As of March 24, more than 14% of the U.S. population has received full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine. This intervention coupled with other strategies used to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — such as mask-wearing and social distancing — has helped to decrease COVID-19 cases across the country. That decrease has led some to ask whether or not other protocols put in place because of the pandemic, specifically temperature and health screenings at health care facilities, are still necessary.
This question was recently posed to The Joint Commission by a member of the health care community. The Joint Commission pointed the asker to a resource on temperature and health screening requirements from the federal government and for individual states.
Health care facilities should be adhering to their state and local requirements for health and temperature screenings as it is the law. For instance, Alabama lists temperature and health screenings as a recommended best practice, while California does not have a requirement for temperature screenings but does have a requirement for health screenings should an employee present COVID-19 symptoms. If a state does not have requirements for either category, health care facilities can generate their own policies.
Although temperature and health screenings may differ state by state, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has instituted a nationwide policy regarding access to health care facilities for federal and state surveyors, whether vaccinated or not.
As accrediting organizations such as The Joint Commission begin resuming accreditation surveys, CMS issued a clarification that states: “Federal and state surveyors are not required to be vaccinated and must be permitted entry into facilities unless they exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Surveyors should also adhere to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, and adhere to any COVID-19 infection prevention requirements set by state law (refer to QSO-20-39-NH). While we recognize this is a [nursing home] specific memo, this would also apply to all providers and suppliers.”