The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released new guidelines allowing Americans who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 the flexibility to socialize and engage in routine activities, even among people who have not yet been vaccinated — another important step toward what a post-pandemic landscape would look like.
The announcement is viewed as a welcome development for senior living providers that were already gradually relaxing restrictions on visitations at communities as vaccination drives accelerate, as well as industry groups that have been calling on the CDC to review guidance in light of the efficacy of the vaccines.
The CDC defines “fully vaccinated” people as individuals who are two weeks past their final dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. These people face little risk visiting people indoors, without the need for masks or social distancing, even if those individuals are unvaccinated. The new guidelines “would free many vaccinated grandparents who live near their unvaccinated children and grandchildren to gather for the first time in a year,” The Washington Post noted.
The new guidelines can be used by state and local public health departments to review their own guidance and relax restrictions that have been in place for nearly a year in some states, American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) President David Schless told Senior Housing News.
ASHA and other industry groups have maintained communications with the National Governors Association (NGA) throughout the pandemic and vaccination efforts, and there is a growing assessment among many governors that their own guidance is outdated. Most states imposed tighter restrictions on personal movements as the third wave of Covid-19 cases flooded the country last fall. The proven positive impact of vaccines in long-term care settings opens opportunities to revisit restrictions on visitations, which would be beneficial for residents struggling with isolation for the past 12 months.
“States are aware of the detrimental impact of the inability to visit loved ones,” Schless said. “We have an opportunity to revisit the policies.”
Schless’ optimism was shared by other industry groups, which echoed his calls to revisit restrictions.
“This progress reinforces how significant Covid-19 vaccines are to offering new hope to older adults – and that we can’t forget those who are in residential care settings, like nursing homes,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement. “We hope to see additional guidance from CDC and CMS specifically for long-term care that will ease restrictions in a way that is safe.”
The CDC guidance will be helpful as providers determine what “fully vaccinated” means to them, Argentum President & CEO James Balda said in a statement.
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“It is essential for vaccinated senior living residents to be able to visit with family and friends, so any recommendations that support such visitation are welcomed,” he said.
Providers are optimistic that the CDC’s announcement will spur action at the state and local levels, and lead to more uniform guidelines that offer providers a more clear roadmap toward further relaxing restrictions.
Charter Senior Living, which operates 24 communities in 11 states, will continue to refer to state public health guidance in loosening its restrictions, Vice President of Health and Wellness Stephanie Pfingsten told SHN.
“We will continue to adjust our [restrictions] as we can, as more new guidance becomes available,” she said.
Wickshire Senior Living is hopeful that the new guidance will lead states to reconsider their own restrictions, Vice President of Clinical Operations Maggie Dewey told SHN.
“However, we will continue to follow both state guidelines and CDC recommendations moving forward,” she said. “We want to open as quickly and as safely as possible for our residents and their loved ones.”