After nearly a year in lockdown, nursing home residents can participate in indoor visitation, communal dining and group activities — with exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

The agency has published detailed guidelines on when and how to safely proceed with the reopening and renewed activities.

Key takeaways on visitation:

  • Visitation is not advised when the positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents are vaccinated; and for residents of any vaccination status who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 or are in quarantine.
  • Facilities in outbreak status should follow state and local guidance on when to pause visitation, and visitors should be counseled about their risk of exposure.
  • Full vaccination for visitors is always preferred, when possible.
  • Visitors should be screened and restricted from visiting if they have a current SARS-CoV-2 infection or are otherwise subject to COVID-19 quarantine guidance.
  • Visitors should wear a mask or respirator in most situations, but can choose to have close contact and to remove masks and other personal protective equipment when with the resident they are visiting. Fully vaccinated residents may also choose to have close contact with the visitor.
  • Facilities should have a plan to manage visitation and visitor flow.
  • Visits should ideally not be conducted in shared rooms.

Key takeaways on communal activities:

  • If the vaccination status of patients, residents and healthcare workers cannot be determined at the time of an activity, all participants should follow COVID-19  infection prevention and control practices.
  • Privacy should be maintained when asking about vaccination status.
  • If all residents participating in an activity are fully vaccinated, then they may choose to have close contact and to not wear source control.
  • If unvaccinated residents are present, all participants in the group activity should wear masks and unvaccinated residents should physically distance from others.
  • Fully vaccinated residents can participate in communal dining without using masks or physical distancing.
  • Unvaccinated residents should use masks when not eating, and remain socially distanced.
  • Residents planning social excursions outside the facility should be educated about the potential risks of public settings, particularly if they have not been fully vaccinated. 

On-site communal activities among healthcare personnel:

  • Fully vaccinated healthcare personnel should continue to wear personal protective equipment while at work, except while dining and/or socializing together in break rooms, or when conducting in-person meetings without source control or physical distancing. 
  • Everyone should wear source control when unvaccinated workers are present, and the unvaccinated workers should physically distance from others. 

For industry reaction to the news and further context, read McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ breaking story on the new guidance.