ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 06: A view of the sign of Center for Disease Control headquarters is seen in Atlanta, Georgia, United States on August 06, 2022. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Credit: Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images)

Assisted living communities should follow infection prevention strategies based on COVID-19 hospital admission levels, according to updated guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC updated its guidance last week ahead of the expiration of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency. The updates, which also apply to group homes and other residential care settings where “staff provide non-skilled personal care similar to that provided by family members in the home,” were made to “reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity” and the availability of treatments and prevention tools. The guidance also includes setting-specific considerations.

With the ending of the PHE, the CDC no longer will receive data necessary to publish community transmission levels for SARS-CoV-2, which were used to provide recommendations for the broader use of masking in healthcare facilities. 

Instead, the agency now recommends that assisted living, group homes and other residential care settings — excluding nursing homes — follow community prevention strategies based on COVID-19 hospital admission levels to guide their prevention decisions. This guidance is similar to that provided to independent living, retirement communities and other non healthcare congregate settings.

The guidance also recommends that residents be educated on ways to protect themselves and others, including masking if they are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease.

In addition, visiting or shared healthcare personnel who provide care to one or more assisted living residents — such as those providing physical therapy, wound care, IV injections or catheter care — should follow the infection prevention control recommendations for healthcare personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same recommendations apply to staff members who provide services for residents who have COVID-19 infections. 

Assisted living has more flexibility

The CDC revised its COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidance for healthcare settings in September, offering assisted living the option of following either the recommendations for COVID-19 healthcare settings or the more flexible congregate care setting recommendations. The ultimate decision comes down to how a state categorizes assisted living communities, the agency said.

Senior living experts welcomed the revised guidance at the time, saying that it provided more flexibility for providers to respond to current local conditions.

The earlier guidance also indicated that, in general, long-term care settings, including assisted living communities, where staff members provide non-skilled personal care should follow community prevention strategies based on COVID-19 community transmission levels, similar to what independent living and other non healthcare congregate settings do.

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