California senior-home inspectors now using Zoom, Skype to limit coronavirus exposure

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By Jason Pohl The Sacramento Bee April 02, 2020

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In a reversal from last month, California senior-care inspectors have begun using Zoom, Skype and FaceTime to make sure managers at thousands of assisted living homes are properly following rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The change in favor of virtual visits came about a week after the California Department of Social Services told inspectors to physically go to every assisted living facility in the state. The goal of the visits, officials said, was to provide “technical assistance” to employees and make sure, among other things, staff had properly posted hand-washing technique signs.

Several employees had criticized that order, saying they could accomplish the work remotely and without putting anyone at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Department officials now agree.TAKE A BREAK  Cost of gas the year you were born

“Video tele-visits have been implemented to provide technical assistance and evaluate if providers are adequately following guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” DSS spokesman Scott Murray said in an email. “Should a serious issue or concern present itself during the tele-visit, an in-person visit is conducted.”

The department’s Community Care Licensing Division employees inspect and provide technical help to roughly 14,000 senior and elder-care facilities in the state. Amid the new coronavirus pandemic, California officials have tasked licensing program analysts, or LPAs, with prioritizing check-ins with each facility, beginning with those in concentrated clusters of confirmed cases.

It was not immediately clear Thursday how many video visits had been completed and how many in-person inspections were still required.

DSS officials last month also instructed its adult and senior-living facility inspectors not to wear gloves or masks during the in-person visits because supplies were already running low and donning the equipment might unnecessarily “scare” residents.

Regarding the protective equipment, Murray on Thursday said the department was still following guidance from the California Department of Public Health, which indicated masks were not necessary for healthy people.

However, guidance from the state has shifted in recent days. Gov. Gavin Newsom and others now say people should wear masks and other face coverings if they “feel comfortable doing so.”

The federal government is also reportedly weighing a recommendation that all people wear face coverings in public.