State nursing homes continue federal visitation restrictions

State nursing homes continue federal visitation restrictions
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Following Governor Ivey’s Thursday press briefing extending the state’s mask mandate, the Alabama Nursing Home Association announced a plan to stay with the current federal visitation restrictions.

The Nursing Home Association noted in a press release that it has seen an improvement in COVID case counts. New cases have declined 93% from the highest point in December 2020.

“The declining cases are a welcome sign, and we hope they point to brighter days ahead,” Alabama Nursing Home Association president & CEO Brandon Farmer said.

“The vaccine roll out has been successful and our member nursing homes continue to follow infection control guidance from the state and federal governments. We think these factors are contributing to the decline in cases.”

Visitation Update

Despite the drop in cases and vaccine rollout in Alabama and nationwide, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not revised its visitation restrictions.

The Alabama Nursing Home Association says nursing homes must continue to follow the CMS visitation guidance issued September 17, 2020. Failure to follow the guidance can result in penalties for the nursing home.

“We appreciate Governor Ivey and Dr. Harris for continuing to work with nursing homes and helping us open visitation for our residents and families. We know how important it is for nursing home residents to be able to visit their loved ones in-person and have been working to reopen our doors since CMS first restricted visitation in March 2020. We hope the federal government will soon review and revise the guidance in light of the declining cases and vaccine uptake. Until then, we are encouraging our members to hold in-person visits as long as the nursing home can meet the federal requirements,” Farmer said.

The federal guidance states nursing homes must meet the following criteria to allow limited indoor visitation:

  • Have no new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and not be currently conducting outbreak testing.
  • Limit the number of visitors per resident, limit the number of visitors in the building at one time and limit visitors’ movement inside the building.
  • Visitors must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose and practice social distancing while visiting their loved one during their entire visit.
  • Even if the nursing home meets these criteria, it can’t allow indoor visitation if the county COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10%.
  • CMS allows nursing homes to require additional infection control measures such as COVID-19 testing or proof of a recent negative test.

The public can visit https://anha.org/visits/ for an easy-to-understand guide for facility visits.

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