Updated Visitor Guidance for Nursing Homes

Thoughtware Alert Published: Nov 18, 2021
Long-Term Care workers helping patient walk.

The public health emergency responding to COVID-19 required restricting of visitors at nursing homes nationwide. As we prepare for the 2021 holiday season, nursing homes need to understand the most recent guidance published by CMS on November 11, 2021, and effective immediately. Find the full QSO-20-39-NH text here. This followed the November 4, 2021, regulation update requiring that all nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a requirement for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

CMS indicates that continued restrictions on visitation is a violation of residents’ rights and is no longer necessary. Adherence to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, according to CMS, should mitigate transmission concerns. Updated guidance indicates visits can be conducted through different means based on each facility’s structure and resident needs. Some suggested locations for visits include resident rooms, dedicated visitation spaces, and outdoors. Regardless of how visits are conducted, it is important that core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention are followed.

Core Principles of COVID-19 Infection Prevention

  • Visitors who have a positive viral test for COVID-19, symptoms of COVID-19, or currently meet the criteria for quarantine should not enter the facility. Facilities should screen all who enter for these visitation exclusions
  • Hand hygiene (use of alcohol-based hand rub) is preferred
  • Face covering or mask (covering mouth and nose) and physical distancing of at least six feet between people, in accordance with CDC guidance
  • Instructional signage throughout the facility and proper visitor education on COVID-19 signs and symptoms, infection control precautions, and other applicable facility practices, e.g., use of face covering or mask, specified entrances, exits and routes to designated areas, and hand hygiene
  • Cleaning and disinfecting highly touched surfaces in the facility often, and designated visitation areas after each visit
  • Appropriate staff use of personal protective equipment
  • Effective cohorting of residents, e.g., separate areas dedicated to COVID-19 care
  • Resident and staff testing conducted as required (see QSO-20-38-NH)

The full transmittal (link above) also includes information for indoor and outdoor visits as well as visits during an outbreak or investigation, visitor testing and vaccination status, compassionate care visits, access to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, entry of healthcare workers and other providers of service, communal activities, and dining and resident outings, as well as survey considerations.

For questions, please reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or submit the Contact Us form below.

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