By Hugh Qualls
Hospital Administrator

Proceed with caution! CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the federal agency that oversees nursing homes receiving public funding. They recently reversed course on allowing visitors to skilled nursing facilities like Lefa L. Seran. Despite the current upswing in positive COVID-19 cases, we will comply with federal order and have re-opened our nursing home to family and friends of residents. They couldn’t be more delighted, of course. With some trepidation, we will do all we can to enable visits while keeping everyone safe. No easy task these days! This sudden change means we are scrambling to transition to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy, though with lots of precautions still in place. Residents will be able to attend church once more and engage in other social outings. In order to avoid crowds in our tiny nursing home, we ask that family and friends call first so that visitors can be spread out as much as possible. Like any other hospital visitor, everyone must be screened at the ER entrance door (masks required, temperature checked, health questions asked, hands sanitized—and don’t forget your sticker). You will then be permitted to proceed to meet with residents. With county vaccination rate at 50% and mask compliance minimal to non-existent, hope you appreciate our concerns and will help us keep everyone safe—especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

VFC? Vaccines For Children is a state program for Medicaid-eligible children that offers pediatric vaccines at no cost. Also covered are uninsured, underinsured and American Indian/Alaska Native children ages birth to 18. Our local Community Health Nurse Wanda Nixon has overseen this program for the past several years but is retiring (again) at the end of December. Fortunately, Mt Grant Rural Health Clinic providers have agreed to take on this responsibility and will soon offer these vaccines free of charge to Medicaid-eligible children. If your child qualifies under this program, contact a clinic provider for an appointment when vaccinations are due.

In 2020 Regeneron Pharmaceuticals received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its monoclonal antibodies (casirivimab and imdevimab); these antibodies “are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses” (FDA).

Mt Grant Clinic and Hospital providers have been administering this to select patients for the past few months—if they meet specific FDA criteria (see below):

  • Are high risk* for developing severe COVID-19 AND
  • Have a positive COVID-19 test and have not yet been admitted to the hospital AND
  • Are 12 years of age or older (and at least 88 pounds)

High Risk is defined as any of the following:

  • 65 years of age or older
  • Overweight (body mass index over 25)
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment
  • Cardiovascular disease/hypertension
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neuro-developmental disorders
  • Medical-related tech dependence

Remember: this is not a replacement for vaccination, which is still the best protection for yourself and others. As you may have read recently, Pfizer has a new pill awaiting EUA and soon available that may become the “go to” for treating early COVID. According to Pfizer, their drug PAXLOVID “was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19.” This pill will make treatment quicker and more accessible for these patients (the monoclonal antibodies are administered either by IV or injection). While pill is easier to swallow (sorry about that), one last reminder that vaccine is available to all now and just as effective. Enough said.

SNF residents and I will be taking an evening drive later this month to look at all the community Christmas lights—a big hit last year. Expecting Hawthorne to go all out as usual and string lights everywhere.

From all of us at Mt Grant, Happy Holidays!