Families with loved ones in nursing homes in St. Louis County got some good news when it was announced they will be able to have indoor and outdoor socially distanced visits.
“I am announcing the county is adopting the new state guidelines for long term care facilities which allows many of them to open to socially distanced visitors,” County Executive Dr. Sam Page announced on Sept. 30.
The County is adopting the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) new plan for long-term care facilities. It provides guidance for long term care facilities to establish Essential Caregiver programs and it allows facilities to begin indoor socially distanced visits.
Page said efforts by public health employees to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in long term care facilities have been working and has received state and federal recognition.
“We know that loneliness and isolation can be critical problems for these residents, and a visit from a family member can really make a big difference,” he said.
In a Sept. 22 memo from DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams, it says each facility will make the final decision on establishing an Essential Caregiver program or to allow visits. Long term care facilities should also have a policy in place to determine how the activities can be expanded without jeopardizing the health of the residents.
Under the state guidelines, facilities that have not had any cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents, or those that have not had a facility-acquired case in the past 14 days can allow indoor visits for residents who do not or are not suspected to have COVID-19, or who have been released from isolation.
Residents, their guardian or legal representative may to designate up to five visitors, total. The guidelines allow two persons inside at a time, by appointment. Social distancing spaced at least 6 feet apart, hand hygiene before and after each visit is required for both the resident and the visitors, as well as the use of a cloth face covering or facemask for both the resident and the visitors. “In the event a resident cannot safely wear a cloth face covering or facemask, a plastic partition or plexiglass barrier may be considered to prevent the spread of virus.”
Long term care facilities are advised for indoor visits, “create indoor spaces for residents in a room that is easily accessed without visitors traversing through the building and that is not accessible by other residents,” the memo states.” Allow visits in the resident’s private room if the resident is bedbound and for health reasons cannot leave their room. Any visitors to resident’s private rooms must utilize full PPE, including a gown, mask, and gloves at all times while in the facility. This PPE may be provided at the facility’s expense.”
Outdoor visits may occur in any facility for residents who do not or are not suspected to have COVID-19 or who have been released from isolation. The memo states: “Outdoor visits should be limited to only residents who are: COVID-19 negative or asymptomatic and not suspected to have COVID-19; or previously COVID-19 positive but have been released from isolation.”
St. Louis County requires all our long-term care facilities to quickly report every COVID-19 case among residents and staff, along with every hospitalization and every death tied to the disease. Page said, “This reporting remains a crucial part of our ability to suppress the spread of COVID in these facilities and to fight the spread of COVID in our community.”
Read more about the DHSS guidelines for visitation at long term care facilities during the pandemic at https://tinyurl.com/yxun5ft2.