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Three Years Ago, We Were Locked Out in Texas for Six Months - March 13, 2023

Most of the rest of the country went much longer without being allowed inside a long-term care facility.

A recent Wall Street Journal article bemoans how little has changed since March 13, 2020 and how everyone in the country appears to have moved on. I do not want us to live in a COVID-19 world forever but I do wish more states have addressed the issue of forced isolation in long-term care.

Texas has proven, beginning with our emergency comprehensive essential caregiver guidelines in place September 2020, that essential caregivers are less likely to bring disease into a facility than staff members. We have a vested interest in the residents' safety and we are required to follow infection control protocols.

Genny Lutzel sent me that photo of the sign in the window of her mother's facility three years ago and I'm so glad she did. I thought the lock-down would only last a week or so until further notice from the facility while they figured out the safest way for us to visit.

Boy was I wrong. (don't get used to me saying that but it does happen)

Here in Texas, most facilities follow our statutes and CMS guidance and do not shut down visitation at will. Occasionally, there are those that do. And, when that happens, there are families that do not know the rules so they do what I did and wait it out.

But what concerns me even more than that is that states across the country are not as fortunate as we are. Even though CMS has said all visitation must be allowed at all times, many nursing facilities across the country are either emboldened to close at will or genuinely believe they have that ability.

In the past two years, our national advocacy groups have been working on an essential caregiver bill since only ten states have essential caregiver legislation and four of those don't guarantee visitation. I've been to Washington D.C. several times in the past two years, twice to meet with Senator John Cornyn's office. His office has held Zoom meetings with me as well and I am encouraged that he will be supportive of a refile of HR3733 in Congress this session. That will apply to all 50 states.

Unfortunately, that bill only addresses facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. So, it will not apply to assisted living facilities. However, if a bill is adopted and states are required to meet certain criteria for nursing homes, I'm hoping they will adopt similar requirements that apply to all facilities in their states to help uniformity in compliance and enforcement.

Regardless, here in Texas, we have permanent rules under our statute and essential caregivers are a consitutional right so just like Texas Caregivers for Compromise, essential caregivers are #notgoingaway

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