Does your nursing home have COVID-19 residents?

On May 8, 2020, because of COVID-19, there was a big change in the law for nursing homes.

Nursing homes are now “required to inform residents, their representatives, and families of those residing in facilities of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in the facility among residents and staff.” In other words, if you have a family member in a nursing home, then you have a right to know about what’s going on with COVID-19 cases in the nursing home. And you have that right even if your family member is just fine and has no symptoms of COVID-19.

If anyone in the nursing home, either a resident or a staff member, has COVID-19, you have the right to know. And if three or more residents or staff have symptoms of COVID-19, even though they have not tested positive for the disease, you have the right to know.

But it’s more than just the right to know. You don’t have to ask for this information. The new law says that the nursing home has to contact you and provide you with this information. They don’t have to call you directly, but they do have to “make this information easily available to all residents, their representatives, and families, such as paper notification, listservs, website postings, and/or recorded telephone messages.”

But even with this new law, you still don’t have the right to visit family members in the nursing home. Here’s what the Feds are currently saying about nursing homes: “Facilities should restrict visitation of ALL visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life situation.” However, the Feds also suggest that nursing homes “consider” making virtual communications, i.e. phone and video-communication, available. But because the Feds used the word “considered” when they issued this COVID-19 guidance, nursing homes do not have to help with virtual communications.

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