Nursing homes, assisted living facilities update restrictions as more residents receive vaccine

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The push to protect New Mexico’s older adults with vaccines in well underway, but there are still questions about how vaccinations will impact visitation rules for people living in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

The State Aging and Long-Term Services Department has held dozens of COVID vaccine clinics across the state and distributed more than 11,000 doses so far.

“This now empowers them to get back to a normal, even if it’s a new normal,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, who heads the department.

“Our seniors are able to take control of their lives—and this is not just nursing facilities. These are seniors that may be homebound or afraid to go out, or have compromised immune systems,” she added.

In late December, people living in long-term care facilities received the state’s first doses of the COVID vaccine. Residents and staff in all 309 facilities across the state were offered the first dose within the first month.

“A small department that has just, you know, 236 employees but an aging network that is, you know, has over 300 senior centers has accomplished a lot,” Hotrum-Lopez said.

As of Friday, 65% of nursing home residents in New Mexico are full vaccinated, as well as more than 80% of residents in assisted living facilities.

The department has more vaccine clinics planned through the end of March.

The state also recently sent out new visitation guidelines, which can vary depending on the type of facility, where it’s located, how big it is, ventilation, population, and county positivity rates.

“Even this vaccine is not one magic bullet, you know. We still need to keep people safe. You still need to have people wearing their masks and staying six feet apart,” Hotrum-Lopez said.

As more residents and their loved ones get vaccinated, New Mexico’s seniors will slowly but surely be able to take part in the activities they love and miss so much.

“They were able to say COVID is not going to take us, and so we’ll get vaccinated,” Hotrum-Lopez said.