MDHHS highlights long-term care facility visitation guidance ahead of holidays

Nursing homes
Posted at 11:04 AM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 11:04:12-05

LANSING, Mich. — With the holiday season upon us, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reminded the state about long-term care visitation guidance designed to protect residents from COVID-19 while still allowing for visits from family and friends.

MDHHS recently updated its guidance based on recent changes to Centers for Medicaid and Medicare recommendations, according to a news release Wednesday.

“Long-term care residents receive physical, emotional and spiritual support by visiting with their family and friends, particularly during the holiday season,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “Our updated guidance provides key steps to take to make these visits as safe and fulfilling as possible.”

Per CMS, if a visitor, resident or their representative is aware of the risks associated with visitation, and the visit occurs in a manner that doesn’t place other residents at risk, the resident must be allowed to receive visitors as he or she chooses.

Previous public health precautions were designed to prevent visitors from introducing COVID-19 into long-term care facilities, but officials say the risks of COVID-19 transmission related to visitation is low, especially when infection prevention steps are taken and in settings where vaccination rates are high.

About 84% of residents in long-term care facilities in Michigan are fully vaccinated. Booster doses are also now available to those who live or work in these settings.

MDHHS strongly recommends long-term care facilities schedule onsite clinics so residents, staff and visitors can receive vaccinations and boosters as soon as possible.

Other updates to CMS guidance include:

  • Visitors who have a positive viral test for COVID-19, symptoms of the virus or currently meet the criteria for quarantine should not enter the facility. 
  • Outdoor visits are preferred during times of warmer weather when the resident or visitor isn’t fully vaccinated. 
  • Facilities must allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents. While it is safer for visitors not to enter the facility during an outbreak investigation, visitors must still be allowed in the facility. 
  • While not recommended, residents who are on transmission-based precautions or quarantine may receive visitors, especially if alternative methods of visitation such as phone call, window or virtual visitation are not conducive for visitation. 
  • Facilities can no longer limit the frequency and length of visits for residents, the number of visitors or require advance scheduling of visits. 
  • If the resident and all their visitor(s) are fully vaccinated and the resident is not moderately or severely immunocompromised, they may choose not to wear face coverings. 
  • If the nursing homes, county COVID-19 community level of transmission is substantial to high, all residents and visitors – regardless of vaccination status should wear face coverings and physically distance. 
  • Compassionate care visits are allowed at all times. 
  • Residents may also choose to have physical touch based on their preferences and needs. 
  • Failure to facilitate visitation would constitute a potential violation and a facility would be subject to citation and enforcement actions. 
  • Although recommended by MDHHS, visitor testing is not required in order to visit.