CDC Says We Can Finally Make Indoor Nursing Home Visits

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
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Get ready to give your nursing home grandmas a giant bear hug!

More good news is coming out this week regarding the pandemic — after an entire year of not being able to see our loved ones who reside in nursing homes in-person, the CDC is now relaxing federal COVID-19 guidance for visits.

Under most circumstances, health officials now say even unvaccinated visitors and nursing home residents can be allowed to meet in-person. Not through FaceTime, not outside a window — but IN PERSON. Cue sobs from all of us who have desperately missed seeing and hugging our family members this year.

“Facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents (regardless of vaccination status), except for a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, said in advice issued Wednesday.

Residents who are fully vaccinated can also enjoy a hug from family members, which is very happy news indeed. Nursing homes have been utterly devastated by the pandemic, with many states having shockingly high numbers of COVID deaths in long-term-care facilities. Nursing homes have been on strict lockdown for most of the past year, and many family members have had to get creative and talk to their loved ones via FaceTime or during outdoor window visits.

Residents themselves have been more isolated than ever before. How wonderful it will be for them to see familiar faces once again.

“There is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one,” CMS said in its new guidance, “Therefore, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting face mask and performing hand-hygiene before and after.”

The latest guidance does recommend that indoor visits should be limited in cases where an unvaccinated resident is in a county where the COVID-19 positivity rate exceeds 10% and fewer than 70% of the facility’s residents are fully vaccinated. Other exceptions are for residents confirmed to have COVID-19 — regardless of their vaccination status — and residents who are in quarantine.

Earlier this week, the CDC issued exciting new guidelines for vaccinated grandparents everywhere: it’s time to hug those grandbabies!

A fully vaccinated person can officially spend time around unvaccinated family and friends providing those people are low risk for severe disease. Additionally, fully vaccinated people can be indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing if they are around other fully vaccinated people. These new guidelines mark the first federal public health guidance that’s been given for people who are vaccinated in the U.S. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they’ve received their final dose of the vaccine.

“As more Americans are vaccinated, a growing body of evidence now tells us that there are some activities fully vaccinated people can do,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during the White House press briefing this morning.

“[People who are fully vaccinated] can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, and refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic,” the new CDC guidance states.

According to the CDC, early 63 million Americans — which is nearly 19% of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 10% have been fully vaccinated. Approximately one-third of Americans 65 years or older have been fully vaccinated.

It was announced Wednesday that President Biden ordered an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in case of “unexpected challenges” in fighting the pandemic.

In the meantime, I personally cannot wait to full-on body tackle my 84-year-old grandma as soon as possible — she’s already fully vaccinated and as of April 6, I will be too. The closest I’ve gotten to her is outside the window of her nursing home’s recreation room since February of last year. For many people across the U.S., the latest nursing home guidance is such a joy to hear.

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