On March 20, 2020, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued Provider Letter 20-23, providing clear guidance to Texas’ assisted living communities on how to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Finding that; “…COVID-19 presents a significant health and safety risk to ALF residents” and that “the best method of protecting [residents] from infection is to keep the infection out of the facility”, the provider letter adopts guidelines that are similar to those put in place several days ago for nursing facilities. Significantly, the letter determines that; “[a] resident’s right to visitation can be restricted in order to protect the health and safety of residents”.

The guidance addresses fifteen different areas and, among other things, orders Texas’ assisted living communities to:

Prohibit all nonessential visitors;

Screen all essential visitors (defined to include health care workers such as doctors, nurses, home health and hospice workers, and EMS; law enforcement officers; representatives of Disability Rights Texas, the Long-term Care Ombudsman’s office and HHSC surveyors; and family members and loved ones of residents at the end of life);

Deny access to essential visitors if they meet any of the following screening criteria:

  • Fever or signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat;
  • Contact in the last 14 days with someone who has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, is under investigation for COVID-19, or is ill with respiratory illness; or
  • Traveled within the previous 14 days to a country with sustained community transmission. For updated information on affected countries visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html;

Offer alternate means of communication during this time of limited visitation, such as: a. Phone calls, video calls, or other means of electronic communication and,

Actively and consistently monitor residents for potential symptoms of respiratory infection, and ensure that a resident’s physician is notified immediately of any residents who begin exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this issue, please feel free to contact the Husch Blackwell post-acute and long term care team, c/o Michael Crowe at Michael.crowe@huschblackwell.com or 512-797-7216.