Nursing home residents and staff members must receive baseline COVID-19 test results before relaxing any restrictions or advancing through phases of reopening to visitors under new federal guidance issued  in  May by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Also, prior to reopening, state survey agencies are required to inspect nursing homes that have experienced a significant COVID-19 outbreak. Overall, CMS recommends that nursing homes be among the last to reopen within community. 

The agency noted in its guidance that decisions to relax restrictions in nursing homes should factor in the following: the case status in the local community and the facility; if a provider has adequate staffing and access to testing; whether social distancing measures can be followed, including having face coverings for residents and visitors; local hospital capacity; and if the facility has enough personal protective equipment. 

CMS Administrator Seema Verma has urged states to use “extreme caution” in making the decision to reopen nursing homes to visitors. 

The guidance said that visits can happen during phase three of the president’s three-phase plan to open the country. Providers are encouraged to spend a minimum of 14 days in each phase of the administration’s reopening plan.