Pandemic Restrictions Relaxed for Fully Vaccinated Nursing Home Residents:
With an eye to supporting residents’ physical, mental, and emotional health, a new DOH directive signals a return to normal.
The continued decline of new COVID cases and hospitalizations and the increase in the numbers of people vaccinated has led the New Jersey Department of Health to release new guidelines for nursing homes, according to articles on nj.com and wobm.com.The new DOH directive, taking its cue from updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, looks to promote more normalcy in residents’ daily lives, provided they are fully vaccinated.
Generally, for those residents who have received full inoculation against COVID, communal dining and group activities can be engaged in without the need for masks or social distancing. The following outlines some of the changes that will happen as a result of the DOH directive:
- Masks—During contact among fully vaccinated persons, masks are no longer required
- Gathering Closely—Residents and visitors can opt to have close contact, including hugging, without needing to wear masks, provided they are fully vaccinated
- Communal Activity and Dining—An activity or dining that involves all fully vaccinated residents can take place without distancing or the wearing of masks
- Staff Testing—Routine COVID testing, a requirement over the past few months, will no longer be necessary for fully vaccinated staff members
- Non-Essential Personnel—The reintroduction of non-essential personnel, such as hair dressers, is permitted if facilities have safety protocols in place and if these workers are screened and wear masks
- Volunteers—Those who volunteer their time entertaining, conducting activities, and coordinating visitation may once again be admitted into facilities, provided they follow protocols
The relaxation of restrictions has been inspired by the effectiveness of vaccines, says state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. Referencing the NJ state database for COVID-19, the nj.com article states that currently 82% of residents and 58% of workers are fully vaccinated. Deaths are down 80% since February, and represent just under 7% of what NJ COVID deaths were in January, when a second wave of the coronavirus hit the state.
More than 8,000 NJ nursing home residents and 144 staff members died from COVID, numbers which accounted for half of the state’s coronavirus deaths. According to nj.com, there are 197 current outbreaks in the state’s facilities, a number the article attributes to stagnant vaccination rates among staff, a number of whom have demonstrated vaccine reluctance.
The pandemic restrictions relaxed for fully vaccinated nursing home residents allows interaction between vaccinated and unvaccinated residents or visitors. The DOH guidance says that, although close contact, and even touching, is permissible, both parties need to be wearing a mask.
Ensuring the Safety of Your Loved One
Determining the quality and safety of the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives is essential. Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet health and safety standards requirements and to ensure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Should you have concerns about the quality of care in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.