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Nursing Home Visitation Guidance

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Nursing Home Visitation Guidance

(Des Moines, IA) As Iowa anticipates one million doses administered of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have issued updated guidance for nursing homes to safely expand visitation options during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency (PHE).

Nationwide, more than three million doses of vaccines have been administered within nursing homes to staff and residents. To date in Iowa, through the Long Term Care Pharmacy Partnership Program, a total of 139,142 doses have been administered; 75,125 first doses and 64,017 second doses. Resident doses account for 78,204 of the total and 60,963 are staff.

According to the updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

“Spending time with loved ones and seeing them in person is critical to overall well-being. This past year has been incredibly challenging and hard on older Iowans and their loved ones. This is great news and one more step closer to normal,” said Kelly Garcia, Director of the Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health interim director.

The updated guidance also emphasizes that “compassionate care” visits should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak. Compassionate care visits include visits for a resident whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances.

CMS continues to recommend facilities, residents, and families adhere to the core principles of COVID-19 infection control, including maintaining physical distancing and conducting visits outdoors whenever possible. This continues to be the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly if either party has not been fully vaccinated.

An updated guidance document from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Department of Inspections and Appeals is forthcoming.