CMS Answers Visitation FAQs Amid Spread of Omicron Variant
Posted by PKSD Law Firm on December 23, 2021 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Since the onset of the pandemic, PKSD has been diligent to share nursing home visitation guidelines and updates provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Along the way, CMS has received a lot of questions about their recommendations.
To help provide clarity regarding the most recent nursing home visitation guidelines, updated in early November 2021, CMS has issued a new notice. In this publication, issued on December 23, 2021, CMS provides answers to many of the frequently asked questions they have received.
What is Addressed in The Nursing Home Visitation FAQs
It is impossible to address every question or aspect that pertains to long-term care and visitation in this latest publication. However, CMS makes it clear that, first and foremost, long-term care facilities must allow residents to have visitation at all times – with rare exceptions. Additionally, nursing homes must also comply with these three key points:
- Follow and adhere to the core principles of infection control and prevention. These principles include wearing personal protective equipment, using proper hand hygiene and practicing social – physical – distancing.
- Prohibit any large gatherings where physical distancing is not possible
- Cooperate with local and state health departments should an outbreak occur
Highlight of FAQs Addressed by CMS
How can visitors, residents and staff best protect themselves from exposure to the Omicron variant?
There are several proven and effective measures you can take to help protect yourself and others from exposure, including:
- Getting fully vaccinated – including getting booster shots recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they become available
- Wear a mask at all times during your visitation
- Practice recommended physical distancing
- Perform proper hand hygiene using either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
When a high volume of visitors is expected, such as over the holiday season, how should visitation be handled?
Visitation should still be continued, in accordance with residents’ rights. However, physical distancing should continue to be maintained as recommended under previous CMS guidelines. If physical distancing cannot be maintained due to a lack of space, then nursing homes should attempt to stagger visits.
Alternatively, nursing homes can also limit the number of visitors in the facility or the patient’s room. It is also important to mention that no visitation should put another resident’s health at risk, such as if a resident has a roommate.
Can residents visit with close friends and family members – without wearing a mask?
To protect residents, visitors must practice social distancing and continue to wear a mask for the duration of their visit when in a communal area of the facility. When visiting in their private rooms, a resident may choose not to wear a mask with visitors, as long as he or she is able to understand and accept the risks. That said, CMS does not recommend removing face coverings – even when visiting residents in their rooms.
What if visitors enter a resident’s room and he or she has a roommate?
While CMS recommends planning these visits when the roommate is not present, if not possible, then physical distancing and wearing PPE should continue.
Should Communal Activities Be Allowed to Continue During an Outbreak Investigation?
If a resident tests positive for COVID-19 or has had close contact with someone who has, CMS recommends not allowing participation in communal dining or other group activities. These residents should also be placed in quarantine for 14 days.
Full Answers to These and Other CMS Visitation FAQs Available Online
These are just a few highlights of the FAQs provided by CMS regarding their latest nursing home visitation guidelines. Please see the full CMS Nursing Home Visitation Frequently Asked Questions document as provided online.
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