CMS and CDC National Nursing Home Stakeholder Call

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a national stakeholder call on Feb. 2 to update its listeners regarding COVID-19, revisions to nursing home guidance, and best practices. The following is a summary for those who could not listen in on the call.

Updated CDC Guidance

CDC officials noted they were posting updated infection control guidance for nursing homes to reflect concerns about increased transmissibility of the omicron variant. The guidance was not published in time for the LeadingAge Minnesota staff team to include a summary here, but we will review the new information and provide an overview during our Feb. 4 member Huddle. Meanwhile, members may review the information on the page linked above.

Noting that the terms "fully vaccinated" and "up to date" are used in CMS and CDC guidance on COVID-19 related topics, CDC also wants providers to be aware of this webpage which provides definitions and examples for the three available vaccine products.

Nursing Home Visitation

CMS has updated the nursing home visitation FAQs. You’ll find them as an attachment at the end of this memo. Updates include new information on improving airflow and air quality during nursing home visitation and an announcement that nursing homes may apply for CMP funds -- up to $3,000 per facility -- to purchase portable fans and portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters to increase or improve air quality. The Minnesota Department of Human Services manages the state's CMP fund, and we will reach out to learn more about when an application process for these funds will be available to care centers.

CMS Staff Vaccination Mandate

The call included a short question and answer session with Evan Shulman, Director of the CMS Nursing Homes Division, who addressed the following topics:

Are nursing homes required to maintain vaccine documentation of direct employees and contractors onsite? No. Facilities do not need to store the information on site. Facilities do need to know the vaccination status of those covered by the rule, but the documentation and evidence of that status can be stored someplace else. However, when surveyors request it, the facility has to produce it.

Does CMS require N95 masks (or other respirators) for unvaccinated staff at all times? No. Providers should review and follow CDC guidance on when an N95 mask should be used. However, a nursing home may choose to require unvaccinated staff to wear N95s at all times for source control as an “additional precaution,” as described in CMS guidance relating to the vaccine mandate rule.

Are nursing homes required to implement all of the actions listed as additional precautions in the CMS nursing home guidance memo to comply with the vaccine mandate requirements? No. However, CMS expects facilities to implement as many additional precautions as possible and should use a layered approach to mitigate the transmission and spread of COVID-19.

Distribution of Antigen Tests

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intends to distribute Celltrion DiaTrust™ COVID-19 antigen rapid tests to nursing homes to support testing efforts. Each box will include 25 individual tests. No additional detail was provided concerning quantities to be shipped, the timing of shipments, and whether assisted living and other providers will also receive distributions. We will seek additional information about this resource and provide more details when available.

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