US Releases New Covid-19 Guidance for Nursing Home Visits

Tanya Simon
March 13, 2021

The policy guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services moves back in the pre-COVID-19 direction, saying that nursing homes "should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status".

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated the coronavirus guidelines for nursing homes allowing vaccinated residents to get hugs again.

Rhode Island's guidance can be found here. Also, if residents are in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, that would cause limited visitation until they have met the criteria for release from quarantine.

"We acknowledge the toll that separation and isolation has taken".

COVID-19 positivity rate is above 10 percent in the country, or if less than 70% of residents at the facility have not been vaccinated. The agency also said that facilities can start to allow in-person residents, even for those who have not been vaccinated.

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Visitors should be counseled about their potential to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the facility if they are permitted to visit.

While VDH and the Task Force understands the milestone these updated recommendations represent, we remind Virginians that it is critical that facilities, healthcare personnel, residents and visitors remain vigilant by continuing to follow infection control recommendations such as wearing a well-fitted cloth mask or facemask, physical distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet between people), hand washing, staying home when sick, and wearing appropriate PPE.

The CDC doesn't suggest doing so, though, if there is a person who is considered at an increased risk for a severe COVID-19 infection living in the home. Compassionate care visits include visits for a resident whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances, the release stated. Visits can resume in other parts of the facility if there are no positive tests there, but if cases are discovered in other areas, nursing homes should suspend all visits. That protocol is in place regardless of whether the visitor has been vaccinated.

In order to mitigate the risk of relaxing restrictions, vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care facilities and continued adherence to prevention measures, including the 3 Ws - wear, wait, wash - are still the safest approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19. According to the American Health Care Association, there has been a 90% drop in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes in the last three months, an astounding statistic that exemplifies the safety and effectiveness of the newly-approved vaccines.

County public health officials reported 14 new cases among skilled nursing residents and 24 new cases among staff Wednesday, which brings the totals since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,301 and 2,803, respectively.

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