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August 24, 2021

In this Issue:

  1. Consumer Voice Statement on Vaccination of Staff
  2. How to Find COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Nursing Homes
  3. CMS Expands Medicare Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations
  4. Join the Commit to Connect Network to Help Address Social Isolation
  5. FAQs about Visitation in Nursing Homes Including Questions about How Staffing and Vaccination Status Affects Visitation

Consumer Voice Statement on Vaccination of Staff

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care commends the Biden Administration for its recent announcement that all nursing home staff must be fully vaccinated.  Since the pandemic began, over 133,000 residents and staff of nursing homes have died from COVID-19.  Countless others have suffered from isolation and neglect, as facilities closed their doors to visitors out of fear of infection.  Although more than 83% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated, the number is much lower for staff at 62%.  With the Delta variant rampaging across the country, the threat to nursing home residents is again rising.  The number of residents and staff contracting and dying from COVID-19 in recent weeks is increasing significantly; and as new outbreaks occur, a growing number of facilities are again restricting visitation and confining residents to their rooms. The isolation and subsequent effects over the last 18 months have been, for many, as devastating as COVID-19, resulting in significant decline and death of scores of residents.  This requirement will save the lives of not only nursing home residents, but staff as well.

While we share concerns that some staff will leave as a result of the mandates that are being implemented by federal, state, and local governments, and long-term care companies, we hope that more will be encouraged to stay, and that staff who left their jobs earlier in the pandemic out of concerns for their health and safety will return to the field. Ultimately, requiring the vaccines will make long-term care facilities safer places to live, work, and visit.

As we head into the fall, we are on the precipice of repeating last year's catastrophic events when COVID-19 devastated nursing homes.  As a country, we must take bold action to protect our most vulnerable citizens.   This action by the Biden Administration is a decisive step toward ensuring our family, friends, and loved ones are protected.

Read our full statement.

How to Find COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Nursing Homes

Consumer Voice's Sam Brooks provides a walkthrough of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) website and how to find data for COVID-19 vaccination rates, cases, and deaths in nursing homes.

COVID-19 Data Video

CMS Expands Medicare Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is expanding Medicare payments for at-home COVID-19 vaccinations.  The announcement aims to ensure Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach can receive the vaccination.  Healthcare providers can now receive additional payments for administering vaccines to multiple residents in one home setting or communal setting of a home.  CMS intends to further boost the administration of COVID-19 vaccination – including second and third doses – in smaller group homes, assisted living facilities, and other group living situations by allowing vaccine providers to receive the increased payment up to five times when fewer than ten Medicare beneficiaries get the vaccine on the same day in the same home or communal setting.

For more information, read the press release from CMS.

Join the Commit to Connect Network to Help Address Social Isolation

The Administration for Community Living has established a new cross-sector initiative, Commit to Connect, dedicated to connecting older adults and people with disabilities with services and supports to build the social connections they need to thrive.

As a part of this effort, leaders and innovators at the local, state and national level are invited to join the Commit to Connect Nationwide Network of Champions soft launch. This network of Champions will work together to increase awareness of social isolation and loneliness, connect individuals who are/or at risk to social connection programs and technologies, and create more socially connected communities inclusive of all people including older adults, people with disabilities.

If you’re interested in being one of the first Champions to join the network, click here to learn more and apply now.

Contact CommitToConnect@aarp.org if you have any questions.

FAQs About Visitation in Nursing Homes, Including Questions About How Staffing and Vaccination Status Affects Visitation

Can the facility refuse indoor visits?

The facility should be allowing indoor visitation “at all times for all residents,” except for the following very specific situations:

  • The resident is not vaccinated, the nursing home’s COVID-19 county positivity rate is higher than 10%, and the resident vaccination rate in the facility is less than 70%;
  • The resident has a confirmed case of COVID-19;
  • The resident is in quarantine; or
  • There is an outbreak in the facility. When this occurs, visitation is temporarily suspended while outbreak testing is conducted. Visitation should then be resumed depending on the testing results.

Other than these situations, a facility should always permit indoor visitation. The guidance does not provide for any other instances when indoor visitation can be denied.

Can the facility refuse to allow visitation because they do not have enough staff?

No. The facility should not refuse visitation due to lack of staff because the guidance states that:

  • Facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents “… except for a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of COVID-19 transmission…” The only four situations the guidance lists for when visitation can be limited are identified in the previous question.
  • A nursing home must facilitate in-person visitation and would be subject to potential enforcement action if it failed to do so without adequate reason related to clinical necessity or resident safety. The guidance never mentions staffing as a reason to limit visitation.

If visitation is still denied, point out the federal nursing home regulations about staffing. Nursing homes must have sufficient staff to meet each resident’s needs and to attain or maintain the resident’s physical, mental, and
psychosocial well-being.

If the facility indicates that it has sufficient staff, then it has enough staff to safely facilitate visitation. If the facility responds that it does not have sufficient staff, then it would be violating federal regulations and possibly placing
residents at risk. You should file a complaint with your State Survey Agency.

Can a facility require a negative COVID test before I visit my loved one? Can they require me to be vaccinated before they let me in for an indoor visit?

No. While facilities can encourage you to be tested and can offer testing, the CMS guidance clearly states, “visitors should not be required to be tested or vaccinated (or show proof of such) as a condition of visitation.” A facility
cannot require you to show a negative test before you visit. In addition, they cannot require you to be vaccinated.

Find answers to more questions about visitation and find advocacy strategies in our fact sheet.

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