The updated guidelines represent “our most comprehensive action to bring residents and loved ones closer together,” the CMS said, but it doesn’t stop at opening facilities to visitors with a positive COVID-19 test, who are showing symptoms of COVID-19. 19, or who currently meet the quarantine criteria. CMS says facilities should screen all visitors for these exclusions. “We are pleased that the CMS is taking a person-centred approach to expanding visitor numbers so that residents can exercise their rights and avoid the isolation and other challenges that too many people have experienced during the pandemic,” said Rhonda Richards, senior lawmaker AARP Legislature. representative.
“But it is important to remain vigilant and follow important infection prevention measures,” she added. “This is still a population that is more at risk, so we have to strike a balance.” While the new CMS guideline offers greater freedoms, it reinforces that “visits should be conducted in a manner that adheres to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention and does not increase the risk to other residents.” It states that all residents and visitors must wear face coverings and physical distancing during visits to a nursing home where the transmission level from the surrounding community is high, for example.
While the national COVID-19 death rate among nursing home residents is a tenth of what it was during last winter’s devastating spikes, the virus has recently killed more than 2,000 residents a month, according to AARP’s ongoing analysis of federal nursing home data. That means a sixfold increase in the number of deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the summer, when the death rate bottomed out in 2021. In some states, such as Montana and Wyoming, the death rate is near winter levels, despite a large proportion of residents being vaccinated this year. time around. Many nursing homes also use booster shots for residents and staff, as studies show that their efficacy decreases, especially for older and immunocompromised people. While they do, more than a quarter of nursing home workers across the country remain unvaccinated.
The CMS says it is “concerned about the transmission of the virus from unvaccinated staff to residents” as staff vaccination rates remain “significantly lower” than residents’ rates. A new federal mandate, requiring all nursing home staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 as a requirement to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, aims to “ensure continued safety as facilities continue to open” .
The new guideline comes after 20 long months of visitation restrictions designed to reduce the risk of visitors introducing COVID-19 into a facility. Nursing homes were locked in March 2020, preventing residents from hugging their loved ones for an entire year. While the restrictions were intended to protect residents and staff from the virus — which has killed more than 186,000 in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and others — they have also taken a heavy toll. In addition to COVID-19 deaths, 40,000 more people than usual died in U.S. nursing homes last year, many from neglect and isolation, according to an Associated Press report published in November 2020. requirements for long-term care facilities, which may be more stringent.