Visitation Restrictions to Ease at Long-Term Care Facilities

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       The Tennessee Department of Health has announced that they are launching three new initiatives regarding long-term health facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living, in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

       “The health and safety of vulnerable Tennesseans, especially our long-term care residents, remains our top priority, and our comprehensive and persistent efforts to protect this population from COVID-19 have saved lives,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “It’s time to reunite residents and their families in a safe and disciplined manner so we can better balance the physical and emotional needs of older Tennesseans.”

       The changes include expanding options for visitation, relaxing restrictions on resident interactions, and the creation of a task force for long-term care.

       Visitation: Beginning October 1st, facilities which have seen 14 days without a new COVID-19 case among residents or staff will be allowed to allow outdoor or limited indoor visitation. The visits will mandate wearing masks, physically distancing, disinfecting the environment, and possibly the testing of those visiting.

       Once a facility goes 28 days without a new case, caregivers who assist facilities with activities such as feeding, bathing, or dressing will be allowed to the facilities if needed.

       Should a facility see a positive test, they will have to revert back to waiting 14 days in the clear before resuming the visitation expansion.

       Interactions Among Residents: Also on October 1st, residents will be allowed to eat together and take part in activities together. This will include visits from non-healthcare workers such as barbers and beauticians. As with expanded visitation, these activities will only be allowed for residents who do not have COVID-19 in facilities that have had no new cases in at least 14 days. Facilities must maintain strict infection control practices, including use of masks, physical distancing and capacity limits.

       Task Force: The COVID-19 Long-Term Care Task Force will be in charge of developing and implementing policies to address issues facing long-term care health facilities. The task force will be comprised of numerous state agencies, such as the Department of Health, TennCare, and several others. Residents and their family members will also be included on the task force. The task force will be in charge of monitoring the safety and effectiveness of the new initiatives explained above.

       Additional information about these initiatives is available online at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/healthcare-providers.html under Long-Term Care Facility Guidance as “Increased Visitation” and “Activities and Dining”. Administrators and staff members at these facilities, including Waynesboro Health & Rehab and Boyd Cottages, will be working during the next two weeks to prepare to implement the new guidelines. Tennesseans with loved ones in a long-term care facility are encouraged to contact the facility to learn more about their specific policies and procedures for visitation to help make their plans for visiting.