People who are fully vaccinated can gather with others who have been vaccinated inside without wearing masks, according to new guidance issued Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, COVID visitation restrictions at long-term care facilities in New Jersey will remain in effect for the time being.

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During the Monday coronavirus update in Trenton, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said while her department is “extremely sensitive to the issues of visitation in long term care,” the CDC did not recommend any specific changes, so current rules in New Jersey, that rely on coronavirus case numbers in a region to determine whether visitations are allowed, still stand.

In recent days, there has been a growing call from caregiver relatives, including the group Family Advocate Care Experience for Seniors, to allow long-term care visitations when the residents and their close relatives have been fully vaccinated because the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death is dramatically reduced.

Persichilli, however, noted facilities that care for the elderly pose a significant challenge.

“We can’t ignore the fact that there are still active outbreaks and during an active outbreak, movement within the facility should be restricted," she said.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan pointed out that “these aren’t just necessarily enclosed private households — there’s movement and mobility from staff coming in, there’s also turnover of residents as well.”

She added when dealing with long-term care visitation, a nuanced approach is necessary.

“There is a need to weigh the risks and benefits of isolation with the public health aspects,” said Tan. “How do we look at these scenarios in a very thoughtful manner?”

Persichilli noted the Health Department recommends essential care-giving and compassionate visits be allowed in long-term care settings

“And those definitions are not just for end-of-life,” she said. “If someone is in significant mental distress, emotional distress, that perhaps lends itself to a compassionate care visit.”

Persichilli said her department is encouraging facilities to take a case-by-case look, taking into account an individual's family and support.

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