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Alabama nursing homes welcome relaxed regulations allowing indoor visitation

State and federal authorities have relaxed restrictions on nursing home visitation in recent days. The changes were welcomed by the Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA).

Governor Kay Ivey last week increased the number of visitors a nursing home resident could receive from one to two.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released updated guidance on Wednesday that recommended allowing responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents.

“We are pleased the federal government recognized the decrease in COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and revised the visitation restrictions to benefit residents and families,” ANHA president and CEO Brandon Farmer said in a release.

CMS says visitation should be allowed regardless of whether the visitor or resident is vaccinated, though the agency did provide three categories of people for whom visitation is not appropriate:

• Unvaccinated residents if; 1) the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent; and 2) less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
• Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
• Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

The decision to resume indoor visitation comes as cases of COVID-19 have fallen in Alabama and across the nation. Additionally, the elderly citizens that reside in nursing homes were among the first to be made eligible for the coronavirus vaccines.

The White House announced on Thursday that nearly three-quarters of Americans age 75 and over have gotten at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Recommendations remain that visitors and residents wear masks and undergo temperature screenings before an in-person visit.

“We are encouraging all our members to follow the new guidance and increase visitation opportunities when appropriate,” concluded Farmer.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.