LANSING, Mich. — To help protect the health and safety of Michigan’s nursing home residents and staff, the Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force, appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, presented its final recommendations Aug. 31.

“I want to thank the members of the task force for their collaboration and support for the state’s ongoing focus on protecting Michigan’s most vulnerable populations,” said Whitmer. “I will carefully review these recommendations and continue to work closely with the task force and our partners to strengthen policies to protect nursing home residents, staff and their families.”

The 28 recommendations cover four strategy areas; each represented by a workgroup: Placement of Residents, Resource Availability, Staffing and Quality of Life.

Recommendations include:

■ Continuing to use the regional hub program with strengthened guidance and protocols as Care and Recovery Centers.

■ Identifying and coordinating with hospitals with excess surge capacity.

■ Improving coordination of personal protective equipment distribution and allocation.

■ Securing funding for continue testing of nursing home residents.

■ Exploring options for creating dedicated facilities/alternative care settings.

■ Improving support of physical and mental health for staff.

■ Increasing opportunities for safe visitation.

Many of these recommendations are reinforced by evaluations of long-term care policy conducted by independent organizations, including the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT). Based on interviews with clinical and policy experts as well as emerging research, CHRT presented independent recommendations regarding how to strengthen and build upon Michigan’s COVID-19 response that are also helping to inform the state’s actions. The report was funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

CHRT reports that the regional hub strategy executed in a crisis situation was a logical and appropriate response to the surge. Although more data is needed to draw definitive conclusions, preliminary data shows:

■ No significant evidence of transmission of COVID-19 between patients admitted from hospitals to nursing home residents in hub facilities.

■ Nursing home resident COVID-19 prevalence positively correlated with county COVID-19 prevalence rates for both hub and non-hub nursing homes.

■ COVID-19 infection rates in nursing homes correlated with staff infection rates; this was consistent with community prevalence.

“We have taken great strides to protect families from the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Many of the recommendations from the Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force and in the CHRT report are already being advanced by the Department-- strengthening the regional hub model, continuing efforts to test residents and staff, and increasing access to PPE, including through a $25 million grant program for nursing homes and other providers.”

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