| Covid-19 | Sep 22, 2020

CMS Announces New Guidance for Safe Visitation in Nursing Homes During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

CMS issued new guidance for nursing homes on visitation policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, revising previously issued guidance in March and May. The September 17 guidance encourages nursing homes to facilitate outdoor visitation broadly and indoor visitation in the event of no new onset of COVID-19 cases within the past 14 days (provided some restrictions on the number of visitors and movement through the facility). The guidance also expands upon previous guidance, which focused primarily on end-of-life situations, providing additional examples of compassionate care situations for which visitation should be allowed.

Notably, the guidance clarifies the flexibilities that facilities have to restrict visitation due to the community- or facility-specific COVID-19 transmission but prohibits facilities from restricting visitation without a reasonable clinical or safety cause, consistent with §483.10(f)(4)(v). Failure to facilitate visitation, without adequate reason related to clinical necessity or resident safety, would constitute a potential violation of 42 CFR 483.10(f)(4), and the facility would be subject to citation and enforcement actions.The guidance further indicated that facilities may apply to use Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) funds to help facilitate in-person visits, such as for the purchase of tents for outdoor visitation and/or clear dividers to create a physical barrier to reduce the risk of transmission during in-person visits. Funding for tents and clear dividers is also limited to a maximum of $3,000 per facility.