Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving, AHCA/NCAL Urges Americans To Exercise Caution Around Holiday Gatherings To Limit Community Spread Of COVID-19

As the number of COVID cases rise across the country, cases in long term care settings are rising too. Recent data from Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) shows that after a seven-week decline, nursing homes have seen a correlating uptick in cases since mid-September as a result of community spread.

Independent research from the country’s top academic institutions shows that the rate of spread within a surrounding community is a key factor in the likelihood of an outbreak in a long term care facility. Dr. Tamara Konetzka, a professor of health policy at the University of Chicago explains

“Trying to protect nursing home residents without controlling community spread is a losing battle … Someone has to care for vulnerable nursing home residents, and those caregivers move in and out of the nursing home daily, providing an easy pathway for the virus to enter.”

Preventing community spread is key to keeping seniors and caregivers safe. As the holiday season approaches and Americans come together to celebrate, we must take every necessary precaution to minimize the risk of an outbreak. 

Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said, “We understand everyone wants to see their family and friends during the holidays, but we really need to consider our parents and grandparents who are living in our nation’s long term care facilities. Even though you may feel fine, more than half of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and the people you encounter at the Thanksgiving table or out at the grocery store may work in a nursing home or assisted living community. Wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing not only protects you, but it is sign of respect for our elders and our health care heroes who care for them.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance around hosting or attending holiday gatherings, including:

  • Checking the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live on state, local, territorial, or tribal health department websites. 
  • Limiting the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least six feet apart at all times. 
  • Hosting outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. 
  • Avoiding holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Requiring guests to wear masks. 
  • Encouraging attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Provide guests information about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps that will be in place at the gathering to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible

Long term care facilities cannot lose the progress we’ve made to reduce COVID rates. In order to protect vulnerable seniors and long term care staff, members of the public must do their part to keep the virus from spreading. Exercising caution around holiday gatherings is one way Americans can help our communities stay COVID-free.   

ABOUT AHCA/NCAL
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org or www.ncal.org.