Nursing homes can now lift most COVID-19 restrictions on visits

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CVS and Walgreens Begin Administering, COVID Vaccines at Nursing Homes. The companies are working together under a deal with the federal government. Walgreens has started to provide the vaccine at nursing homes through on-site clinics in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio. CVS pharmacists are giving the vaccine to nursing home residents and staff in Connecticut and Ohio. Staff from the companies in other states will begin administering the vaccine in long-term care facilities next week. Nursing home residents account for less than one percent of the population in the U.S. But coronavirus-related deaths in long-term care facilities account for nearly 40 percent of the total COVID-19 U.S. death toll. On Dec. 18, the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. was nearly 311,000 people

On Friday, the federal government instructed nursing homes to relax visitation restrictions that were put in place to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, The Associated Press reported. Nursing homes were placed on lockdown in March of 2020, preventing residents from seeing their loved ones until early this spring.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ new guidance says that nursing homes must allow visits at all times and that facilities will no longer be able to require advanced scheduling or limit the frequency or length. Nursing homes will also not be allowed to limit the number of loved ones and friends who can visit residents.

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However, the federal guidance encourages residents, families and facility staff to remain vigilant against outbreaks. Visitors who have tested positive for COVID or meet the criteria for quarantine should not enter. It is also noted that the safest approach for everyone, vaccinated or not, is to wear a mask while in communal areas of the facility.

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This “doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over and that COVID is not circulating,” Jodi Eyigor, director of nursing home quality and policy for LeadingAge, told The Associated Press. “The nursing homes, the residents and their loved ones are all going to have to work together to make sure that visits are occurring and they are occurring safely.”

CMS reports that 86% of nursing home residents are vaccinated and that positive cases among residents and staff are declining.

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