Residents in nursing homes across the country have been receiving COVID-19 vaccinations steadily since December of 2020. This has led to a decrease in infection rates in nursing homes. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is not willing to loosen the visiting guidelines in skilled nursing facilities just yet.
Evan Shulman, CMS director for the Division of Nursing Homes, was quoted saying that “all existing recommendations for visitation need to be adhered to.” According to him, it is too early for nursing home to allow visitors. The vaccines are being given in 2 doses and even though most residents have received the first dose, not all have received the second dose. Even after the second dose is received, there is a 10 day period that is necessary for complete immunization.
There is an additional cause of concern with new variants of COVID-19 that are quickly spreading. It is unclear whether the vaccines protect against them. Additionally, it is unclear whether vaccinations help prevent transmission of the virus. For these reasons, CMS is not ready to open nursing home doors as at this time even though case numbers are drastically decreasing.
Shulman recommends all infection control guidelines should be followed as previously. As more individuals get vaccinated and rates fall, then there will be a possibility to allow visitations again.
Due to COVID-19, the surveys conducted in nursing homes in 2020 were collaborative and less strict. Shulman says this will be not be the case going forward as collaborative surveys are not supported by CMS. The surveys are intended to measure factors to hold nursing homes accountable and help regulate them.