Kansas to expand nursing home visitation rules

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 3:05 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The State of Kansas is working quickly to ensure facilities follow expanded CMS guidelines.

Governor Laura Kelly says revised recommendations for nursing facilities will expand visitation after a drop in COVID-19 infections and transmission due to ongoing mitigation practices and high vaccination rates in nursing home populations.

“This updated guidance is great news for Kansans with loved ones in long-term care facilities and proof that our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “While this is another step towards our return to normalcy, I encourage all Kansans to follow the guidance, continue to mask up, and receive the vaccine when it is their turn.”

Gov. Kelly said according to Memorandum QSO-20-39-NH-Revised, which was issued on March 10 by the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “...vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Millions of vaccinations have since been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and these vaccines have been shown to help prevent symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection (i.e., COVID-19). Therefore, CMS, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is updating its visitation guidance accordingly, but emphasizing the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

According to Kelly, CMS has said that visitation can be conducted through different means based on a facility’s structure and residents’ needs, like in resident rooms, dedicated visitation spaces, outdoors and for situations beyond compassionate care. She said regardless of how visits are conducted, the memorandum outlines core principles and best practices that are consistent with the CDC guidance for nursing homes that reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and should still be followed at all times.

“Our Survey, Certification and Credentialing Commission has been acutely aware of the need to keep residents and workers in faculties healthy and safe during this pandemic by conducting inspections and investigations and at the same time they have worked very hard to offer and help implement programs that have allowed residents and their loved ones to communicate during the visitation restrictions using technology and other alternative methods,” KDADS Secretary Laura Howard said. “This new guidance is welcome news because we all recognize the emotional and physical toll being separated has on our seniors.”

Gov. Kelly said key revisions in the memorandum include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Outdoor visitation - While taking a person-centered approach and following the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, outdoor visitation is preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Outdoor visits usually pose a lower risk of transmission because there is more space and airflow.
  • Indoor visitation - Facilities should allow indoor visitation all the time and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status, except for a few situations when visitation should be limited because of a high risk of the transmission of COVID-19. These situations include limiting indoor visitation for the following:
    • Unvaccinated residents if the nursing home’s COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.
    • Residents with a confirmed COVID-19 case, whether vaccinated or not until they have met the guidelines to discontinue transmission-based protocols.
    • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or not, until they have met the guidelines for release from quarantine.
  • Indoor visitation during an outbreak - a new category created under the memorandum.
  • Visitor testing and vaccination - visitors are encouraged to get vaccinated when they have the chance. While visitor testing and vaccination can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, visitors should not be required to be tested or vaccinated as a condition of visitation. This also applies to representatives of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and protection and advocacy systems.
  • Compassionate care visits - Compassionate care visits and all visits required under federal disability rights law should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak. If the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact, which does not include touching, with their visitor while wearing a facemask and performing hand hygiene before and after. Regardless, visitors should still socially distance from other residents and staff in the facility.

Gov. Kelly said the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services recognizes there are other long-term care facilities in the state that are not subject to the guidelines issued by CMS for certified nursing facilities. She said using federal guidelines, KDADS has issued its Visitation Guidance for Long Term Care Settings for those facilities throughout Kansas.

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