New Guidance on Visitation Rights for Nursing Home Residents

Senior woman with lovely girl wearing face mask at park

The “light at the end of the tunnel” is finally emerging for nursing home residents across the country. As nursing home residents and staff were some of the hardest hit during the COVID pandemic, with one third of all U.S. COVID deaths linked to nursing homes, residents have endured severely limited contact with their family and friends for much of 2020 and early 2021. Yet now with 80% of our older adult population having received at least 1 dose of the COVID vaccine, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has updated their guidance and eased some of the restrictions on nursing home residents’ visitation rights.

In general, now residents can receive visitors, though outdoor visitation is encouraged. And because of the continued risks from COVID, CMS has outlined three circumstances when facilities can still limit visitation:

  1. an unvaccinated resident when the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10%, and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  2. a resident with a confirmed COVID-19 infection (regardless of vaccination status); and
  3. a resident in quarantine (also regardless of vaccination status).

Also, in late April, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidance to lift additional restrictions on visits, dining, and other communal activities for fully vaccinated persons in nursing homes. In summary, masks and physical distancing are not required if every person involved in the activity is fully vaccinated. Therefore, masks and physical distancing are not required for visits if the resident and visitor(s) all are vaccinated. And, vaccinated residents may dine and participate in group activities without masks or physical distancing, but only if every participating resident is vaccinated.

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Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.