Nursing homes and hospice care facilities were among the hardest hit during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, they've struggled to keep their residents and caregivers safe, even in a time when most businesses were ordered to shut down.

When COVID-19 vaccinations were first introduced in December 2020, many saw what they thought was light at the end of the tunnel. It turns out they were right.

On Tuesday, March 23rd, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission made a major announcement expanding visitation and lifting restrictions to nursing facilities across Texas.

Fully vaccinated residents at nursing homes, assisted living centers, and long-term care facilities will now be able to meet visitors in person; that includes family members and friends, even if they're not designated as essential caregivers.

Nursing facilities will still need to adhere to basic COVID-19 guidelines like social distancing and mask-wearing, but they no longer need to request general visitation approval from the HHSC or require a negative COVID-19 test for visitations.

The new guidelines come just two weeks after Governor Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate and capacity restrictions on businesses, allowing Texas to open 100 percent.

This week, Governor Abbott also confirmed that the state's Save Our Seniors vaccination program has been expanded to 25 more counties for its fourth week of operation. Those counties are:

Caldwell, Camp, Crockett, Delta, DeWitt, Duval, Fayette, Hidalgo, Hunt, Jim Hogg, Kimble, Llano, Lynn, Maverick, Milam, Montague, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Sherman, Starr, Titus, Tyler, Val Verde, and Zapata.

So far, the Save Our Seniors program has been implemented in 88 of 234 counties in Texas, and is still prioritizing vaccinations for those over the age of 80 and seniors who are unable to leave their homes or otherwise can't get to a vaccination appointment.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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