NC to routinely test nursing home staff for coronavirus
State health and safety officials provide an Aug. 7, 2020, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
I'm joined by director Mike Spray Berry. I'm also joined by Dave Richard, our deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He's our deputy secretary for Medicaid and is gonna be available for questions. Jeff Greer and Jennifer Boyd are American Sign language interpreters and Jackie and Jasmine Motive Ear are Spanish translators. First, I'll start with a rundown of the numbers. As of this morning, there are 132,812 laboratory confirmed cases. 102,123 people are currently hospitalized. And sadly, there have been 2134 deaths today. I want to highlight the aggressive actions we have taken since the start of the pandemic to protect residents and staff of nursing homes. Safety in nursing homes during this pandemic has been a top priority and a key component of our response strategy. Since day one, we have worked to support, guide and hold accountable nursing homes in their commitment to protect residents and staff during Cove in 19 I want to acknowledge the dedication and care with which so many facility administrators, clinicians and staff have approached this work, and I especially want to salute the frontline staff and clinicians who are caring for these residents. Throughout these challenging times. As we go through this important topic, we have some slides. And yes, we have a few graphs to guide our update. So our nursing home residents are amongst the most vulnerable to cove in 19 infection for a number of reasons. Many are elderly and many are medically frail, with multiple chronic medical conditions, putting them at higher risk for severe cove in 19 illness and worse outcomes. We also know that the virus spreads most efficiently when people live in group settings and are gathered together in one place. The communal nature of nursing home facilities can make it difficult to control a cove in 19 outbreak. The safety of these facilities has been a top focus. As I said from the very beginning of this pandemic, we knew that this would be hard and complicated work. After consultation with facilities and staff, scientific and medical experts, we developed and have been deploying a five point strategy to guide that work prevention, staffing, testing, outbreak management and oversight. We're seeing evidence that our strategy and hard work across these five areas is helping on a number of fronts, particularly in infection control. We are making progress. The quick, effective actions we have been taken in on this front have had an impact. Now fewer nursing home residents are becoming sick when there is an outbreak and outbreaks are being resolved faster. All good news as you move on. To some graphs, this one shows that the number of people who are impacted by an individual outbreak at a facility the bars show the number of people who have cove it at any one nursing home outbreak on. We want to see those numbers be as low as possible, and you can see in this graph that there are fewer nursing home residents getting sick when there is an outbreak. The Yellow Line shows that downward trend, and that is a good thing on this next graph. We also see progress when we look at the length of time these outbreaks are lasting in nursing home before being brought under control, you can see looking at that yellow line. The percent of outbreaks lasting longer than six weeks has fallen significantly, and that's progress that needs to continue now. This slide shows how we in North Carolina compared to other states in terms of cases in nursing homes, you can see that we have fewer cases than many, many states. But there is still more work to dio. As we move into the next lives. I'll talk about some of the highlights of what that work looks like. Back to our five point strategy. Prevention is a central element of our response. We want to do everything possible to keep cove it out of nursing homes to avoid having outbreaks in the first place. We know that Cove in 19 can be brought into nursing homes by staff and visitors, delivery people and other outsiders, which is why limiting the number of people going into a nursing home was a key priority early on for the staff who care for residents each day, the state has sent personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves and face shields to every nursing home in the state. We've also required staff to wear mass increase prevention, training for staff and administrators and limited group activities to minimize transmission in a congregate setting. We have also been helping facilities to make sure they have the workforce, they need to care for their residents and respond to any outbreaks. Our team has helped fill staffing shortages, making thousands of employee referrals and offering reciprocity for out of state nursing aides. We are supporting facilities with funding to keep and train staff. Once again, I want to emphasize and applaud the work so many dedicated nursing home staff are doing across North Carolina under exceptionally challenging circumstances. In July and early August, we have been conducting baseline testing off more than 49,000 residents and staff in North Carolina's nursing home. Existing guidance requires nursing home staff to be tested weekly if a cove in 19 case has already been detected in their facility and previously, our guidance also recommended staff testing every two weeks. Today we are announcing that we are turning that recommendation into a requirement for testing of staff every two weeks, and we are giving nursing homes financial support to make that testing happen, and I'll come back to this in a moment when an outbreak occurs in a nursing home. Time is of the essence. We require facilities to report any cove in 19 case promptly to their local health department. From that moment, in coordination with the local health department and the facility, we are providing direct technical assistance to contain and control the outbreak and protect other residents and staff from being infected. We also recognize how important it is to make sure that guidelines are being reflected in everyday practice and to make sure our nursing homes are complying with all of the rules and best practices. That's why oversight has been key and in a fast moving pandemic, we have approached oversight with urgency. I'm pleased to say that we've already completed on site infection control inspections at all of the nursing homes in North Carolina, and those on site inspections were completed one month ahead of schedule. We have also been providing timely infection control inspections of every nursing home that has had its first case. So together, these five elements of our strategy prevention, staffing, testing, outbreak management and oversight have allowed us to build a solid framework for ongoing and future work. As I mentioned earlier today, I have issued an order mandating testing every two weeks for all nursing home staff. The clinical team members who care for our nursing home residents live in our communities where there is community spread of this virus and as we have come to understand, a person can have the virus and not know it. Thus, testing all staff proactively every two weeks allows us to identify asymptomatic cases early and prevent spread to residents who are a high risk to help facilities comply with this new requirement. We will leverage Federal Cares Act funding to pay for testing every two weeks through the month of November. Another step we're taking today is to build on the progress we've made with our five point strategy. And it's also to add 10 regional infection control support teams to help nursing homes and other long term care facilities, prevent Cove in 19 transmission and manage outbreaks that do occur. These teams will provide on site infection prevention and control, help continuing our work with nursing homes to implement protocols and minimize the length and severity of outbreaks that do occur. As I conclude this update, I want to highlight that every cove in 19 infection that reaches a nursing home started somewhere else, and that's why everyone in North Carolina can play an important role in protecting people in nursing homes. Slowing the spread of Cove in 19 in our communities means that those who work in nursing home settings are less likely to be exposed to the virus and thus less likely to bring it back to a nursing home where they work. You can help slow the spread of cove in 19 to our nursing homes by practicing the three W's wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting six feet apart and washing your hands often where weight and wash, but that I will now turn it over to director spray Berry for his update. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good afternoon. Today is day 151 of the cove in 19 response at the State Emergency Operations Center. And in his Day eight and the final day of the hurricane, he say yes. Activation. Most state resource is have been demobilized following the hurricane's landfall in southeastern North Carolina late Monday evening. On behalf of the governor and secretary hooks of the Department of Public Safety. I want to thank them for their service. Support is still being provided to Burti and Brunswick counties, which sustained major damage. The Tornado and Burti County destroyed many homes and caused fatalities and injuries. Brunswick County has damaged homes and infrastructure on three coastal islands due to storm surge and high winds. Eight counties have requested preliminary damage assessments and those air being conducted with assistance from North Carolina Emergency Management Eastern Branch Area coordinators. These damage assessments will help us gather data and determine eligibility for a federal disaster declaration for our hard hit communities. In the meantime, we will continue to assist these communities with their recovery efforts. All major routes in North Carolina are currently open, and work continues on five secondary roads that still have storm related obstructions. Most ferry routes have been returned to pre isa yes service levels. As of today, Hurricane E SE s was the first big storm to hit North Carolina this year and hopefully the last. However, we know that hope is not a plan. The new National Weather Service is 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Outlook is now calling for an extremely active season, with 19 to 25 named storms 3 to 6, which could be major hurricanes. Here in North Carolina. We know that even a small storm can cause damage. We urge you to be prepared by having an emergency family plan and an emergency kit. Your personal preparations for a plan and emergency kit should be completed at this time in your kit this year. Be sure to include face coverings, hand sanitizer and cleaning products to keep your family healthy. Visit ready and see dot org's for a complete list of items to include in your emergency kit. The ready NC mobile APP has been retired, but all the same, emergency and preparedness re sources are available on the mobile friendly Ready and see dot org's website. The New Know Your Zone program is also in effect this year. 20 coastal counties have developed coastal evacuation zones based on areas most at risk due to storm surge and river flooding. Visit know your zone dot n c dot gov to see if you live in one of the zones. If you do, remember your zone and listen for it. If evacuations are needed and ordered again, that's know your zone dot N c dot gov to determine if you are in a new coastal evacuation zone. Non congregate sheltering is necessary to protect public health and save lives during Cove in 19 to help expedite reimbursement to providers. As of today, we're implementing the state centric non congregant sheltering program. The state centric model will help counties and local organizations for whom waiting for FEMA reimbursement has been a barrier to continue offering and or begin offering non car get sheltering for their community or region through the state centric model. Eligible entities that operate non congregant sheltering kids seek expedited reimbursement from the state. North Carolina emergency management will be the grand T for FEMA jurisdiction, and agencies using the state centric model will remain responsible for setting up and managing their non car get shelter program, including coordinating comprehensive wrap around services such as food, medicine, cleaning and disinfecting, transportation, security, laundry and care for those with disabilities and or access and functional needs. FEMA approves non Congress sheltering for individuals such as first responders and health care workers who do not require a specialization but need to avoid direct contact with their families due to exposure to Cove in 19. Those that test for Cove in 19 and do not require hospitalization but need isolation. People that have been exposed to Cove in 19 and do not require hospitalization but should be quarantined and those at high risk for covert 19 and who need to take under undertake social distancing as a precautionary measure. These air people that are eligible Finally, I want to thank Secretary Cohen for her continued outstanding leadership since day one of this cove in 19 pandemic operation. An echo her gratitude for the staff and our long term care facilities who are caring for some of our most vulnerable residents. They're incredible. Efforts often come with personal sacrifices, and they should be applauded for their selfless service. We will continue to focus on safety at these facilities to include delivery of needed PPE and proactive testing. And don't forget to observe the three W's Justus, Madam Secretary said, where a face covering wait six feet apart and wash your hands frequently to stop the spread of covert 19 and is always don't forget to look out for your family, friends and neighbors during the pandemic and the cleanup from S. I s call your loved ones today to make sure they're okay, guaranteed they'll appreciate it with kindness and cooperation will all get through this together as one team, one mission and one family. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Well, thank you, Director. And thank you for leading us through to crises this past week. It's been a hard week for North Carolina. I know that has been hard work to pull together as a team. Thank you for leading us with kindness. Um, and great, great urgency. With that, we will turn over to your questions. We still don't hear any questions. Well, I know a press corps is not shy, so I assume we're having a technical difficulty here, So bear with us, All right. I think that we are having technical technical difficulties today, so we're gonna have to leave it at my presentation on where we are with overall, with our efforts in our nursing homes and some new announcements that we made today related to ongoing testing, financial support for our nursing homes and new infection strike teams, I think we've been doing a lot of work. A zai mentioned through that presentation. We're seeing progress, but the work continues. So thank you for all that you are doing to do the three W's every single day. So that we can keep the virus spread low. It not only protects all of our communities, but it is protecting those who are the most vulnerable who live in our nursing homes. OK, with that, I apologize for the technical difficulties and inability to take some questions today. But don't worry, We will be back next week. And I'd be happy to answer your questions then. Thank you.