Covid-19 has been incredibly difficult for many reasons. It has affected each of us in deep and profound ways, and no population more than those residing in facilities. They represent our most vulnerable population and continue to pay an enormous price as this pandemic continues. A huge impact has been due to the separation from friends and family. This has left many feeling lonely and isolated. To address this, there is an effort to balance the safety and physical well-being of residents with a compassionate visitation policy that would consider mental and emotional well-being.
There has often been confusion and changes regarding Covid-19 policies, and we continue to learn more as time goes on. We wanted to give you the latest information so that you will be aware of the current policies, with the understanding that it could change in the future.
CMS requires that staff and residents be tested. For those who are showing symptoms, they must be tested and quarantined until the results come back. In the case of an outbreak, everyone must be tested every 3-7 days until there are no new cases for 14 days. Routine testing will be based on the extent of the virus in the community and the county positivity rate the week before. For counties with a positivity rate of greater than 10%, testing must be done twice a week. For 5%-10% positivity rates, testing must be done once a week, and below 5% testing will be done once a month. Visitor testing is not required, however, if the facility is in a medium to high positivity county, the facilities are encouraged to test visitors if possible. Facilities may encourage visitors to be tested on their own, within 72 hours of visiting, and provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result and the date of that test.
Facilities who have not had a new case in 14 days and are in a county with a positivity rate of less than 5% are required to offer visitation unless there is a clinical reason or resident safety factor prohibiting it. These could include the facility’s Covid-19 status, Covid-19 status of the resident, visitor’s symptoms, lack of adherence to proper infection control practices, or other related factors. Facilities should limit the number of visitors for each resident, the number of visitors in the facility at one time, limit movement within the facility, and the duration of the visit. For counties that have a 10% or higher positivity rate, visits are not allowed except in the case of compassionate care visitation.
These include but are not limited to the following:
- A recently admitted resident, who was living with their family before and is struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support.
- A resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently passed away.
- A resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking, previously provided by family and/or caregiver(s), and is experiencing weight loss or dehydration.
- A resident, who used to talk and interact with others, is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently (when the resident had rarely cried in the past).
Outdoor visits pose less of a risk and are therefore encouraged whenever possible. All infection control practices such as temperature checks, masks, hand sanitizing, and distancing are still required. Facilities may limit the number, size, and duration of visits. Window visits and visits facilitated by programs such as Zoom or FaceTime should still be possible. Check with your facility regarding the availability and to schedule these visits.
If you feel access to your loved one is being unreasonably denied, you may contact your county’s long-term care Ombudsman.