Delaware nursing homes can resume in-person visits, with restrictions

Long-term care facilities that haven’t had a new case of the coronavirus in 14 days will be allowed to resume indoor visitation, which has been banned since March.

(Kacso Sandor/BigStock)

(Kacso Sandor/BigStock)

For nearly six months, family and friends have been unable to visit their loved ones living in Delaware nursing homes.

In June, some facilities were able to submit plans to the state to allow outdoor visits, but indoor gatherings have been off-limits — until now.

“For the residents and the families, this has been very difficult for all involved,” said Corinna Getchell, director of the state Division of Health Care Quality.

Starting Sept. 8, long-term care facilities that have not had a new case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days can apply for the second stage of visitations. Getchell said the department has issued guidance that will help health care facilities apply for permission to allow certain types of gatherings under each stage of the state’s long-term care reopening plan.

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Stage two allows indoor visitors in a designated room near the entrance. Guests can have no physical contact with the person they’re visiting and must maintain six feet of social distancing. Residents would also be allowed to resume communal dining and group activities that can be done with social distancing. They would only be allowed to leave the facility for medically necessary trips.

Also next week, facilities that have not had a case of the coronavirus for 28 days can apply for stage three visitations. Under stage three, residents would be allowed more leeway to leave the facility for trips that are low risk for causing infection. Low-risk activities that would be permitted include things like going for a scenic drive. High-risk activities like dining indoors at a restaurant or gatherings involving more than 10 people would not be allowed.

Stage three will also allow the return of a support person to offer care.

“The support person would come into the facility to do things that they have done for the resident prior to the pandemic to provide support to the resident,” Getchell said. “They can provide direct care and emotional support to the resident, such as helping them set up meals, or bathing, grooming, like direct services.”

The coronavirus has been especially deadly for residents in long-term care facilities. Even though facility residents in Delaware account for just 7% of all Delaware coronavirus cases, they make up more than 60% of the state’s COVID-19 fatalities.

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Earlier this week, AARP called on the state to improve transparency and publish a daily report on both cases and deaths in nursing homes. Currently, the state issues that information on a weekly basis. The group also urged the state to give broader access to virtual visits for families.

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