Healthcare facilities in states that have seen enough of a decline in COVID-19 cases to reach the Phase II criteria for reopening their economies should begin offering nonemergent, non-COVID-19 care, the Trump administration said Monday.
According to new guidance released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), even as those healthcare facilities open access they should continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and optimize telehealth services to reduce the need for in-person services. Patients at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness should continue to be advised to shelter in place.
Facilities should also ensure they have the ability to quickly respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases, if necessary.
"Those needing operations, vaccinations, procedures, preventive care, or evaluation for chronic conditions should feel confident seeking in-person care when recommended by their provider," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a statement.
Health systems and physicians practices closed their doors to elective procedures and nonemergent care in the midst of shelter-in-place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-April when CMS issued its Phase 1 recommendations, healthcare facilities have begun slowly testing the waters by reopening elective procedures on a state-by-state basis. Last month, CMS issued further recommendations to nursing homes telling them they should be among the last to reopen.
The guidance released Monday covered a range of topics to ensure patient and clinician safety including facility considerations, testing and sanitation protocols, personal protective equipment and supplies, and workforce availability. When it comes to the reopening, CMS advises health facilities to continue to follow federal, state and local orders as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
A new patient guide was also released Monday, advising patients to continue utilizing telehealth but not to feel unsafe if they need to seek in-person care.