CMS Release NEW FAQ on Visitation Guidelines

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a new set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the revised nursing home visitation guidelines, outlined in memo QSO-20-39-NH REVISED. As you know, MHCA continues to advocate with Maine DHHS for clarity and flexibility on the most recent visitation guidance, particularly as the Omicron variant surges. Below are the highlights in CMS's four-page FAQs. We encourage providers to read the document in its entirety.

Visitations must be allowed, but your state or local health department can restrict visitations during an infectious disease outbreak. You should also pause admissions if this happens.
  • Facilities must notify their state or local health department per CDC guidelines if:
    • One or more residents or staff with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection;
    • Resident with severe respiratory infection resulting in hospitalization or death;
    • Three or more residents or staff with acute illness compatible with COVID-19 within a 72- hour period.
You can limit large gatherings and develop a schedule for visitation IF social distancing cannot be maintained. However, these strategies should only be employed when a high volume of visitors are expected.

You must require visitors to follow infection control practices, such as the use of source control masks, while in the building and communal areas.

During visits, residents have the right (not visitors) to decide if visitors will remove their mask or decide to not follow other core infection control practices (e.g., social distancing). We recommend you discuss what practices are followed and who they want to visit with your residents, or their representatives. Make note of resident wishes regarding:
  • The vaccination status of visitors. Note that residents can refuse to have visitors who are unvaccinated.
  • Use of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) while in their room. Note that residents can require visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing during the visit.
  • You can also inform visitors of the risk to themselves and the resident should they decide not to follow the use of masks and other core infection control practices while in a resident's room during a visit.
  • Visits among residents who have roommates should ideally occur in a separate space or when the roommate(s) are out of the room. If this is not possible, an in-room visit can occur if social distancing and use of source control masks are followed.
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