2019 Novel Coronavirus News related to
Health Facilities Licensing & Certification

COVID-19: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, State of Alaska
DHSS is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. Learn more about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please check back frequently for new information and important updates.
Alaska Medicaid and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
 



April 27, 2022

    Required Reporting of All SNF Staff and Resident COVID-19 Positive Test Results
    As part of continued efforts to ensure the safety of residents and staff of Alaska’s skilled nursing facilities (SNF), a.k.a. long term care facilities, DHSS has updated the central reporting process for COVID-19 cases. SNFs are required to report all positive staff and resident cases. This is a state-only reporting requirement and does NOT satisfy or supplant the reporting requirements of the federally mandated National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) reporting system.

    Visit How to Report an Outbreak in a SNF for reporting instructions. Contact ltccovidreporting@alaska.gov for questions regarding these forms.



April 21, 2022



February 17, 2022



February 4, 2022

    Required Reporting of All SNF Staff and Resident COVID-19 Positive Test Results
    (This update was superseded by the February 4, 2022 update)
    As part of continued efforts to ensure the safety of residents and staff of Alaska’s skilled nursing facilities (SNF), a.k.a. long term care facilities, DHSS has updated the central reporting process for COVID-19 cases. SNFs are required to report all positive staff and resident cases. This is a state-only reporting requirement and does NOT satisfy or supplant the reporting requirements of the federally mandated National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) reporting system.

    Visit How to Report an Outbreak in a SNF for reporting instructions. Contact kim.spink@alaska.gov for questions regarding these forms.



January 20, 2022

    Update: Implementation of Vaccine Requirements in Alaska
    The State of Alaska is still reviewing the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court staying the enforcement of two preliminary injunctions that has stopped the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from implementing and enforcing, effective January 13, 2022, its vaccine requirement for certain facilities and providers who receive CMS funds. CMS issued guidance on the timeline for enforcement and attachments for facilities and providers in the 25 states, including Alaska, that were not subject to the compliance phases published on December 28, 2021. In the interim, we recommend you seek advice from your own legal counsel, as the State of Alaska cannot provide any definitive legal advice for providers.



May 7, 2021



April 28, 2021



April 21, 2021



March 10, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Now Available to All Alaskans Age 16 and Older
On 03/09/21, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced the COVID-19 vaccine is available for all individuals who live or work in Alaska and are age 16 and older, making Alaska the first state in the nation to remove eligibility requirements. Visit covidvax.alaska.gov or call 907-646-3322 for more information and to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination.



March 3, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Phase 1c Open March 3, 2021
The Alaska Vaccine Task Force has significantly  expanded the criteria  for who is eligible to receive state-allocated COVID-19 vaccine. The newly eligible group includes all persons aged 55–64, and persons aged 16 and older who are essential workers, are or may be high risk for severe COVID-19 illness, live in a multigenerational household, or who live in unserved communities. For details, read the 03/03/2021 DHSS press release.




February 25, 2021

Timing of Flexibilities for Delivery of Long Term Services and Supports During COVID
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has advised states that they can submit new Appendix K requests to extend previously approved Appendix K content until six months after the federal public health emergency has ended, in order to plan for an orderly transition back to pre-COVID operations.  Alaska has submitted this Appendix K request; it is now pending approval by CMS.   

SDS expressed confidence that the Appendix K submission will be approved. If so, Appendix K flexibilities would end in mid-October, six months after the current federal PHE end date of April 21. In the unlikely event it is not approved, SDS flexibilities will end on April 21, the end of the federal public health emergency.

SDS will provide progress updates via future SDS E-Alerts. Until then, please refer to SDS’ FAQs on Timing of Flexibilities for Delivery of Long-Term Services and Supports During COVID.


Vaccine Providers Prepare for March COVID-19 Shipments; Further Eligibility Clarifications Announced to Include More Alaskans
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced on 02/24/2021 that Alaska will receive 60,760 first doses of state-allocated COVID-19 vaccine for the month of March. Additionally, 32,720 first doses have been allocated to the federal Indian Health Service (IHS). DHSS also announced three clarifications regarding who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine. State-allocated vaccine is now open to Phase 1a through Phase 1b, Tier 2. For more information, visit the 02/24/2021 DHSS press release.



February 18, 2021

State of Alaska’s Declaration of Public Health Disaster Emergency Expired 02/14/2021
As of February 14, 2021, the State of Alaska’s Declaration of Public Health Disaster Emergency (DD), which was in place to manage its response to COVID-19, expired. While certain authorities under the DD have expired, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is making every effort to minimize potential disruption to interactions between Alaskans and DHSS as we transition out of the DD.

Accordingly, until further instructed by the Governor or the Alaska Legislature:
  1. DHSS will continue to operate its COVID-19 response under the same guidance and direction that had previously been provided, which includes all prior waived or suspended statutes and regulations.
  2. DHSS will continue to manage its Medicaid program under the federal authorities outlined in the federal blanket waivers, the 1135 Waiver, and the Appendix K approvals, since those authorities are tied to the federal public health emergency and are not dependent on a state declaration.
  3. DHSS will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure a smooth transition for vaccinations, therapeutics, and other critical services that DHSS had been managing under the Declaration.
  4. All mitigation efforts for the health and safety of state employees will remain in effect. 
The end of this disaster declaration does not mean the virus is gone and we can stop taking measures to keep ourselves and others healthy and safe. DHSS’ primary concern remains the health and safety of all Alaskans, and we will continue to consider that paramount concern in our decisions as we navigate the next phase of the state’s response to COVID-19.



February 4, 2021

Reporting of All SNF Staff and Resident COVID-19 Positive Test Results Now Required
(This update was superseded by the February 4, 2022 update)
As part of continued efforts to ensure the safety of residents and staff of Alaska’s skilled nursing facilities (SNF), a.k.a. long term care facilities, DHSS has created a central reporting process for COVID-19 cases. SNFs are now required to report all positive staff and resident cases. Visit How to Report an Outbreak in a Skilled Nursing Facility for instructions and a link to the reporting form. Contact kim.spink@alaska.gov for questions regarding these forms. NOTE: This is a state requirement for reporting and does NOT satisfy the reporting requirements of the federally mandated National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) reporting system.


January 15, 2021

New Emergency Declaration
A new COVID-19 public health disaster emergency declaration is in effect through 12:00a.m., 02/14/2021.



December 18, 2020

Updated COVID-19 In-Person Visitation Aids CMP Application and FAQs
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has updated the Civil Money Penalty (CMP) application and FAQs. These documents replace ones previously released on 10/22/2020.



December 15, 2020

DSP Hire Assists Providers with filling Vacant Positions
Organizations and agencies that hire direct support professionals can now post available jobs at DSP Hire. The resource is available at no cost to providers and applicants. Questions? Contact kim@champneyconsulting.com.



December 14, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive in Alaska
Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Visit Alaska DHSS Vaccine Status Updates page, email covid19vaccine@alaska.gov, or call 833-751-4212 (health care providers only) or 907-646-3322 (general public).    



December 1, 2020

Reminder: CDC Training for Nursing Facility Management and Staff
As part of continued efforts to ensure the safety of residents and staff of Alaska’s SNFs, DHSS is reminding administrators to ensure that all management and staff, both clinical and non-clinical, complete CMS COVID Training. Developed in consultation with the CDC and released on 08/25/2020, this free training is divided into modules that include topics such as infection control, screening and surveillance, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, disinfection of the facility, cohorting, and caring for individuals with dementia during a pandemic. Please visit CMS COVID Training to create an account and complete this important training.



November 30, 2020

Dr. Jay Butler to Address Alaska Healthcare Stakeholders about COVID-19 Vaccine
On 12/02/2020 at 7:00 a.m., AKST, Dr. Jay Butler, former DHSS Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer and now the Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the CDC, will provide an update on COVID-19 vaccine development, distribution, and clinical use. This one-hour webinar is intended for Alaska’s medical providers and healthcare stakeholders, especially providers of congregate residential care and services. Register today, as space is limited.



November 24, 2020

DEADLINE EXTENDED: DHSS CARES Act Funding to Support Residential Congregate Care Facilities
The deadline for residential congregate care facilities to apply for CARES Act funding and submit a signed attestation has been extended to 5:00 p.m., December 11, 2020. See the original (November 7, 2020) announcement for more information. Questions? Contact Jana Atonio at 907-782-5267 or 907-269-7380.



November 20, 2020

COVID Vaccination Planning for Staff of Long-Term Care Services Providers
Alaska is preparing for the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments to arrive by the end of 2020. Because long-term care facility staff may be recommended for early vaccination, particularly in facilities serving seniors, it is important that you and your staff are prepared and have a plan in place.

As of November 4, 2020, four vaccines had begun the last of three stages of clinical trials in the U.S. to test safety and effectiveness. After the FDA approves a vaccine, based on based on the results of clinical trials, the CDC will recommend which populations should receive the vaccine first. These recommendations are guided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Because long-term care facility staff may be recommended to receive the vaccine first, the State of Alaska COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force is asking staff in these facilities to be prepared to receive the vaccine once it arrives in Alaska.
  • There is no State of Alaska requirement for anyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; staff can decide whether they want to receive it.
  • The initial vaccination locations will be select pharmacies and Community Health Centers.
  • Once vaccines are available, you will be sent a calendar of dates, times and locations where the vaccination will be available.
  • You must pre-register and schedule an appointment; vaccines will not be available on a walk-in basis.
  • Depending on the vaccine, two appointments may be required – one for the 1st dose and one for the 2nd dose three or four weeks later.
When more details are available, you will receive information about registration and vaccination via RA message. Visit DHSS COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Alaska Medicaid Health Enterprise for the latest updates.



November 17, 2020

New Emergency Declaration and Suspended Regulations
A new disaster declaration and public health emergency is in effect through 12/15/2020, new health orders are effective 11/16/2020, and an updated Order of Suspension of state regulations was issued 11/15/2020. This new order includes new regulation suspensions, in addition to all that were previously suspended.



November 7, 2020


DHSS Distributing CARES Act Funding to Support Residential Congregate Care Facilities
On 11/06/2020, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) issued a press release announcing the upcoming distribution of approximately $4 million in CARES Act funds to residential congregate care facilities to help address additional expenses incurred as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assisted living homes, skilled nursing facilities and other residential congregate facilities approved by DHSS will be eligible to receive a one-time flat rate payment to help offset expenses related to COVID-19.

To receive funds, providers must submit a signed attestation agreeing to use funds for approved purposes only. The attestation must be emailed to residentialcares@alaska.gov no later than 5:00 p.m., November 20, 2020.

Questions? Contact Jana Atonio at 907-782-5267 or 907-269-7380.


October 23, 2020


HHS/DOD Announce Public-Private Partnership for Providing COVID Vaccines To LTC Settings
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense announced agreements with CVS and Walgreens to provide and administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities nationwide, with no out-of-pocket costs.



October 21, 2020


New Website to Help Address Health Care Workforce Shortages and Improve Care
The Alaska Division of Senior and Disabilities Services, ADvancing States and Centene Corporation, in a unique public-private partnership, have developed and launched ConnectToCareJobs, a website designed to help address health care workforce shortages during the COVID-19 public health emergency and beyond. ConnectToCareJobs links residential facilities (e.g. skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities) that need employees with health care professionals who need jobs. The initial launch is focused on residential care facilities, however the site may be expanded  to include hospitals and home care agencies in subsequent phases.



October 14, 2020

Immediate Assistance Needed

HSS Residential Licensing and SDS are working with an assisting an assisted living home in Anchorage that has five residents, three of which are COVID-positive and the other two have tested negative, but need to quarantine. The home unable to fully staff this home and residents are at risk of being placed in the hospital if caregivers are not found to keep them safely in their own home.

If your agency has staff willing to assist this home to provide temporary care for 7 to 10 days, or you have community placement options available for these individuals, please contact Craig Baxter with Residential Licensing at 907-632-3348 as soon as possible.

As more of our assisted living homes experience positive cases it will be essential to come together as a community and work on solving staffing shortages together.  Please communicate with us if you have ideas for how to assist with staffing during this public health emergency.  Thank you for your attention and service.


October 2, 2020

COVID-19 In-Person Visitation Aids CMP Request
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued COVID-19 guidance for Nursing Home Visitation. By following a person-centered approach and adhering to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, visitation can occur safely based on this guidance. Recognizing that considerations allowing for visitation in each phase of re-opening may be difficult for residents and their families, CMS has developed an application template for requests for the use of Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Reinvestment funds to provide nursing homes with in-person visitation aids.

Funding for tents and plexiglass (or similar product), are limited to a maximum of $3,000 per facility. When installing tents, facilities must ensure appropriate Life Safety Code (LSC) requirements in accordance with 42 CFR 483.90 are met, unless waived under the PHE declaration.

Once an application is approved, facilities can purchase the authorized devices and accessories, then submit their receipts to the department for reimbursement


September 18, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is conducting a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey to the state’s assess readiness to accept and administer the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Please see COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey Overview for more information.


September 15, 2020

Reopening Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities – Revised 09/15/2020
On September 15, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released revised guidelines for reopening skilled nursing facilities.


September 3, 2020

Governor's Office Issues Updated COVID-19 FAQs
The Governor's Office has updated its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions. Updates include information for those who, because of a disability, cannot safely wear a mask.


August 4, 2020

Reopening Guidance for Nursing Homes: FAQs
On August 4, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released frequently asked questions concerning the reopening of skilled nursing facilities.

June 30, 2020


Reopening Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities
On June 30, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released Guidance for Reopening Skilled Nursing Facilities.


June 12, 2020


CMS Reminds Nursing Facilities that Law and Regulation Prohibit Seizure of Residents’ COVID Stimulus Payments
On June 11, CMS issued a press release noting its awareness of allegations that nursing homes are seizing residents’ CARES Act economic impact payments. CMS reminds nursing facilities that this is prohibited under federal law and regulation, specifically regulations found at 42 CFR 483.12 pertaining to residents’ freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. CMS directs residents or their families who have experienced such seizures to refer complaints to state survey agencies and Attorneys General.



June 11, 2020


Nursing Homes Are Prohibited from Seizing Residents’ COVID-19 Stimulus Payment
Most nursing facility residents are eligible up to $1,200 stimulus payments under the CARES Act. These funds belong to the residents; seizure by nursing facilities is prohibited. Following reports of nursing facilities wrongly requiring residents to relinquish their stimulus payments, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that those who engage in this behavior “will be subject to [federal] enforcement action.

Under state and federal Medicaid regulations, the stimulus payment is not counted as income for residents who are Medicaid eligible. Therefore, receipt of a stimulus payment does not affect eligibility, nor does it change a resident’s monthly cost of care (the amount a Medicaid recipient must pay toward the cost of their long-term care).


May 18, 2020


Recommendations for Reopening Skilled Nursing Facilities
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new guidance for state and local officials to ensure the safe reopening of nursing homes across the country. It details critical steps nursing homes and communities should take prior to relaxing restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including rigorous infection prevention and control, adequate testing, and surveillance.

May 12, 2020


COVID-19 Communicative Technology CMP Request
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has authorized qualified applicants to submit the Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Reinvestment Application, COVID-19 Communicative Technology Request for the purchase of communications technology equipment and accessories. These funds are to purchase equipment such as tablets (e.g., iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Kindle Fires, Amazon Echo Shows) and accessories (e.g., protective covers, headphones, cleaning and disinfection products) to assist with resident and family communications. The maximum amount of grant funding is $3,000 per nursing facility. Exceptions are funded on a case-by-case basis (e.g., for facilities with a large number or residents).
 
Once an application is approved, facilities can purchase the authorized devices and accessories. Next, the facility will submit their receipts to the department for reimbursement.


May 1, 2020


Interim Guidance on SARS-CoV-2 Testing for Asymptomatic Residents Being Admitted to Congregate Living Facilities
The Division of Public Health’s Section of Epidemiology has releasedguidance for administrators and health care providers affiliated with congregate living facilities (e.g., skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, residential treatment facilities) that serve persons who typically remain at the facility for a sustained period of at least 14 days. 


April 30, 2020


Federal Certification Survey Activity
On 4/28/20 CMS informed the State of Alaska to continue to follow the survey prioritization outlined in QSO-20-20 until further notice.

CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Healthcare Facilities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released COVID-19 guidance for facilities. for specific provider types. These guidelines can be found at 

CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Healthcare Professionals
The CDC has released COVID-19 guidance for healthcare professionals. Infection control topics include PPE use, infection control methods, hand hygiene, and work exposure guidance and training.



April 8, 2020


Home Health: Temporary Suspension of Supervisory Visit Regulations
Under the authority of Governor Dunleavy’s COVID-19 Disaster Order of Suspension No. 2, the onsite supervision requirements in the following regulations are suspended effective 04/09/2020 to allow home health supervisory visits to be conducted via telephone or video conferencing. This temporary suspension may be rescinded at any time, upon notification by the department.

April 6, 2020


Emergency Application for Bed Increases & Alternate Care Sites
Hospitals and Long Term Cares (LTC) who wish to temporarily increase bed number or provide care and services at an alternate care site must complete a Hospital/LTC Emergency Licensure Application. This process applies to both tribal and non-tribal facilities as an emergency action to maintain accurate numbers of increased beds and services provided at alternate care sites.
 
Temporary Bed Increases
Hospitals & LTCs can increase currently licensed bed capacity, add an on-campus location to their current license, or move an existing service to another location. Hospitals & LTCs must specify the type of space being added. Facilities are expected to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Alternate Care Sites Guidance.
 
Temporary Satellite Requests
Hospitals & LTCs can add inpatient beds and/or outpatient services at an off-campus location. Facilities are expected to follow the CDC Alternate Care Sites Guidance and in conjunction with Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provider specific regulations that are not waived.
 
Processing
License applications must be submitted to Matthew Thomas, Health Care Facilities Licensing & Certification at matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov with the subject line “Emergency Application – [FACILITY NAME]”.  Please allow 1-3 business days for processing and review. Health Facilities Licensing and Certification will evaluate applications in the order received and will notify the facility of the application decision by email. If you need this material in an alternate format, please call 907-334-2664.


Previous Updates

 
Federal Certification Survey Activity
Effective March 23, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new survey prioritization guidelines, QSO-20-20, allowing surveyors to focus on addressing the spread of coronavirus and other serious health and safety threats. The document provides additional detail regarding the new priority level for certification survey activities and infection control risk-assessments for long term cares and hospitals.

Authorized Surveys Per QSO-20-20-All (valid through 4/10/20)
  • Complaint/Facility-Reported Incident Surveys: State survey agencies (SSAs) will conduct surveys related to complaints and facility-reported incidents (FRIs) that are triaged at the Immediate Jeopardy (IJ) level.  A streamlined Infection Control review tool will also be utilized during these surveys, regardless of the Immediate Jeopardy allegation.
  • Targeted Infection Control Surveys: Federal CMS and State surveyors will conduct targeted Infection Control surveys of providers identified through collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). They will use a streamlined review checklist to minimize the impact on provider activities, while ensuring providers are implementing actions to protect the health and safety of individuals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Initial Certification Surveys: Initial certification surveys will continue to be authorized in accordance within current guidance and prioritization. These will be reviewed by State Agency and CMS prior to initiating these surveys.
Non-Authorized Surveys Per QSO-20-20-All (valid through 4/10/20)
  • Standard Health, Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Surveys: for long term care facilities (nursing homes), hospitals, home health agencies (HHAs), intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IIDs), and hospices. 
  • Revisit Surveys that are not associated with an Immediate Jeopardy finding.
State Licensure Survey Activity
As of March 16, 2020, the State Survey Agency (HFL&C) has suspended all licensure survey activity with the exception of complaints/concerns that are believed to present an immediate danger or potential for immediate danger. HFL&C will continue to investigate violations of an applicable statute or regulation has occurred that presents an immediate danger to the health, safety, or welfare of an individual receiving services from a licensed health care facility. Please continue to review the HFL&C website for updates.
 
Infection Control
CMS has reminded healthcare facilities and State Survey Agencies (SAs) to maintain compliance with current CMS requirements and safety standards, specifically infection control procedures. Additionally, CMS has provided assessment tools and checklists for providers:
Long-Term Care Facility Access Restriction
Except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life, facility access by visitors, non-essential staff, and other non-essential individuals should be prohibited. This criteria and additional information was established by CMS on March 13, 2020.  In lieu of visitations, facilities should consider offering alternative means of communication such as virtual communication or telephone calls. Facilities are encouraged to follow the CDC recommendations regarding protecting your residents, facility and staff. This restriction does not apply to state surveyors and CMS surveyors. Please review the revised QSO-20-14-NH, dated March 13, 2020, for details.

Non-Urgent and Elective Procedures
On March 19, 2020 Governor Dunleavy issued Health Mandate 005: Elective Medical Procedures requiring all non-urgent and elective procedures to be postponed for three months to decrease the overall impact of COVID-19 on Alaska’s health care system. The mandate includes recommended actions and resources for practitioners.

Providers are encouraged to closely monitor all mandates issued by the Office of the Governor, and guidance issued by the State’s Chief Medical Officer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Operational Changes MUST be Reported Within 48 Hours
Facilities must notify HFL&C of any changes to operational status (e.g., full or partial closure, change of services). Submit status changes within 48 hours to matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov.


Regulatory Questions?
Contact Matthew Thomas at matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov or 907-334-2664 if you have questions related to state and federal regulatory requirements.

COVID-19 and Quarantine Questions?
Contact DHSS Epidemiology or refer to CDC guidelines, information, and reports regarding COVID-19 cases and quarantine protocols.

If you are advised to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 after a possible COVID-19 exposure, please visit COVID-19: If You May Have Been Exposed for additional information.