Calling the coronavirus (COVID-19) “one of the most significant challenges” in the histories of the skilled nursing and assisted living professions, Mark Parkinson, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) president and chief executive officer (CEO), announced new guidance issued by the association in early March to its members on temporarily restricting visitors to facilities and other steps to keep residents and staff virus-fee.

The AHCA/NCAL instructions were quickly followed by nearly identical guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on how best to limit and screen the number of people coming into buildings where some of the most at-risk individuals to the coronavirus live.

“As every day unfolds, it is clearer that the skilled nursing and assisted living sector is facing one of the most significant challenges in our histories, and that is because the evidence is overwhelming that the mortality rate [from COVID-19] for those who live in our buildings is shocking,” Parkinson said at a press conference.

He said to face this direct threat to skilled nursing and assisted living community residents, AHCA/NCAL and its two respective boards approved “bold action” to limit visitors in the face of an unprecedented health scare from the coronavirus.

The first recommendation is for buildings to actively screen visitors, be they family members, contractors, or health officials by asking questions about international travel and any symptoms present in visitors like cough, fever, and sore throat. If a visitor displays symptoms or has the virus, the individual would not be allowed in, according to the AHCA/NCAL guidance.

The second step to protect residents from the virus and contain an outbreak, if one occurs, is to strongly encourage facilities to limit visits to those who are essential to the health of the residents and/or the operation of the building, which includes limiting friends and family visits. It also includes visits from people such as outside activity directors not essential to the care of residents.

Parkinson said the initial feedback from member facilities is positive for limiting visits in order to prevent the virus from spreading into a facility.

Deborah Meade, AHCA board chair and CEO at Health Management, a Georgia skilled nursing and assisted living provider, said her residents and families were “overwhelmingly” in favor of following the AHCA/NCAL and CMS restrictions.

“We have also cancelled all activities from the outside to come in. But we are still offering activities,” she noted, pointing to increased Bingo games as one of many ways to keep residents happy and engaged as they become educated on the new rules in place for the time being.

Other steps providers can take to keep abreast of the latest on the coronavirus outbreak is to monitor all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance at and listen to an AHCA/NCAL webinar on the industry and government response to the coronavirus at

Please go to for additional information, and mail with any questions.
To view CMS’ guidance for nursing centers, go to