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Aging Services COVID-19 Resurgence Guidance

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) continues to recognize the COVID-19 pandemic long-term impact on our consumers and standard operating policies and procedures for aging services programs. This document provides guidance to Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) as they decide whether to modify their operations in response to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in their planning and service areas (PSAs). This guidance does not apply to Protective Services.

The safety of older adults and the aging network is paramount; therefore, PDA emphasizes the importance of continuing to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) guidelines for mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus

PDA previously provided specific guidance and risk mitigation strategies for in-home, face-to-face visits for purposes of conducting assessments and other essential activities in accordance with Governor Wolf's strategic phased reopening plan for Pennsylvania.  As counties across Pennsylvania experience upticks in positive cases and increased community spread, it may be necessary for AAAs to return to the implementation of more restrictive mitigation strategies to protect the health and safety of the consumers they serve and their staff.

PDA recognizes circumstances involving this novel virus can change quickly and will continue to change and evolve in the coming months ahead.  AAAs are to use local discretion and make decisions to return to more restrictive mitigation strategies, partially or in full, utilizing relevant, available data pertaining to their PSA and remain aware of the level of comfort/discomfort by consumers and staff with conducting in-home visits.

PDA acknowledges these are challenging and unprecedented times for the AAAs and staff. The Department shall support the decision of the AAA changing mitigation strategies when the decision to do so is based upon the health and safety concerns of their consumers and staff.

Guidelines for changing mitigation strategies:

AAAs may choose to fully return to the strategies outlined in the Yellow Phase of the Guidance for Consumer Contact and Return to In-Home Visits which, at a minimum, includes:

    1. Utilizing telephonic assessments for all assessments unless there are extenuating circumstances, which may include cause or reason to believe an individual may be at risk 
    2. Conducting in-home visits only when necessary, with supervisory approval, which includes:
      • Utilizing the COVID-19 Consumer Comfort Level Screening Tool and the COVID-19 Consumer Health Screening Tool
      • Exploring alternatives to conducting the in-home visit, such as, conducting the meeting on the porch through the screen door.  (Applicable to situations that do not rise to the level of potential abuse or neglect)
      • Having staff conduct a self-evaluation as to their own health condition and comfort level the day of the visit when a visit is deemed necessary
      • Providing appropriate documentation in SAMS as outlined in the guidance.

AAAs may choose to implement a "hybrid" version of the mitigation strategies outlined in the Yellow and Green Phases of the Guidance for Consumer Contact and Return to In-Home Visits. A "hybrid" version may include any of the following strategies:

    1. Completing the majority of an assessment by telephone to minimize the amount of time spent in a consumer's home. PDA advocates for seeing a consumer in their home environment to accurately assess the living conditions and to validate functional abilities and the need for services, even if the home-visit is brief in nature.
    2. Conducting in-home visits only for assessment of new consumers being referred/enrolled in one of the aging services programs. The Department advocates for seeing new consumers in their home environment to accurately assess the living conditions, and to validate functional abilities and the need for services, even if the home-visit is brief in nature.
    3. Conducting in-home visits with existing consumers where the AAA is familiar with the consumer and home environment and feels confident a home visit could be conducted safely. For example, this may include knowing the home is conducive to social distancing, the consumer will be compliant with wearing a mask, and the only individuals present in the home would be those known to the AAA. 

The AAA shall maintain appropriate documentation in SAMS as outlined in the guidance when assessments are conducted telephonically.

When conducting in-home visits, the AAA shall continue to follow applicable CDC and PA Department of Health guidelines.

AAAs seeking to return to more restrictive mitigation strategies shall contact the Bureau of Aging Services via email at RA-PaAgingServices@pa.gov to provide:

    1. Strategies the AAA will be implementing for their PSA
    2. Date of implementation
    3. Any additional pertinent information, including the plan or timeframe to reevaluate the need for these mitigation strategies

For questions or technical assistance with mitigation strategies, please contact the Bureau of Aging Services via email at RA-PaAgingServices@pa.gov or directly by contacting Julie Seby at jseby@pa.gov or 717 787-7408.

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has a dedicated page for COVID-19 that provides regular updates. Visit the PA Department of Health COVID-19 page for the most up to date information regarding COVID-19. Additional information is also available on the CDC website and through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).