Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in Retirement Communities and Independent Living Facilities

Guiding Principles to Keep in Mind

Many people living in retirement communities and independent living facilities are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 because:



  • Risk increases with age, and/or

  • They may have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.


They also may be at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus because of retirement community and independent living facility characteristics, such as frequent social activities, group dining facilities and other communal spaces, community activities, and shared transportation. The more people a resident or worker interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.


The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in retirement communities and independent living facilities settings as follows:


Lower Risk for this Setting: Residents do not spend time in each other’s individual living spaces, and most communal areas (e.g., cafeteria, activity room) are closed. Workers and residents remain at least 6 feet apart at all times, undergo daily health screenings, and wear cloth face coverings correctly. Non-essential volunteers and visitors are not permitted.


More Risk for this Setting: Residents do not spend time in each other’s individual living spaces. Individual residents may use properly ventilated communal areas (e.g., dining room) or participate in small group outdoor activities, but they remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Workers, residents, volunteers, and visitors remain at least 6 feet apart at all times, undergo daily health screenings, and wear cloth face coverings correctly. Non-essential volunteers and visitors are permitted, but limited.


Higher Risk for this Setting: Residents spend significant time indoors together, possibly in each other’s living spaces as well as in communal areas. They may not consistently remain at least 6 feet apart, nor wear cloth face coverings. They also frequently spend time in the larger community (e.g., traveling together to attend public events). Non-essential volunteers and visitors are not restricted.


COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people cough, sneeze, or talk. Someone can also get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own nose, mouth, or possibly their eyes. COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as frequent handwashing, social distancing, and staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection, as well as use of cloth face coverings are important principles that are covered in this document. Fortunately, there are a number of actions administrators can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread in their communities and at their facilities.


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