By STEPHANIE EBBS and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The federal government announced Wednesday that its rules for visiting nursing homes are being relaxed, citing a rise in vaccination numbers among the population.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services said facilities should allow “responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor.”

There are three exceptions: if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated; if a resident contracts the virus; or if a resident is in quarantine.

CMS cited the more than 3 million doses that have been administered within nursing homes as the main factor behind the new rules.

“Now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and the number of COVID cases in nursing homes has dropped significantly, CMS is updating its visitation guidance to bring more families together safely,” Dr. Lee Fleisher, the chief medical officer and director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, said in a statement.

The new guidance also stresses that “compassionate care” visits, which include visits for residents “whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances,” should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status.

The agency stressed that families should adhere to COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, mask wearing and conducting visitations outside if possible.

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