With new nursing home guidelines, card games with grandpa are back, regardless of your vaccination status

March 13, 2021

You can hug your vaccinated grandpa and stay to play cards with him at his nursing home, even if you haven't been vaccinated, according to new Covid-19 guidance for nursing homes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The guidance goes into effect immediately.

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These recommendations are a little different than the ones released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for fully vaccinated people in the general population, which allow meeting indoors in small groups without masks or physical distancing -- even for the elderly.

Vaccinated or not, nursing home residents are still a fragile patient population, so infection control is important, says CMS. For nursing home residents and visitors, even if vaccinated, CMS still wants people to wear a well-fitted face mask, wash hands and try to keep physically distant, a spokesperson for the agency said in an email. But the new CMS guidelines offer many other new freedoms.

"CMS recognizes the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents, and their families," Dr. Lee Fleisher, said on the agency's website. Fleisher is CMS chief medical officer and director of CMS' Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. "This is an important step that we are taking, as we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of transmission of COVID-19."

Under the new guidance, visitors don't need a Covid-19 test result to see family, nor do they need to show proof of vaccination. The guidelines strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated though.