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Is your skilled nursing facility ready to respond to a case of COVID-19?

Skilled nursing facilities across the country have been working tirelessly to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. At the same time, facilities also should be setting protocol in place to respond to a COVID-19 infection. More than 400 skilled nursing facilities have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and those reports are escalating at dramatic rates.1 Being prepared to deal with infected residents and staff can be the difference between isolated infections and a COVID-19 outbreak that impacts residents and staff on a large scale.

Responding to a COVID-19 infection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all skilled nursing facilities have a COVID-19 response plan in place2 as part of their preparedness plans.

According to the CDC, a SNF’s COVID-19 response plan should include:


  • Processes for isolating residents who have or who are suspected of having COVID-19, including assigning staff to care only for those residents, creating a designated triage area and providing infected residents with bedrooms and bathrooms that separate them from the rest of the SNF residents
  • Transmission-Based Prevention protocol for caring for those with COVID-19 or other respiratory infections
  • Identification of spaces within the facility that can be used for COVID-19 response, including triage, isolation and Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms (AIIRs) for patients who require aerosol treatments3
  • A process for transporting residents who are infected with, or who are suspected of being infected with, COVID-19
  • Contact procedures for alerting local and state health officials to confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19
  • Communication plans for alerting residents, staff and families to the infection and plan for containing the infection
  • Protocol for monitoring residents with respiratory infections
  • Plans for monitoring and applying work restrictions to infected or exposed staff
  • Processes for screening and testing all residents for signs of COVID-19 or respiratory infections

Tracking COVID-19 in your facility

Your COVID-19 response and SNF infection prevention protocol also should include keeping careful track of staff, resident and visitor data. Your facility should be known and suspected infections, as well as respiratory infections with unknown causes, steps taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses and the effects of prevention protocols.

To help track COVID-19 cases, instances of respiratory infection and infection control protocol requirements, ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH provides the tools you need.


1. Khimm, S., Strickler, L. “Nursing homes overwhelmed by coronavirus: It is impossible for us to stop the spread.” NBC News. April 1, 2020.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Preparedness Checklist for Nursing Homes and Other Long-term Care Settings.” Accessed March 23, 2020.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings.” Accessed March 24, 2020.

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About the author

Laurie Laxton, R.N., B.S.N., C.M.A.S., C.C.F.A., R.A.C.-C.T., I.P.-B.C., Q.C.P., Principal Clinical Trainer