Industry leaders are stressing that nursing homes and other long-term care operators should practice caution this holiday season to prevent setbacks on progress made earlier this year to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“Even though you may feel fine, more than half of people who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and the people you encounter at the Thanksgiving table or out at the grocery store may work in a nursing home or assisted living community,” David Gifford, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said in a statement Thursday. 

David Gifford, M.D.

“Wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing not only protects you, but it is a sign of respect for our elders and our health care heroes who care for them,” he added. 

Both AHCA/NCAL and LeadingAge have called on providers to review new guidance regarding holiday gatherings issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Older adults are among the groups the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said should avoid in-person holiday events.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said COVID-19 restrictions for nursing home residents will not be eased for Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season. The agency is also considering issuing more guidance on the issue.

“We understand everyone wants to see their family and friends during the holidays, but we really need to consider our parents and grandparents who are living in our nation’s long term care facilities,” Gifford said. 

A new analysis of COVID-19 data among nursing home residents showed that weekly cases have quadrupled from the end of May to late October in 20 states. Weekly cases among staff members more than quadrupled during the same period.

The association added that providers “must take every necessary precaution to minimize the risk of an outbreak.”

“Long-term care facilities cannot lose the progress we’ve made to reduce COVID rates. In order to protect vulnerable seniors and long term care staff, members of the public must do their part to keep the virus from spreading. Exercising caution around holiday gatherings is one way Americans can help our communities stay COVID-free,” AHCA/NCAL stated.