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Pennsylvania DOH Releases Reopening Guidance for Nursing Homes

July 16, 2020
Healthcare Consulting By Terry Raser, Senior Consultant

On June 26, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) released a 12-page notice on guidance for nursing homes on reopening.




The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have put restrictions into place for nursing homes due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. PADOH is now providing three-step guidance for nursing homes to reopen safely.

There are two primary components for SNF reopening:

  • Reopening prerequisites, requirements, and criteria; and
  • Reopening “Steps”

According to PADOH, “The prerequisites and requirements define the capability and capacity that an individual facility must have to enter reopening.” The “Steps” give guidance to “resume communal dining, activities, volunteers, non-essential personnel, visitors, and outings in a measured approach.”

The “Steps” are intended to strike a balance between protecting residents’ physical and mental health.

Prerequisites and Requirements

If not done so already, the facilities with significant COVID-19 outbreaks would be surveyed by PADOH.

The prerequisites include developing a reopening implementation plan before entering Step 1. There are multiple criteria to meet. These include the completion of baseline testing, administration of COVID-19 testing within 24 hours for residents showing symptoms, procedures for addressing needed testing for non-essential staff and volunteers, and addressing testing for those residents or staff that decline or are unable to be tested.

Additional prerequisites include:

  • A plan to cohort or isolate COVID-19 residents in accordance with PA-HAN 509
  • Written screening protocols
  • A plan to ensure adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • A plan to ensure adequate staffing
  • A plan to allow communal dining and activities to resume
  • A plan for visitation
  • A plan to halt all reopening if the county in which the facility is located reverts to the state’s “red” phase

Initial Reopening Criteria

To reopen at Step 1, the facility must meet all prerequisites. To immediately advance to Step 2, the facility must meet all prerequisites and have no COVID-19 cases for 14 consecutive days. After entering Step 2, if the facility is free from COVID-19 cases for an additional 14 consecutive days, the facility may advance to Step 3. At any point in the 3-step process if there is a new facility case of COVID-19, the facility is required to cease reopening.

The 12-page notice released by PADOH also covers requirements for activities, dining, visitation, non-essential personnel, and outings for each step in the reopening phase.

For guidance in implementing your facility’s reopening plan or help with writing and/or reviewing your existing infection control policies and procedures, LW Consulting, Inc. has a certified Infection Preventionist ready to assist you.


For more information, contact TRaser at 484-365-2680 or email

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