September 24, 2020
Last Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a federal memo officially restoring visitation in U.S. nursing homes. The CMS is commanding these elder care facilities to allow visitation when a facility has had no new COVID-19 outbreaks for at least 14 days, and the community positivity rate is below 10%.
As expected, nursing homes are incited to take some protective measures stipulated by the CMS during visitor screening and social distancing. And while said facilities are encouraged to have outdoor visitation if the weather allows it, they are also required to accommodate indoor visitation, including in resident rooms, when outdoor visits are unavailable.
Facilities are also encouraged by the CMS to test visitors for COVID-19. Still, they can only restrict visitor access when the community positivity rate is greater than 10%, when the facility has had a COVID-19 outbreak within the last 14 days, or the visitor has symptoms or fails to follow infection control protocols. And even in those situations, facilities need a “reasonable clinical or safety cause” for restricting visitation; and in California, all nursing homes are required to permit outdoor visitation, no exceptions.
In the federal memo, the CMS also expands the concept of compassionate care visits, which can occur despite the facility having a recent coronavirus outbreak or a community positivity rate greater than 10%. It makes federal funds available for supplies needed to accommodate safe visitation. The rest of the memo is loaded with language to support visitation in nursing homes and includes mandates eradicating the 6-month visitation ban that has broken millions of family’s hearts.
For more information, visit the CMS website where you will find all the state and local recommendations and guidelines for reopening nursing homes. We also encourage everyone to follow California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) on all social platforms as they do a fantastic job tracking all nursing-home-related news.