Facilities could be in danger of more outbreaks if visitors are allowed back into nursing homes and senior living communities too soon, Forbes columnist Howard Gleckman said. His remark came days before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a reopening plan for nursing homes on May 18, despite the coronavirus pandemic’s devastation in the sector. 

The move, Gleckman suggested, could be an opportunity for the federal government to shift the blame to providers. Operators reluctant to reopen also could be forced to deny resident family members’ visits, thereby opening them up to criticism from relatives. 

“Like the administration’s move to shift responsibility for reopening businesses to states, this also would put the burden of deciding who is allowed to visit on states, as well as on facilities themselves. And it would create White House deniability when angry family members confront management of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, demanding to be let in,” Gleckman wrote. 

“If a facility turns relatives away, it is the facility’s fault. If it lets people in, and cases accelerate, it is the facility’s fault,” he added 

Gleckman said that although residents are “paying a severe price for being isolated,” it doesn’t make sense to allow visitors again without ensuring that providers have adequate and immediate testing and personal protective equipment. The decision to reopen facilities, he suggested, should be “based on careful benchmarks that all parties adhere to.” 

“The U.S. has failed to establish coherent, enforceable protocols for much of its COVID-19 response. It would be a tragedy if it fails to do so when it comes to opening up long-term care facilities that have seen so much death already,” he wrote. 

In a related development, President Trump urged states May 11 to universally test all nursing home residents and staff and suggested that such testing should have happened earlier.


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