Federal health officials encourage nursing homes to resume allowing indoor visits

Federal health officials encourage nursing homes to resume allowing indoor visits
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released new guidance for nursing homes on Wednesday that allows them to resume indoor visits. 

Facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor,” except under certain conditions, CMS announced, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials in releasing the updated guidance “recognized that physical separation from family and other loved ones has taken a physical and emotional toll on residents and their families,” according to a statement.

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CMS said the new guidance comes after three million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been distributed to nursing home residents. 

Ages 65 and over have been among the first to get the coronavirus vaccines, since the CDC warns that age group is at higher risk of health complications and death if they catch the virus. 

An analysis in the New York Times recently found that COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents fell 80 percent from the end of December to the beginning of February, after residents started getting shots.

CMS still recommends facilities use social distancing, masks and outdoor visitation when possible. If it is not possible to do outdoor visitation, then indoor visits are acceptable.

CMS does not recommend that visitors be required to show vaccination or testing proof to enter facilities.

Indoor visitation isn’t recommended for any person if they have COVID-19 or are under quarantine, according to CMS. If a person is unvaccinated, they also shouldn't have visitors if the county has a 10 percent positivity rate of COVID-19 or less than 70 percent of other nursing home residents are vaccinated, the guidelines state.

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Even if there is a coronavirus case in a facility, that does not mean a nursing home should cut off all visitation, CMS said.

The guidelines recommend that such facilities stop visitations until everyone is tested. If the outbreak is contained in one area, visitations can continue to happen in other areas of the facility, CMS suggests. However, if testing reveals there is more than one case or the is in multiple areas of the facility, all visitation should stop.

For patients who are on their death bed or whose health starts to take a turn for the worse, “compassionate care visits” are recommended no matter the circumstances.