Assisted living communities should follow the same infection prevention and control procedures as retirement and independent living communities in most cases, according to updated federal guidance related to the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s changes focus on source control (face masks), SARS-CoV-2 testing and quarantine for fully vaccinated residents. 

The CDC now recommends that assisted living communities follow the guidance for retirement communities and independent living — for the most part. When healthcare is being delivered, however — including by home health agencies or by staff members in the case of a COVID-positive resident — assisted living communities should follow the recommendations for nursing homes, the agency said.

Even as long-term care facilities resume normal practices, they should maintain core infection control practices and remain vigilant for SARS-CoV-2 among residents and staff members, to protect against severe infections, hospitalizations and death, the guidance states.

The face mask recommendations address limited situations for communities located in counties with low to moderate transmission of the virus. The updated guidance states that select, fully vaccinated individuals could choose not to wear face masks but that in general, “the safest practice is for everyone in a healthcare setting to wear source control.”

Revised quarantine recommendations for fully vaccinated residents who have had close contact with a COVID-positive individual more closely align with recommendations from the community at large, the agency said.

The updated guidance also clarifies the suggested intervals for testing asymptomatic healthcare workers who have had higher-risk exposure to the coronavirus. Also, the CDC said, the work of staff members without symptoms does not need to be restricted if the staff members are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

Although the updates do not substantially change recommended practices, the CDC said that they “clarify, consolidate and simplify” existing healthcare guidance.