Federal health officials issued guidance on Wednesday easing nursing home visitation restrictions as a significant portion of those living in nursing homes have become fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The updated guidance from the Centers for Medicate and Medicaid Services says facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or visitor.
The federal guidance says there are still several situations when visitations should be curtailed:
- If the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated, unvaccinated residents should not accept visitors.
- Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions.
- Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.
Exceptions to the above guidelines can be made in instances of “compassionate care” when a resident’s health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances.
“CMS recognizes the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents and their families,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, CMS chief medical officer and director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “That is why, now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and the number of COVID cases in nursing homes has dropped significantly, CMS is updating its visitation guidance to bring more families together safely. This is an important step that we are taking, as we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of transmission of COVID-19.”
American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living CEO Mark Parkinson said there has been a 90% drop in coronavirus cases in nursing homes in the last three months.
“While we are still reviewing the guidance, the indication that nursing home residents can visit with their loved ones is welcome news that we fully support,” Parkinson said. “It has been nearly one year to the day since visitors were restricted from nursing homes, and now thanks to the vaccines, we cannot wait to safely reopen our doors. Our dedicated staff members have done an extraordinary job filling in for loved ones and adapting visitations during this difficult time, but nothing can replace engaging with family members in-person. The health and wellbeing of our residents will improve thanks to this important guidance.”