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Georgia Department of Public Health Updates its Administrative Order to Permit Additional Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities

Written by: Brittany H. Cone, Esq. and Jordan Johnson, Esq.

On March 15, 2021, the Georgia Department of Public Health updated its original Administrative Order providing reopening guidance to long-term care facilities to allow additional visitation. This update is in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) recently revised memorandum on nursing home visitation. Key provisions include:

  • Incorporation of the CDC’s definition of “fully vaccinated” (2 weeks or more following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series or two weeks or more following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine);
  • Outdoor visitation remains the preferred method of visitation regardless of vaccination status;
  • Compassionate care is allowed at all times regardless of vaccination status, county positivity rates, or the existence of an outbreak;
  • Facilities in Phase 1 due to vaccination rates and county positivity rates should continue to limit visitation, including limiting visits for unvaccinated residents to only compassionate care visits;
  • Facilities in Phase 1 due to an outbreak should consider suspending all visitation, regardless of vaccination, until one round of facility-wide testing is completed and reveals no additional cases in other areas of the facility. Those other areas can then resume limited visitation, while the affected area must cease visitation until it satisfies the criteria to discontinue outbreak testing. Visitations for COVID-19 positive residents or those in quarantine should be suspended unless otherwise required (i.e., compassionate care), until criteria for release are satisfied;
  • Facilities in Phase 2 should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents regardless of vaccination status once it has completed one-time baseline testing with no new onset of COVID-19 cases for 14 days. The Facility has the discretion to limit visitation based on its capacity to manage visitation based on a myriad of factors such as staff availability to screen visitors and maintain precautionary measures. Fully vaccinated residents may engage in close contact while wearing a mask and utilizing hand-hygiene before and after; and
  • Any visitation should include continued precautions, such as screening and physical distancing.

For additional questions and clarifications, please see the linked guidance above and feel free to contact us.