-National Consumer Voice: Updated CMS and CDC Visitation Guidance

Updates from CMS and CDC:
Further Clarification of Visitation Guidance;
Addition to Definitions of Vaccination Status;
and More
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made updates to their COVID-19 guidance.

On February 2, 2022, CMS updated their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which clarify their November 2021 revised Nursing Home Visitation Guidance.  They continue to emphasize that visitation must be permitted at all times, in accordance with residents’ rights, with very limited and rare exceptions.   

Important updates include: States may require visitors to be tested prior to entering a facility;  the facility must provide the rapid test to the visitor.  Visitors are not responsible for obtaining a test, and if the facility does not provide a rapid test, visitors cannot be required to test before entering.  Visitors must be allowed to enter if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms or meet the criteria for quarantine (e.g., a positive COVID-19 test result).   CMS suggests best practices for improving air quality during visitation.  Facilities can employ multiple strategies to manage airflow, and funding is available to facilities for environmental changes to reduce COVID-19 transmission.  Facilities can request up to $3000 of Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment funds to purchase portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters and portable fans to increase and improve air quality.    Read the full FAQs.

Additionally, while the CDC describes fully vaccinated as having completed the first series of COVID-19 vaccines, it has added a definition for being “up to date” with  COVID-19 vaccines.  A person is “up to date” with their vaccinations when they have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any boosters for which they are eligible.

This new definition impacts who is required to quarantine in healthcare settings, according to the CDC.  Quarantine is now recommended for patients who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 if they are not “up to date” with their COVID-19 vaccine doses – unless they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Learn more on the CDC’s website.
Updated CDC guidance also emphasizes that older adults in congregate settings are at high risk of illnesses such as COVID-19 and that it is critical to have a strong infection prevention and control program to protect residents and health care workers.  As nursing homes resume normal activities, they must continue with their infection prevention and control practices in order to prevent spread and protect residents and health care workers from severe infection, hospitalization, and death.  For more information, visit the CDC’s website.