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What your skilled nursing facility should be doing to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 presents a scary proposition for skilled nursing facilities. It spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate among the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and people with pre-existing health conditions. For those reasons, most skilled nursing facilities have enacted dramatic measures to distance residents and prevent the disease from being introduced to the facility.


Common steps being taken by SNFs for infection prevention to combat the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Temporarily prohibiting visitors to the facility
  • Canceling communal meals and activities
  • Enacting social distancing by making sure residents are at least six feet apart at all times
  • Frequently cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas
  • Placing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in all rooms and keeping handwashing stations well stocked
  • Closely monitoring residents and staff for signs of infection
  • Creating a clear plan for the treatment of residents who are suspected of having COVID-19 or who test positive for the virus

What additional measures can SNFs take to stop the spread of COVID-19?

CDC recommendations to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak

While many of these measures have been drastic, SNF administration and staff may be wondering what else they could do to prevent COVID-19 from reaching and spreading through their facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed that SNFs take the following immediate action to help fight COVID-19:


  • Keeping volunteers and non-essential personnel from entering the facility
  • Screening staff for fever and other signs of COVID-19 at the start of every shift
  • Enacting a communication plan to keep residents, staff and families up to date on all COVID-19 prevention measures and concerns
  • Increasing the use of personal protective equipment by staff
  • Ensuring that sick-leave policies are non-punitive and flexible so staff feel like they can stay home when sick
  • Preparing an emergency plan for staff shortages in case of a community outbreak
  • Reviewing data from past outbreaks to identify measures that were effective in stopping the spread of disease within the facility

COVID-19’s infection and mortality rates are rightly causing alarm for skilled nursing facilities. Following CDC’s recommendations for combatting the pandemic can help keep residents and staff safe from the virus. Facilities also should be carefully tracking data to monitor for signs of the disease and to document measures to follow infection control protocol. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your facility monitor COVID-19 and infection control measures.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preparing for COVID-19: Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes. Accessed March 23, 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