U.S. Offers Guide for Reopening Nursing Homes

May 19, 2020
Federal health regulators released guidelines for reopening nursing homes in the U.S., proposing steps that eventually could allow visitors to return to facilities that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, like a previous draft version reported by The Wall Street Journal, call for a multiphase regimen, mirroring the three-phase “Opening Up America Again” guidelines for states that were issued by the Trump administration in April. The earlier draft drew concern from industry officials who felt it was too vague and included no specific requirements for coronavirus testing. The final version says a facility should have a testing plan in place before beginning reopening phases. The document suggests that the plan involve initial testing of all residents and staff, and it offers other testing recommendations as a facility moves through various stages of reopening. State and local officials would have flexibility in how to implement the recommendations. For instance, states might coordinate among the nursing homes in a certain region so they would start each of the phases at the same time, or they could let each facility proceed at its own pace. “It’s very clear those decisions have to be made at the state and local level,” said Seema Verma, the CMS administrator. She said the agency is encouraging states and nursing homes to move very carefully.