March 17, 2021
Dear Residents and Family Members,
Over the past two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released various recommendations and guidance related to visitation in long-term care settings, as well as broad recommendations for individuals not residing or working in healthcare settings. Many of those recommendations were reported on by the news media as being applicable across-the-board, rather than with clarification that there were some settings to which it did not apply, such as assisted living. We expected the Minnesota Department of Health (“MDH”) would update their guidance for organizations such as ours, and asked you for a bit more patience as we made some changes to our policies.
Today, we are truly happy to share that we have received the long-awaited updated guidance from MDH that much more clearly describes protocols to be followed in long-term care settings (including assisted living) with respect to both visitation and non-medically necessary outings by residents. The updated guidance is very welcome to all of us, and it provides clarity on what is recommended (and allowed by MDH) for our residents, family members, and staff. The following is a brief summary of both guidance documents:
• Regardless of vaccination status, we are to continue the measures of infection control to mitigate the spread of the corona virus, as well as other pathogens, including screening of all visitors, continuing to practice proper hand hygiene, wearing of facemasks, practicing social distancing, regularly cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, and other measures.
• Visits should be held outdoors whenever feasible.
- Vaccinated residents can have visitors in their apartments (units) without staff monitoring.
- Visitors will still be screened prior to entering the building.
- Visitors are still expected to practice social distancing and wear a facemask when in the building.
- Visitors are still expected to comply with protocols.
- Residents and visitors can have “brief” physical contact (hug) so long as a facemask is worn by all parties.
- Vaccinated residents no longer need to be quarantined if they leave the building for nonmedically necessary outings. Some examples include the following:
- Car rides (facemasks are to be worn by everyone in the car).
- Visits at a family member’s home.
- Going to church, shopping, or out to a restaurant.
- Residents, and anyone with the resident, are expected to wear a facemask whenever possible during these outings, regardless of vaccinated status.
• Since our resident vaccination rate is greater than 70% and our county case rate is below 10%, unvaccinated residents can have visitors in their apartments (units) similarly to vaccinated residents.
• Unvaccinated residents are still required to be quarantined for 14 days if they leave for non-medically necessary outings.
This is a summary of some of the significant points in the guidance documents. The actual guidance documents can be found at:
Needless to say, this is very welcome news for everyone and are so excited to really begin the process of reuniting residents with their loved ones in truly meaningful ways.
We need to emphasize that this virus has not been eliminated; our country is still seeing far too many cases of the virus and we need to continue to be vigilant in order to truly free ourselves and completely open up without jeopardizing the health of our seniors and other vulnerable people. It is unknown how effective the current vaccines and/or prior infection status protect against infection (or transmission) of the U.K., Brazilian, and South African; these variants are in Minnesota and surrounding states. Therefore, it will take everyone’s effort and vigilance to keep our residents and employees healthy and safe, so that our doors can remain open to family and friends.
We have already begun the process of making changes to our operations to effectively implement these changes related to visits and outings, however, it may take some time to work out some of the details. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to either the Director of Health Services or Director of Resident Services if you have any questions regarding this exciting update.
Sincerely, Paul Abzug