People wanting to visit their loved ones residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be able to starting August 29, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced Monday.
This will be the first time visitors have been allowed into long-term care facilities since March 31.
MDH’s latest guidance assigns levels to nursing homes and assisted living facilities according to the number of reported COVID-19 cases over a 28-day period. If any facility experiences active cases or exposure in the past 28 days, they are ranked “Level 1.” If not, they are “Level 2.”
“Level 1” facilities must adhere to restrictions similar to those currently in existence: outdoor and window visitations only, social distancing between all residents, no trips off of facility property, personal protective gear (PPE) for staff, and medical screenings twice a day.
The difference for facilities ranked “Level 2” is that residents are allowed visitations without social distancing and some trips off of facility property. Visitors must wear face coverings but do not have to wear PPE. Hugging is allowed “with faces turned;” however, kissing and holding hands are prohibited.
The MDH explained that the “unintended harms of social isolation” was “an urgent priority” in their recent decision to reconsider visitation guidelines. Additionally, they cited a concern with a sizable decrease in the number of maltreatment reports, which occur when loved ones are able to visit and identify any potential maltreatment.
“Residents have been isolated for months, and that presents significant risks for their emotional and social well-being,” said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “This guidance helps facilities keep their COVID-19 guard up while taking cautious steps toward ensuring residents have more social connections and interaction.”
In the first two months of state-imposed pandemic guidelines, no visits of any kind were allowed. Then on June 12, the state allowed for “window visits” where visitors could walk up to residents’ windows; five days later, the state also allowed outdoor visits. However, both types of visits were limited by mandatory six feet of distance and face coverings for both the visitor and resident.
Two weeks ago, the MDH released “Long-term Care COVID-19 Response Update” with data indicating that the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths in congregate care facilities have been in decline since the end of May. Half of the nursing homes and 77% of the assisted living facilities in the state had no reported cases throughout the pandemic.
The MDH plans to monitor outbreaks of the coronavirus following its new guideline.
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