More in-person visits allowed at nursing homes in North Carolina

Nursing Home Visitation Restrictions Being Relaxed –

Facilities should continue to regularly vaccinate new admissions and staff, and should adhere to CMS regulations and guidance for COVID-19 testing, including routine staff testing, testing of individuals with symptoms, and outbreak testing. And they arrived as more than 3 million vaccine doses had been administered in nursing homes, the agency said.

"There is no substitute for an in-person visit, even in nursing homes that have gone to extraordinary lengths to support residents and find creative ways to keep them connected with loved ones throughout the pandemic", Sloan said.

The recommendations say "compassionate care visits", including when a resident is nearing death, should be allowed at all times. One of these is if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.

When the first vaccinations in the US started in mid-December, nursing homes were put at the top of the priority list. But since the arrival of vaccines, new cases and deaths in nursing homes have fallen steeply, outpacing national declines, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

Why? Because there is still much to be learned about the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer.

The nursing home guidance, issued by CMS in coordination with the CDC, acknowledges the pandemic's harrowing impact on some of the nation's oldest and frailest people, who make up nursing home populations.

Fully vaccinated visitors of fully vaccinated residents are now allowed to have brief, limited physical contact - such as a hug, holding hands or helping the resident with with feeding or grooming. CMS also underscored that maintaining 6 feet of separation is still the safest policy, and outdoor visits are preferable even when residents and visitors have been vaccinated.

Visitors should be counseled about their potential to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in the facility if they are permitted to visit.

The recommendations, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with comment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the first revision to the federal government's nursing home guidance since September. That protocol is in place regardless of whether the visitor has been vaccinated. Visits can resume in other parts of the facility if there are no positive tests there, but if cases are discovered in other areas, nursing homes should suspend all visits. This continues to be the safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly if either party has not been fully vaccinated. According to the American Health Care Association, there has been a 90% drop in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes in the last three months, an astounding statistic that exemplifies the safety and effectiveness of the newly-approved vaccines.