CMS on Wednesday released new guidelines for nursing homes that permit "responsible indoor visitation" regardless of vaccination status of the resident or guest in most cases, although outdoor visits remain preferable when possible, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Arkansas, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.
- Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Tuesday signed into law one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the United States, prohibiting nearly all abortions in the state—with the exception of procedures conducted to the save the life of a fetus or mother. The new law does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Under the bill, performing or attempting to perform an abortion is considered an unclassified felony, punishable with a fine up to $100,000 or a prison sentence. Hutchinson said the law is "in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court" and that the purpose of the law is "to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law" (Diaz, NPR, 3/10; AP/CBS News, 3/10).
- District of Columbia: The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on Tuesday announced Northwell Health has donated the empty vial that contained the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered in the United States. In December 2020, Sandra Lindsay, an ICU unit director at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Medical Center, became the first person in the country to receive Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials. The museum said Northwell Health also donated Lindsay's hospital ID badge and scrubs. The museum said the acquisition is part of the museum's effort to document the Covid-19 pandemic and "this extraordinary period we were going through" (Ruane, Washington Post, 3/9; Khalil, Associated Press, 3/9).
- Maryland: CMS on Wednesday released new guidelines for nursing homes that allow visitors to enter the facilities regardless of whether they or the residents have been vaccinated, except in limited scenarios—such as when a guest is seeing an unvaccinated resident in an area with Covid-19 positivity rate of 10% and fewer than 70% of the building's residents have been fully vaccinated. CMS in the guidance "continues to recommend facilities, residents, and families adhere to the core principles of Covid-19 infection control, including maintaining physical distancing and conducting visits outdoors whenever possible." However, the guidance states fully vaccinated residents "can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting face mask and performing hand-hygiene before and after" (Weiland, New York Times, 3/10; Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, 3/10; Christ, Modern Healthcare, 3/10).