NEW JERSEY – Residents looking to visit family members over the spring holidays may be able to do so, as the indoor visitation guidelines have been relaxed statewide.
The new rule is that visits are allowed at most times regardless of the vaccination status of the resident or visitor. The exception to this rule is that visits should be limited if there is a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“As the spring holidays approach, we know it is essential for the health and well-being of long-term care residents that they visit with their loved ones,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The Department continues to work to balance expanding visitation while working to safeguard these vulnerable residents. But, the significant drop in outbreaks and the increasing vaccination rates are hopeful signs for residents, families and staff that allow us to adopt the federal guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).”
The state said that fully vaccinated residents can choose to have close contact (including touch and hugs) with a visitor if both the visitor and resident are wearing a well-fitting face mask. Compassionate care, essential caregiver, end-of-life visitation, and outdoor visitation can be permitted even when indoor visitation is otherwise restricted because of COVID-19 transmission.
However, other situations might change this. Part of this is based on a calculation called a CALI score, or COVID-19 Activity Level Index. Each long-term care facility would have one.
If the score is high and less than 70% of all residents are fully vaccinated, indoor visits should be limited for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents. Indoor visitation of unvaccinated residents can take place regardless of CALI score if 70% of the residents in the facility are vaccinated. Currently, there are 367 facilities that meet that criteria.
Indoor visitation should also be limited for residents under quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine, the health department said. Indoor visitation should also be limited for residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue precautions.
If a new case of COVID-19 is found among residents or staff, the facility should immediately begin testing and suspend visitation. There is additional guidance available online (nj.gov/health/) on how this should be done and when the ban would be lifted.
Before allowing indoor visits, facilities must attest that they have certain protocols in place, such as informed consent, designated meeting locations, sufficient staff, personal protective equipment and disinfection plans.
Commissioner Persichilli also announced a new initiative to vaccinate long-term care staff and residents and to offer education/outreach and vaccination to staff who have been hesitant to get vaccinated.
“Vaccination among residents is high, however only about half of long-term care staff have chosen to get vaccinated,” said Commissioner Persichilli. “We have provided webinars, videos and materials in multiple languages, but a new outreach effort is underway to offer education and vaccination.”