CMS Updates Skilled-Nursing Facility Visitation Guidance

September 22, 2020

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued updated guidance for visitation in skilled-nursing facilities during the pandemic. The revised guidance notes that previous restrictions, which focused on protecting residents from COVID-19 by limiting visitation, have taken a physical and emotional toll on residents. It provides reasonable ways that facilities can safely accommodate in-person visitation to address the psychosocial needs of their residents.

While CMS notes that skilled-nursing facilities may continue to restrict visitation (except virtual visits) based on the county’s positivity rate, the facility’s COVID-19 status, or other factors, they may not restrict visitation without a reasonable clinical or safety cause. The new guidance, which is effective immediately, also provides that communal activities and dining can occur with alterations to adhere to guidelines to prevent transmission. Additionally, CMS notes that facilities may apply to use civil money penalties funds to purchase tents for outdoor visitation or dividers to create physical barriers and reduce risk of transmission during in-person visits.