May 19, 2020
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced yesterday new guidance for state and local officials to ensure the safe reopening of nursing homes across the country. The guidance details critical steps nursing homes and communities should take prior to relaxing restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including rigorous infection prevention and control, adequate testing, and surveillance. The vulnerable nature of the nursing home population requires aggressive efforts to limit COVID-19 exposure and to prevent the spread within facilities. The recommendations issued yesterday would allow states to make sure nursing homes are continuing to take the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure resident safety and are opening their doors when the time is right. According to CMS, this also serves to help states and nursing homes reunite families with their loved ones in a safe, phased manner.
CMS recommends that decisions on relaxing restrictions be made with careful review of the following facility-level, community, and state factors:
- Status of COVID-19 cases in the local community;
- Status of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes;
- Adequate staffing;
- Baseline test of all residents, weekly testing of all staff, practicing social distancing, and universal source control for residents and visitors (e.g., face coverings);
- Access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE); and
- Local hospital capacity.
CMS urges state and local leaders to regularly monitor the factors for reopening and can adjust their plans accordingly, depending on local data about the circulation of the virus in their community.
A CMS press release is available here. A CMS FAQ document is available here.