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CMS Updates Visitation FAQs

Posted Feb 3, 20223 min Read

Regulatory & Clinical

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the revised nursing home visitation guidelines, outlined in memo “QSO-20-39-NH REVISED.”

The updates on Feb. 2, 2022 relate to suggestions to reduce COVID-19 transmission during visits, ways to improve air quality and air flow during visits, availability of funding for certain environmental improvements, and testing visitors before visitation (subject to state directive).

AHCA/NCAL has highlighted the most frequent questions from members in CMS’s four-page FAQs. We encourage providers to read the document in its entirety.


  • Visitations must be allowed, but your state or local health department can restrict visitations during an infectious disease outbreak. You should also pause admissions if this happens.
    • ​​​​Facilities must notify their state or local health department per CDC guidelines if:
      • ​One or more residents or staff with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection
      • Resident with severe respiratory infection resulting in hospitalization or death
      • ​​Three or more residents or staff with acute illness compatible with COVID-19 within a 72- hour period.
  • You can limit large gatherings and develop a schedule for visitation IF social distancing cannot be maintained. However, these strategies should only be employed when a high volume of visitors are expected.
  • You must require visitors to follow infection control practices, such as the use of source control masks, while in the building and communal areas.
    • ​During visits, residents have the right (not visitors) to decide if visitors will remove their mask or decide to not follow other core infection control practices (e.g., social distancing). We recommend you discuss what practices are followed and who they want to visit with your residents, or their representatives. Make note of resident wishes regarding:
      • The vaccination status of visitors. Note that residents can refuse to have visitors who are unvaccinated.
      • Use of masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) while in their room. Note that residents can require visitors to wear masks and maintain social distancing during the visit.
    • ​You can also inform visitors of the risk to themselves and the resident should they decide not to follow the use of masks and other core infection control practices while in a resident’s room during a visit.
  • Visits among residents who have roommates should ideally occur in a separate space or when the roommate(s) are out of the room. If this is not possible, an in-room visit can occur if social distancing and use of source control masks are followed.
  • Best practices for improving air quality to reduce risks during visitation and ways a facility can improve and/or manage air flow during visitation (added Feb. 2, 2022).
  • Availability of funding for environmental changes, which reduce the transmission of COVID-19.  IDOH will need to engage on administering this new grant opportunity (added Feb. 2, 2022).


About the Author

Zach Cattell, IHCA/INCAL President