Nov 20, 2020
As the holiday season approaches, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has released a Holiday Leave Recommendation Letter to help keep Long Term Care facilities, residents, and their families safe for the upcoming holidays. These recommendations are addressed to nursing homes but are appropriate for assisted living facilities and other long term care facilities. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a webpage on holiday celebrations, which has more suggestions for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Please continue to follow the guidance provided by the Florida Department of Health and the CDC to keep our facilities, residents, and their families safe this holiday season and beyond.
In summary, federal and state government agencies are recommending not to take your family member out of the facility until the vaccine is rolled out. I believe that they are anticipating this will happen soon, so it’s a “just wait a little longer” approach. Personally, I agree with this recommendation. We will have lots of activities and celebrations at the facility as always! However, we will accommodate Residents who want to be with their families at home during the holidays. If you do decide to take your family member home, please exercise all of the precautions mentioned in the letter and in our own rules and responsibilities that we’ve shared with you. Please remember, you are not only protecting your family member, but you are also protecting the other elderly residents who live at The Pointe.
Please be safe and have a happy holiday season!
To Nursing Homes, Residents, and Resident Family Member(s)/Representative(s),
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE) has been one of our nation’s
greatest challenges and has especially taken a toll on the nation’s nursing home residents. CMS is committed to
protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents at all times and especially during the challenges
presented by the spread of COVID-19. We understand the emotional impact that separation from loved ones
has caused. In September, CMS provided revised guidance for how residents can safely receive visitors in the
nursing home. With the holiday season fast approaching, we understand that residents and their families will
want to spend more time together. During the holidays, facilities, residents, and visitors should continue to
follow the guidelines for visitation and adhere to the core principles of infection prevention, such as remaining
six feet or more apart, wearing a face covering, and limiting the number of visitors in the nursing home at any
one time. We also recommend that facilities find innovative ways of celebrating the holidays without having
parties or gatherings that could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission (e.g., virtual parties or visits,
provide seasonal music, movies, decorations, etc.).
We also know that some residents may want to leave the nursing home temporarily to visit family and friends
for the holidays or other outings. While CMS supports family engagement and a resident’s right to leave the
nursing home, everyone needs to work together to take extra precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-
19, which can pose an elevated danger to the health of nursing home residents. Therefore, CMS recommends
against residents leaving the nursing home during this PHE. With the potential for a safe and effective vaccine
on the immediate horizon, extra precautions now are essential to protect nursing home residents until a vaccine
becomes available. Leaving the nursing home could increase a resident’s risk for exposure to COVID-19. The
risk may be further increased by factors such as a resident’s health status, the spread of COVID-19 in the
community (e.g., cases or positivity rate), or attendance at large gatherings. We encourage residents to discuss
these and other risks with their families and nursing home staff. Nursing homes should educate residents and
families of the risks of leaving the facility, the steps they should take to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-
19, and encourage residents to stay connected with loved ones through alternative means of communication,
such as phone and video communication. For examples of ways to connect with residents, refer to
memorandum QSO-20-28-NH. Should a resident ultimately choose to leave the nursing home, CMS is
providing the following recommendations:
• Limit close contact (maintain physical distancing of six feet or more), keep gatherings as small as possible,
and use technology to engage with others remotely;
• Wear facemasks or cloth face covering at all times (including in cars, homes, restaurants, etc.);
• Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items;
• Keep safe around food and drinks. Avoid communal serving utensils, passing of food, potluck or buffet
style food service, and instead opt for individually prepared plates by a single server;
• Perform hand hygiene often (e.g., wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer);
• Avoid large gatherings, crowded areas, and high-risk activities such as singing;
• For those attending a gathering, avoid contact with individuals outside of their household for 14 days prior
to the gathering;
• Ask anyone who has signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or has been exposed to someone diagnosed with
COVID-19, to not attend the gathering;
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• If possible, conduct gatherings outdoors. Indoor gatherings should have good ventilation, open windows
and doors if possible;
• Verbally greet others instead of shaking hands or giving hugs. Think ahead about how you will manage
to prevent physical interactions with loved ones of different ages such as young children; and
• Check local conditions and state requirements for precautions and restrictions, including positivity rates
and quarantine requirements, before crossing state lines.
CMS has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on these recommendations,
and we encourage you to review CDC’s webpage on holiday celebrations, which has more suggestions for
preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Note to nursing home staff: Staff should also use extra caution, especially during the holidays. Staff should
follow the same recommendations for residents and families regarding gathering with their families and friends
outside of work to protect the vulnerable residents they care for.
Additionally, while the above actions can greatly reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, due to the highly
contagious nature of the virus, we recommend nursing homes take the following actions when residents return
to the nursing home:
• Screen and increase monitoring for signs and symptoms.
• Test a resident for COVID-19 if signs or symptoms are present or if a resident or their family reports
possible exposure to COVID-19 while outside the nursing home. A nursing home may also opt to test
residents without signs or symptoms if they leave the nursing home frequently or for a prolonged length
of time, such as over 24 hours. For more information on testing guidelines see CMS memorandum
• Place the resident on transmission-based precautions (TBP) if the resident or family member reports
possible exposure to COVID-19 while outside of the nursing home, or if the resident has signs or
symptoms of COVID-19 upon return. Please note that residents and loved ones should report to the
nursing home staff if they have had any exposure to COVID-19 while outside of the nursing home.
• Consider placing residents on TBP if they were away from the nursing homes for more than 24 hours.
As we progress through these challenging times, we express our sincere gratitude for everyone doing what they
can to help protect nursing home residents. CMS’ mission is to safeguard the health, safety, and quality of life
for America’s nursing home residents. While this year’s holiday celebrations will undoubtedly be different
than previous years, together we can still find safe ways residents can enjoy the holidays with family and