Visitation Ban Lifted!

Visitation Ban Lifted

After six months of social isolation during the pandemic, the Governor lifted the visitation ban so people can finally visit in nursing homes. But they’ll have to meet outside with no physical contact for safety purposes. The rules require visitors and residents to stay 6 feet apart while in special outdoor visitation areas. Facilities can also use three-sided Plexiglas booths to let people visit closer together.

Not sure how they will prevent no hugs and kisses! It has been a long six months for family and friends of residents. There is a limit to two visitors for only 15 minutes. More time if you provide a negative COVID-19 test in the past five days or a positive COVID-19 antibody test in the past 30 days. These past months have caused stress, frustration and anxiety. The small amount of time is better than nothing. Families fear about their loved ones in nursing homes.

Safety Measures

Unpopular Republican Gov. McMaster announced new guidelines for nursing home visitation. McMaster said the new guidelines will require the “constant” testing of every staff member, resident and visitor. Guests must pass a temperature check. The guidelines are available on DHEC’s website. Check the “Nursing Homes” resource webpage.

For many residents, the lack of contact has been dangerous and damaging to their mental health. The new guidelines appear to be a safe first step if facilities comply with the safety rules. Testing, monitoring, scheduling and communication must be involved with strict health guidelines.

A facility’s ability to allow visitation depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the following:
  • Existing cases of the virus within the facility
  • Facility’s staffing capabilities and PPE availability
  • Facility’s ability to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) testing requirements.

The new guidelines depend on cases in the community, availability of PPE, and continued testing. If three or more positive cases are found in staff or residents in 14 days, visitation must be suspended for another 14 days until there are no cases at the facility. COVID-19 deaths never did decline significantly in South Carolina with the seven-day average failing to drop below 26 deaths a day since July 17.

These guidelines are based on the most recent CMS guidance for reopening nursing homes, CDC guidance for COVID-19 in nursing homes, and DHEC’s long-term care facility testing guidance.  However, critics worry that politics prevailed over science. Experts worry another spike will happen if people are not vigilant about masks, social distancing, hand-washing and other safety measures. I know many of my clients are happy to see the visitation ban lifted but I am concerned about compliance with safety measures.