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North Dakota governor to recognize nursing home staff with Silver Linings Day

Silver Linings Day will be held June 23 and will honor the 16,000 employees of North Dakota long-term care facilities for their work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FSA nursing home
Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has designated June 23 Silver Linings Day in honor of long-term care facility employees who have worked to bring essential medical care and other services to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic.

North Dakota's 218 assisted living, basic care and nursing facilities are home to more than 10,000 residents and employ more than 16,000 people. According to the governor's proclamation, Silver Linings Day will recognize the "tireless, compassionate care" long-term care facility staff members give their residents.

"They work night and day to keep residents safe," said Shelley Peterson, president of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association (NDLTCA). "They stepped up in the face of extraordinary circumstances and protected our most vulnerable population, and because of their work ethic, their devotion and their commitment to residents, many long-term care facilities today are joyously celebrating recoveries from COVID-19."

Peterson said that, for many nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the first action they took was on March 4, when the CDC and CMS recommended facility staff remind visitors to stay at home if they were feeling sick. Days later, on March 9, nursing homes nationwide adopted strict no-visitation policies in accordance with additional national guidance. Other policies -- such as no congregate dining or group activities, and temperature and symptom screening of all residents and staff members -- were widely adopted at this time.

Burgum also issued an executive order banning visitations in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities on April 6. After the executive order was given, state officials visited every long-term care facility in North Dakota to evaluate their risk and preparedness.


"The state was impressed with the preparedness of long-term care," Peterson said. "They each had a plan, and they were working on it. We hadn't quite prepared for pandemic, but they had prepared for many emergencies, and now this one needed gearing up."

After nearly three months of isolation, long-term care facilities are taking their first steps toward safely reopening to outside visitation.

The state Reuniting Families and Residents Task Force has developed a tiered plan to safely resume normal operations. Chris Larson, the task force chair person, said that 137 of North Dakota's 218 long-term care facilities are in Phase One, which prohibits visitation but allows congregate meals and activities among healthy residents.

After two weeks in Phase One and three rounds of targeted testing, a facility can move to the next phase, when one-on-one visits can be scheduled, Larson said.

"I believe the main reason that North Dakota is pretty much leading the way in reopening its nursing homes is because of the level of testing that's available in North Dakota," said NDLTCA board chair Cindy Tredwell. "So we need to give kudos to the governor's office and the Department of Health for providing this level of testing. That's why North Dakota is leading the way on being able to reopen 100%."

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