Federal government relaxes rules for nursing home visitations

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The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services said facilities should allow "responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor".

While VDH and the Task Force understands the milestone these updated recommendations represent, we remind Virginians that it is critical that facilities, healthcare personnel, residents and visitors remain vigilant by continuing to follow infection control recommendations such as wearing a well-fitted cloth mask or facemask, physical distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet between people), hand washing, staying home when sick, and wearing appropriate PPE.

Indoor visitation for unvaccinated residents should be limited exclusively to compassionate care situations if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is 10% and 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.

Under the new guidance, homes in counties with high rates of COVID-19 can still have indoor visits, provided they take precautions. The guidance also says to limit visits if residents have Covid-19 or are in quarantine.

CDC statistics say 98.2 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 62.4% of the population over age 65 receiving one dose and 32.2% of that age group being fully vaccinated.

The change comes as COVID-19 cases and deaths among nursing-home residents have plummeted in recent weeks at the same time that vaccinations accelerated. However, Virginia's progress in the vaccination of residents and healthcare personnel can mitigate some of these risks, and public health officials understand that expanding visitation has substantial benefits to residents.

There is about to be an explosion of grandparents visiting grandchildren and getting hugs in nursing homes.

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According to the American Health Care Association, which represents 14,000 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, about 1.3 million people live in USA nursing homes.

We recently visited one Lafayette assisted living facility, where visitation is expected to begin again on March 17 after all the residents received their vaccines.

Beyond those caveats, nursing home visits will be allowed in Alabama.

Compassionate care visits should be allowed at all times, the guidance said, even if there's an outbreak or a resident is unvaccinated.

Infection control has always been a challenge for nursing homes, and many facilities also are short on staff. Visitors should be encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. They should be permitted even when a resident is unvaccinated, the facility has a covid-19 outbreak, or a community has high infection rates. New federal guidelines for fully vaccinated people and residents of nursing homes move them toward some semblance of normalcy after a year of confinement inside pandemic bubbles.

The American Health Care Association announced last week that covid-19 cases among its member facilities had declined 82 percent since late December to early February.

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