Medicare to Nursing Homes: Follow COVID Guidelines During the Holidays

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is calling on nursing homes to double down on COVID-19 safety protocols during the holiday season.

Published December 8, 2020

Follow our Medicare Coronavirus News page for related information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on Medicare beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a message for nursing home residents, staff and visitors: Happy holidays, and follow COVID-19 guidelines. 

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The CMS recently urged nursing homes, which have been among the most high-risk facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, to tighten up protocols during the holiday season when visits are expected to increase. 

Those guidelines include face coverings, six feet of social distancing and limiting the number of visitors

“The approaching holiday season remains fraught with danger for the vulnerable residents of America’s nursing homes. They and their families — along with facilities themselves — must not let their guard down over the holiday season, especially with a safe and effective vaccine so close to reality.” - Seema Verma, CMS Administrator1

How is Medicare keeping nursing homes safe from COVID-19 during the holiday season?

The CMS is recommending that nursing home facilities find innovative ways of recognizing the holidays without parties or large gatherings that could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

The CMS also acknowledged residents’ rights to leave the facility temporarily during the holidays to visit with family and friends but urged extra precautions to reduce the spread of the pandemic.

Medicare is also urging nursing homes to double down on testing requirements and for nursing home staff to educate residents and their families about the risks of leaving the facility, the steps they should be taking to reduce their risk and encouraging the use of alternative means to stay connected to loved ones. 

As of Nov. 15, there had been almost 70,000 COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents in the U.S., which has accounted for roughly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths nationwide. Almost 332,000 cases had been confirmed in nursing homes as of Nov. 15, with another 165,000 suspected cases. 

Nursing home residents and health care workers are slated to be among the first in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available right around the new year.

Learn more about Medicare coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.


1 CMS. (Nov. 18, 2020). CMS Urging Nursing Homes to Follow Established COVID Guidelines This Holiday Season [press release]. Retrieved from


About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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