are implementing a variety of strategies to encourage and improve vaccine acceptance. It should be noted that vaccination clinics continue to ramp up and the CDC reports, as of January 19, that more than 1.7 million doses have been administered across long-term care, representing over 56 percent of the 3 million seniors in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, and other congregate settings.
Senior living providers eagerly await FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine and are preparing the logistical plans needed to ensure a fast and efficient process to vaccinate residents. In the meantime, robust testing remains the most effective strategy for protecting residents and staff from widespread infection. To better understand current testing strategies and how they have adapted over time, I spoke with Ed Ward, Vice President of Operations, Kisco Senior Living to learn more about their innovative testing program.
Toward the beginning of the COVID-19 public health crisis, I authored a blog post highlighting some of the strategies that seniors housing and care operators were implementing to maintain resident wellness and engagement. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to present on this topic at the 2020 NIC Fall Conference. While preparing, it struck me how much these strategies have evolved over the course of just a few months as operators stepped up to the challenge of delivering an ever-greater sense of connectedness to their residents in this time of a global pandemic.