SC nursing homes to allow in-person visits, new DHEC guidelines say

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FILE – In this April 16, 2020, file photo, Richard Eberhardt walks along a corridor at a nursing home in Kaysesberg, France. Countries across Europe are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic with the dilemma of leaving the elderly and others near death in enforced solitude or whether to allow some personal contact with relatives. At nursing homes, everything is done to keep out visitors who might be infected, and family members are almost always banned from coming to see their loved ones. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – South Carolina health officials have released new guidelines for outdoor and indoor in-person visitation at nursing homes and other community residential care facilities.

According to DHEC, facilities may not restrict in- person visitation (outdoor and/or indoor as appropriate) unless ‘a reasonable clinical or safety cause’ is present.”

Compassionate care visits by family, religious leaders or other persons who can meet the needs of the resident are permitted regardless of the facility’s visitation status.

Compassionate care visits

In addition to end-of-life situations, examples of compassionate care situations include, but are not limited to:

  • A resident, who was living with their family before recently being admitted to a facility, 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),
  • 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.)

Other compassionate care situations may be considered by facilities.

Criteria for Restricting Outdoor Visitation

Facilities may not restrict outdoor visitation unless one of the following exclusion criteria is present:

  • There have been one or more COVID-19 cases among staff and/or residents identified in the facility within the last 14 days.
  • Weather conditions do not allow for safe outdoor visitation, including inclement weather or excessively hot or cold temperature.
  • Core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention (see below) are not being maintained, including routine testing not being performed in accordance with CMS.

Criteria for Restricting Indoor Visitation

Facilities may not restrict indoor visitation unless one of the following exclusion criteria is present:

  • There have been one or more COVID-19 cases among staff and/or residents identified in the facility within the last 14 days.
  • Core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention (see below) are not being maintained, including routine testing not being performed as required by CMS.
  • The positivity rate for the county in which the facility is located is greater than 10%.
    The exclusion criteria for indoor visitation do not apply to compassionate care visits, which are permitted regardless of the facility’s visitation status.

Visitor requirements:

A visitor is limited to a maximum visit of 30 minutes duration unless they provide documentation of either of the following, in which case they may visit for a maximum of one hour:

  • A negative result for a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test performed within the last three days; or a positive result for a COVID-19 antibody (serology) test performed within the last 30 days. Check-in, screening, and check-out times do not count towards visit duration.
  • Only two visitors are permitted to visit a resident at one time.
  • Visitors should be restricted to children 12 years or older. Special family circumstances warranting children under age 12 to visit can be approved by individual facilities on a case-by-case basis.
  • Children must be accompanied by their guardian at all times.
  • Visitors must wear a cloth face covering or face mask over their mouth and nose for the duration of the visit, including to and from their vehicle or other mode of transportation.

Virtual visits and window visits remain permitted in all scenarios.

The full list of guidelines can be found here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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