As the COVID-19 virus continues to ravage its way through the country and world, local nursing home residents and their families are looking to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for hope in reuniting them amid a pandemic that could be deadly for those with underlying health conditions.

“We understand that this has been a very difficult time for nursing home residents and their family members,” says Seema Verma, Director for CMS.

Recently, CMS updated their guidance to include reopening guidelines. The guidelines start with a baseline of testing all residents and staff, along with residents and staff having face coverings. North Dakota is one step ahead of the guidance, having already begun testing of all long-term care residents and staff for the virus.

“We want to make sure that nursing homes and states have a plan to reopen these nursing homes so we can reunite these residents and their families,” Verma says.

In addition to the reopening plans, the guidelines provide flexibility for state and local officials to make decisions on reopening at a more local level.

CMS has also changed the requirements on reporting COVID-19 information. Previously, states had only notified their local and state health offices. Now, nursing homes are required to report information about COVID-19, in terms of deaths and infections, directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.