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Today’s COVID-19 Report: CMS & Ohio Respond 

Today’s COVID-19 Report: CMS & Ohio Respond 

CMS Memo Expanded to Include Guidance on Safe Visitation, PPE Use in Nursing Homes

Late on Monday night, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released updates to a memo regarding steps nursing homes should take to limit transmission to and within their communities. The memo included guidance on visitation policies, noting that nursing homes should restrict, limit and/or discourage visitation.

  • Restricting means the individual should not be allowed in the facility at all, until they no longer meet criteria described in the memo. These criteria are:  
    • Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
    • In the last 14 days, has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, or under investigation for COVID-19, or are ill with respiratory illness.
    • International travel within the last 14 days to countries with sustained community transmission. 
    • Residing in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring.
  • Limiting means the individual should not be allowed to come into the facility, except for certain situations, such as end-of-life situations or when a visitor is essential for the resident’s emotional well-being and care. CMS recommends limiting visitation for facilities that are in counties, or counties adjacent to other counties where a COVID-19 case has occurred. Right now, that pertains to only Cuyahoga County. 
  • Discouraging means that the facility allows normal visitation practices (except for those individuals meeting the restricted criteria), however the facility advises individuals to defer visitation until further notice (through signage, calls, etc.). CMS recommends discouraging visitation for all other counties nationwide.

The memo also includes guidance on communicating with families, safe visitation, and how to revise their interactions with vendors, volunteers, and other groups to minimize the possibility of transmission.

Finally, the memo makes it clear that following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization (EUA) expanding the use of certain industrial respirators to health care personnel is appropriate in Medicare/Medicaid certified providers and suppliers, and that surveyors should not cite a provider that has been unable to secure necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), despite its best efforts.

CMS Releases Hospice Memo on COVID-19

Late Monday night, CMS provided guidance for hospice agencies on COVID-19, which closely mirrors previous guidance provided to nursing homes on how to screen for and manage suspected cases of COVID-19. The memo includes recommendations on monitoring the health status of patients, residents, visitors, volunteers, and staff under their care for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Much of the guidance pertains to hospice inpatient units, noting that hospices should screen visitors immediately upon arrival to hospice inpatient units, following the same four criteria used to identify potential COVID-19 cases:

  • International travel to a country with sustained community transmission,
  • Signs or symptoms of respiratory infection, such as fever, cough and sore throat,
  • Contact with someone with or under investigation for COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or
  • Residing in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring.  

Unlike nursing home guidance, hospices should determine whether to conduct diagnostic testing versus presuming a positive, in coordination with the patient, family and local health authority. Additionally, the memo outlines protocol for individuals with known or suspected COVID-19 who reside at home.

LaRose Relocates Polling Places in Senior Living Communities

Mentioned during the Governor's press conference yesterday and in a recorded statement on Monday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that Ohio’s polling places located in nursing facilities and senior living communities would be relocated for the March 17 primary election a week from today.

Secretary LaRose followed up on that with a press conference today, where he stated that 128 polling places would be affected by the relocation, and that Ohio’s county Boards of Elections would be reaching out to polling locations regarding these changes.

We are encouraging all providers who currently serve or planned to serve as a polling location to reach out to their county Board of Elections to ensure proper guidance. 

Additionally, LaRose encouraged early voting via mail for older adults (absentee ballots are available until this Friday, March 13), and also fielded questions regarding whether older poll workers should resign their positions for the election, encouraging younger Ohioans to fill their shoes.   

DeWine Convenes Long-term Care

Governor DeWine and ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton held a press conference today, where he outlined recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio, including barring spectators from indoor sporting and spectator events, encouraging faith leaders to limit gatherings, and requesting higher education be moved to online platforms, to the extent possible.

LeadingAge Ohio leadership joined a conference call with the governor and the director, and were encouraged to limit visitation within their facilities and congregate events like Easter egg hunts, instead opting for socialization via videoconferencing technology (Skype, FaceTime, etc). Additionally, Director Acton announced a COVID-19 hotline (1-833-4-ASK-ODH) and website (

Dr. Acton shared that ODH would be hosting additional conference calls in the future, to communicate updates to a wider group of long-term care providers.

Assisted Living Guidance

Visitor limitation is also at the forefront of guidance for assisted living communities. Recommended measures include asking residents to encourage their family and friends not to visit at this time, limiting access into the community, establishing a sign-in policy at the access point, and other steps.  

For additional information and resources on the virus, visit the American Health Care Association’s dedicated website on this issue.

Templates for Family, Staff Communications

LeadingAge Ohio has created template communications for the following:

Counties affected or adjacent to COVID-19: Sample Resident Letter, Sample Family Letter, Sample Staff Letter, Sample Visitor Vendor Notice, Template Press Release.

Counties not affected or adjacent to COVID 19:Sample Resident Letter, Sample Family Letter, Sample Staff Letter, Sample Visitor Vendor Notice, Template Press Release.

LeadingAge, LeadingAge Ohio Strategize Gatherings, Events

LeadingAge has been asked whether its Leadership Summit scheduled for Sun, Apr 19 – Wed, Apr 22 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC will go on as planned. At this time, LeadingAge is monitoring the situation, but the event remains scheduled until further notice. 

LeadingAge Ohio staff met today to review upcoming education and networking events. At this time, all events are being held as planned, but LeadingAge Ohio staff will continue to monitor as the situation evolves, and reach out to those individual attendees in the event of a cancellation or change of format.


LeadingAge Ohio continues to monitor the situation, and will provide the latest updates directly to members as we receive them. Members questions may be directed to Patrick Schwartz, Director of Strategic Communications at for direction to appropriate staff and resources.


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Our national partner, LeadingAge, is an association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging. Together, we advance policies, promote practices and conduct research that support, enable and empower people to live fully as they age.