Restrictions on visiting nursing homes are lifted, a pandemic milestone

Nursing homes are now able to lift most visiting restrictions, a relief for residents and families.

Marty Wright

“It’s great from the standpoint of getting loved ones back in touch,” said Marty Wright, chief executive of the West Virginia Health Care Association.

The loosening is the result of a federal directive issued Friday: “Visitation is now allowed for all residents at all times.”

Nursing homes and assisted living centers shut down visitation in the spring of 2020 as covid-19 swept the country. Since then, restrictions have been eased gradually.

Now, federal guidance is to allow visits at all times for residents.

“The pronouncement from the federal government is that visitation is now allowed for all residents at all times,” Wright said. “In essence, we’re kind of getting back to where we were 21 months ago before the pandemic happened to allow family members to meet with their loved ones in facilities without having to schedule.”

As the holidays approach, the greater flexibility for visitation is welcome news for residents and families, Wright said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“It’s great from the standpoint of getting loved ones back in touch, hugging, seeing each other, coming back in and out of facilities freely. It’s kind of an adjustment to the new norm we kind of live in now, with the pandemic. As we saw over the past 20-some months, that emotional connection really is necessary not only just for care but also for a person’s well-being.

“Now as we come upon Thanksgiving, the holidays, it’s welcome news to be able to say to everyone, listen, you can go see your loved one now without restriction; you don’t have to call ahead. Go visit, enjoy your loved one, especially with the holidays coming up.”

There are still some precautions in place for visitation. Visitors who have not been vaccinated should still wear a face covering in facilities. Visitors with a positive test for covid-19 or symptoms of covid-19 are advised not to enter facilities.

“Everyone still has to maintain proper infection control measures,” Wright said.

West Virginia placed early emphasis on vaccinating residents and staff at assisted living facilities.

The federal government cited national data that 86 percent of residents and 74 percent of staff are fully vaccinated. Moreover, according to federal officials, the number of new covid-19 cases each week has been significantly reduced.

West Virginia has identified outbreaks at long-term care facilities in 21 counties right now. There are outbreaks involving more than 10 residents at facilities in Kanawha, Hardy, Cabell, Marion, Grant, Harrison, Preston, Ohio, Barbour and Boone counties. Other counties have fewer.

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