As we see the uptick in Covid cases headed into the fall and fears over a fall surge increase, some local long-term care facilities are shutting to visitors again. This ongoing pandemic has cost all of us dearly in all kinds of different ways, but perhaps no one more so than residents of long-term care facilities. Not only did they die in huge numbers, but they were isolated so completely for a year from family and even from each other—having to stay in their rooms pretty much all the time.

With that in mind, here is a summary of the guidance issued by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued on nursing home visitation in September 2020.

Can the facility refuse indoor visits?

The facility should be allowing indoor visitation “at all times for all residents,” except for the following (and only the following):

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

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

No. 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.

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.