The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have issued new guidelines that will allow visitors inside Maryland nursing homes. This is extremely good news to the residents of Maryland nursing homes, many of whom have gone a full year without direct human contact from anyone outside their facilities due to COVID pandemic safety precautions. The new guidelines dictate the conditions that must be met to relax strict visitation restrictions, which were put in place to combat the high death toll among nursing home residents since the onset of the COVID pandemic.“It is a huge relief that the isolation these residents have had to endure is finally nearing an end,” said Brian Brown, a founding partner with Brown & Barron, a Baltimore law firm with expertise in nursing home cases. “No segment of society has suffered more due to COVID than our seniors in nursing homes and their families.”On February 11, Governor Hogan announced that the Maryland Department of Health would be allowing limited visitation to resume at Maryland hospitals and nursing homes, with each facility setting its own visitation policies. Those policies are required to be in compliance with CDC guidelines. On March 10, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued those guidelines. This latest guidance reflects the optimism of a new era on the COVID pandemic in which more than three million doses of vaccines have been administered within nursing homes, which were given priority for vaccination by the CDC and the Food & Drug Administration.
Nursing home facilities are advised to allow indoor visitation – including touch – for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or visitor, unless the following scenarios are present:
- Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
- Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
- Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.
The updated guidance presents exceptions for “compassionate care” visits, regardless of vaccination status, positivity rate, or outbreak status. Compassionate care visits include:
- When the resident is nearing an end-of-life situation
- Residents who are grieving the death of a friend or family member
- Recently admitted residents who are struggling to adjust to nursing home life and/or dealing with lack of family support
- Residents with emotional distress who are displaying behavioral changes or physical changes, especially weight loss or dehydration
The resumption of visitors would mark an end to one of the darkest chapters in the history of nursing homes. The restrictions on visitations were implemented to help control the deadly spread of the COVID virus in nursing homes, which were particularly susceptible due to their elderly population and the industry’s widespread negligence with regard to infection controls. Although the visitation restrictions helped control the virus in nursing homes, it came with a heavy price: the psychological, emotional, and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents and their families.
The success of these relaxed restrictions on visits will depend on continued vigilance with existing infection control best practices, such as maintaining physical distancing and conducting visits outdoors whenever possible. The hope is that the painful and deadly lessons of the COVID pandemic will not be forgotten by nursing homes and the governmental bodies that regulate them.
“Obviously we all want to go back to normal, and it’s great to see the residents reunited with their loved ones at long last. However, the nursing home industry cannot be permitted to go back to normal, if that means a return to their low standards of care and notorious dereliction of duty with regard to infection controls,” said Leah Barron, a cofounding partner at Brown & Barron.
Addressing Insufficient Care in Nursing Homes
COVID-19 may be the first global pandemic most of us have experienced, but deadly infections are not new to nursing homes. There was plenty of warning that we might find ourselves in this situation. Nursing home owners that made the choice to understaff their facilities should be held accountable for the way their decisions have affected thousands of families nationwide.
Brown & Barron, LLC continues to fight for the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If insufficient care resulted in your loved one developing COVID-19 or another serious viral infection, we can help you determine whether you may be able to file a claim. Until our government steps up to make nursing homes provide the level of care patients deserve and families expect, we’ll continue to fight for those who suffer.
Call us today at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys.