The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new guidance on whether families can visit loved ones in nursing homes. The guidance allows indoor visitation even when the resident has not been vaccinated.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit long-term care facilities particularly hard, with more than 170,000 residents and employees dying of COVID-19. Most nursing homes have had at least some restrictions on visitors in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Some nursing homes have banned all visitors, some allow visits by appointment only, and some restrict visitation to outdoors only. The absence of close contact with loved ones has been extremely difficult for both residents and their families over the past year.
Now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, CMS has revised its guidance on nursing home visitation. The new non-binding guidance notes that outdoor visitation is preferred, even when both the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated. However, the guidance goes on to advise that indoor visitation should be allowed regardless of the visitor’s or resident’s vaccination status in most situations. CMS recommends limiting indoor visitation in the following circumstances:
- If the resident is unvaccinated and the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of the residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.
- The resident has a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
- The resident is in quarantine because of exposure to a person infected with COVID-19.
CMS also states that while physical distancing should be maintained, a fully vaccinated resident may choose to have close contact with a masked visitor who performs good hand hygiene before and after.
If the nursing home has a resident or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19, the CMS guidance recommends that visitation be suspended until the entire facility has been tested. If the outbreak is contained, then visitation can continue, but if additional cases are found, then CMS recommends suspending visitation once again.
While the CMS provides recommendations, each state is free to make its own visitation rules.
To read the guidance (most recently updated at the time of publication on March 10, 2021), click here.
For resources on visiting long-term care facilities from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, click here.
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