SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is preparing to relax restrictions on visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities as the spread of COVID-19 wanes and more people get vaccinated.

Aging and Long Term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez announced the new guidelines Wednesday in a news release regarding outdoor and indoor visitation.
Under changes that take effect Friday, the outdoors is still preferred for visiting residents of long-term care facilities because it poses a lower risk of virus transmission. But previously prohibited indoor visits will be allowed with rules on room size and occupancy. “We are seeing cases decrease and more people are choosing to protect themselves and their loved ones by receiving the vaccine,” Hotrum-Lopez said in a statement. “This means facilities can safely start to offer in-person visitation options to their residents and their loved ones.”
Prohibitions and tight restrictions on visitors were put in place last year amid dozens of deadly virus outbreaks at congregate living facilities for the elderly and disabled.

Under the new guidelines, fully vaccinated residents can choose to have close contact with visitors, including hugging or holding hands. Masks and hand sanitizing is still required.
Nursing homes will in some instances return to communal dining and social activities.
If an outbreak hits a facility, visits may be put on hold.

State inspectors who act as advocates for the residents of long-term care facilities also will be returning to in-person visitation. The state expects to complete a third round of vaccination clinics at long-term care facilities by the end of March.