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Alabama Nursing Home Association responds to end of statewide mask mandate

According to NNHA, new COVID-19 cases in Alabama nursing homes have gone down 93% from their high point, starting at the end of 2020.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama’s statewide mask mandate has officially expired. But, the state’s Nursing Home Association says their visitation policies have not changed.

Officials say making the choice to wear your mask everyday can help their residents.

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We met with John Matson, Communications Director of the Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA). He tells us, “Everything is going in the right direction right now in state nursing homes. Cases are down, vaccinations are up, and we’re starting to resume visitations.” 

According to NNHA, new COVID-19 cases in Alabama nursing homes have gone down 93% from their high point, starting at the end of 2020. They say that point was from December 20, 2020 to the week of February 21, 2021. Matson says the statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network. 

John Matson tells us a big reason for the progress is the vaccine rollout. He says all state nursing homes have had three vaccination clinics. Matson adds, “All of our nursing homes are starting to do vaccinations on a case by case. So, if you hire a new employee and they want the vaccine, we’ve got it to where a pharmacy can come and administer it. If you have a new resident who wants the vaccine, we can bring it to them… There are several long-term pharmacies around the state that now have access to the vaccine. So, it’s as simple as our nursing homes sending and email or picking up the phone and arranging for the vaccine to come.” 

When it comes to visitation, things haven’t changed. You still need to wear a mask if you’re visiting a state nursing home. Matson says, “This is simply the nursing home trying to protect your loved one and everyone that’s living at the nursing home as well as the staff. They have to comply with federal regulations.”

The nursing association does have a message about wearing your mask, even outside state homes. John Matson says, “Science has proven that when there’s a COVID outbreak in the community, there’s a COVID outbreak in the nursing home in that community one to two weeks later. So, we’ve still got to remain vigilant until COVID is fully gone. If there’s an outbreak in that community, there’s an outbreak in the nursing home. Then the home will have to close visitation. That’s what we absolutely don’t know want to do. We want to keep our doors open for visitation. So, even though the masks are not mandatory, we still encourage Alabamians to wear a mask when they want to, wear a mask when they need to. You need to always exercise caution because what you do could have an impact on a friend or a family member’s ability to visit their loved one in a nursing home.” 

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