Nursing homes in West Virginia return to allowing visitors today, but only under restricted conditions.
Gov. Jim Justice announced a week ago that nursing home visitations could resume. It is a phased-in plan.
“We know the people in our nursing homes are the most vulnerable of all,” Justice stated. “So we’ve got to have a plan that phases-in visitation, while doing so as fast as safely possible.”
Starting today, if a nursing home has had no active COVID-19 cases for at least the past 14 consecutive days, visitation will be permitted to resume, with certain restrictions in place.
But the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, noted that not all facilities will be opening because of the level of virus spread in their communities.
Visitors are asked to call the long-term care facility to find out if they are accepting visitors and to schedule an appointment prior to arriving.
“While we will rejoice to see our residents reunited with their loved ones, we ask all visitors to remember that the COVID-19 virus still poses a significant threat and to be respectful of the safeguards that our facilities have in place during this phased visitation,” stated Mary Wright, chief executive of the association.
The Department of Health and Human Resources’ coronavirus dashboard still lists two West Virginia nursing homes with outbreaks.
One, Sundale Nursing Home in Monongalia County, is listed with 40 residents testing positive for coronavirus and 30 of those now considered recovered. There have been five deaths there.
Another, Eldercare Health and Rehabilitation in Jackson County, is listed with 71 residents testing positive for coronavirus and 53 recovered. There have been 15 deaths there.
There were 11 deaths at Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center in Kanawha County, but there is no active outbreak there now, according to DHHR.
Most West Virginia nursing homes are not listed with any cases at all.
Up to now, nursing homes have been in Phase Red, which requires screening of everyone who enters a facility and screening of all residents every day. No non-essential personnel were allowed in. That also has meant no communal dining and no group activities.
Facilities with no covid-19 cases over 14 days may move to Phase Yellow. Screening continues. Appointments will be required to visit any nursing home. Group activities and communal dining may resume with social distancing measures.
Limits to visitors include no more than two at a time, visits taking place in designated locations and social distancing requirements such as wearing facemasks and maintaining six feet distance.
Phase Green, which would occur after another 14 days of no instances of covid, continues screening and loosens up visitation standards.
There is also a Phase Blue, designated if two or more residents test positive or if there is substantial community spread. That would again keep visitors out and limit communal activities and group dining.
Visitations to nursing homes were among the first restrictions West Virginia put in place as a coronavirus precaution. On March 12, Justice asked for all nursing homes to ban visitation to their facilities.
Now, family members in West Virginia may begin to see their loved ones again.
“Long-term care facilities are eager to help reunite residents with families,” stated Wright of the West Virginia Health Care Association.
“In recognition of the large number of loved ones who will be scheduling visits in the coming days, facilities are prepared to do their very best to accommodate all requests. We ask that visitors please be patient with facility staff and recognize that there may be time limits on visits in order to accommodate everyone over the next few days.”
Stonerise Healthcare, which has 17 facilities in West Virginia, said many of its skilled nursing centers would welcome in-person visitors right away, but a few are delaying visitation until next week because of community spread of covid-19.
“While we look forward to welcoming visitors back to our centers, we want to caution that this will initially be a slow, deliberative process that includes limitations in order to protect the safety of all patients,” stated Larry Pack, chief executive of Stonerise.
“We certainly look forward to reuniting our patients with their loved ones as in-person visits with family and friends are critically important to the vitality of our patients and especially to our long-term patients.”