CMS Updates Guidance on Nursing Home Visitation

On March 10, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued updated guidance for visitation in nursing homes.  Previously, CMS guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic had been to restrict all visitors except in limited circumstances, such as end of life or other compassionate care situations.  The guidance was recently updated because millions of nursing home residents and staff have received their COVID-19 vaccines.   

The new guidance allows for indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of whether the residents or visitors have been vaccinated, except in a few circumstances where visitation should be limited due to a high risk for COVID-19 transmission.  The guidance instructs nursing homes to maintain the core principles of infection control (screening, handwashing, masking, social distancing, etc.) and also indicates that outdoor visitation is still preferred. 

This federal guidance is not a mandate, and nursing homes may have varying rules for visiting a resident.  In Pennsylvania, visitors should be able to schedule visits at nursing homes that have not had an active outbreak in the last 14 days and are in counties with low levels of community spread.  Visitors will be screened when they arrive and must wear masks and practice physical distancing. Outdoor visits are encouraged whenever possible.   

Nursing home residents or their friends and family who are having problems with visitation can contact Pennsylvania’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 717-783-8975 or