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Federal guidance asks long-term care facilities to provide their own rapid tests to visitors

COVID-19 rapid test
Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 21:52:41-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — "Just knowing someone who loves you is there, is good," said patient safety advocate, Marian Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth and others are applauding new guidance by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, otherwise known as CMS. The guidance states that nursing homes and assisted living facilities must provide rapid tests for their visitors, and if they do not have one, the visit must continue.

"This is huge!" said Hollingsworth.

"Because it takes the burden off the family for having to pay for a test, or having to find a test, and especially if you want to visit every day or multiple times a week."

Currently, California policy says that all visitors must show a negative test before walking in the door, regardless of vaccination status.

Visits could also be capped at just 30 minutes. The federal policy currently does not have a time restraint on visitations.

"One facility on one street might have a visitation policy that's completely different from another down the street," said Tony Chicotel.

"It's been very tough for visitors and residents to sustain meaningful relationships that way."

Chicotel is a Senior Staff Attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He says that Monday, California's rule will expire.

That leaves the state with three options. California can either amend its policy to align with CMS, drop the testing requirement altogether, or extend its current policy.

Chicotel is hoping that they fall in line with federal guidelines.

"This roller coaster of visitation rules, up and down and all around for visitors and especially the residents who have felt so isolated…It's been a massive tragedy, and a lot of it has come not from COVID-19 but our poorly engineered policies related to COVID-19."

As to what this means for how operations could change at your loved one's facility?

"I think there is a persistent and substantial number of facilities that will do whatever it is they want to do, related to visitation, understanding that there is a lot of confusion as to what the rules are and that there is virtually no enforcement of them at least for the last couple of years," said Chicotel.

"They are going to wait until someone actually penalizes them for being out of compliance. And that has not been happening very much."

Hollingsworth says that loved ones should contact their loved one's facility to be able to get their latest requirements.