CMS issues plan to open up nursing homes

CMS has issued a plan to reopen the nation’s nursing homes with a new guidance for state and local officials. Specifically, the plan includes steps nursing homes and communities should take before they relax any restrictions maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursing homes were some of the hardest hit institutions by the virus thanks to their high-risk populations of elderly and vulnerable people. According to the CDC, nursing home residents are at “high risk for infection, serious illness and death from COVID-19.”

Notably, the guidance does not require testing in nursing homes, though “robust testing and contact tracing” is called for in the Trump administration’s broader “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.” Medicare will pay $100 for certain laboratory testing using high-throughput technologies to process a large number of tests for COVID-19 per day, according to a newly issued CMS rule.


“Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on nursing homes, and as we reopen America, we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Our focus continues to be the safety and quality of life of nursing home residents and while we are not at a point where nursing homes can safely open up, we want to make sure communities have a plan in place when they are ready to reopen.”

CMS recommended more criteria for nursing homes reopening, including not reopening or relaxing any restrictions until all staff and residents have received a baseline test for the virus.

CMS also urged state survey agencies to inspect nursing homes that saw a surge of COVID-19 outbreaks before reopening. Even when reopening, nursing homes should remain in the current state of restriction and should be among the last businesses to reopen in a community, the agency advised.

Phase three of the Trump Administration’s “Opening Up America Again” framework includes allowed visitors at nursing homes, after a sustained decreased in COVID-19 cases has been established. Visitors have to wear a face covering and be screened. Nursing homes are also advised not to reopen until there have been now new, nursing home onset COVID-19 cases for 28 days; there are no staff shortages; the nursing home has adequate supplies; the facility has access to adequate testing for COVID-19; and referral hospitals have bed capacity.