Since early in the pandemic, masks have been required in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. However, that may be coming to an end per the recent guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC released guidance on September 23, 2022, stating counties that are considered within the moderate or low categories can choose to not require doctors, patients, and visitors to wear masks.

This guidance is for all healthcare settings including nursing homes, hospitals, and home health agencies. The guidance explained that “updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools.” Approximately a quarter of the counties in the United States fall into the moderate or low categories, while the rest still have high COVID-19 transmission levels.

While facemasks are not required in those specific counties, the CDC advises masking for any of the following circumstances:

  • If someone has a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection or other respiratory infection.
  • If someone has had close contact with or a higher-risk exposure to someone who had COVID-19, for 10 days following the exposure.
  • If someone resides or works somewhere that is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Universal mask-wearing can be discontinued once no new cases have been identified for 14 days.
  • If mask-wearing is recommended by the health authorities.

The same day the CDC updated its masking guidance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released two memos regarding COVID-19 testing, and visitation.

The key updates for testing are:

  • Staff no longer need routine testing.
  • Outbreak testing and investigations will not be required when a resident with known COVID-19 is admitted directly into transmission-based precautions (TBPs), or when a resident known to have close contact with someone with COVID-19 is admitted directly into TBP and develops COVID-19 before TBPs are discontinued.
  • All facility staff should report a positive viral test, symptoms, or a higher-risk exposure to occupational health or another point of contact designated by the facility so they can be properly managed.
  • Admissions in counties where community transmission levels are high should be tested (if the facility has low levels, it can choose whether to test new admissions).

    • Testing is recommended on admission and, if negative, again 48 hours after the first negative test and, if negative, again 48 hours after the second negative test.
    • It is recommended that newly admitted patients wear facemasks for 10 days following admission.

Regarding visitation, CMS eliminated the screening mandate for visitors. CMS stated that facilities should have guidance posted showing actions for visitors who tested positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

  • Visitors who test positive for COVID-19 should defer in-person visits that are not emergencies until they meet CDC criteria for healthcare settings.
  • Visitors who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should wait 10 days before returning, if the visit is non-urgent.

For questions about the CDC guidance regarding facemask requirements or the CMS memos about testing and visitation, please contact your Marcum advisor.

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