For nearly 20 months, the roughly 1.3 million Americans living in nursing homes and their families grappled with strict visitation policies that, while designed to keep vulnerable residents safe from the coronavirus, caused distress for separated loved ones and had serious health consequences for many suddenly isolated seniors.
Initially, visitors were barred entirely. Later, facilities enforced a variety of rules: Some prohibited visitors from residents’ rooms, allowed visitors only outdoors and during brief scheduled windows, or permitted only one at a time.
Many of these restrictions were based on rules, known as “guidance,” mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that closed facilities to visitors in March 2020. It has issued several revisions since.