Gov. Edwards announces new nursing home visitation guidelines

Gov. Edwards announces new nursing home visitation guidelines
Gov. Edwards announces new nursing home guidelines. (Source: Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana will be implementing new guidelines on nursing home visitation Governor John Bel Edwards announced Friday, Sept. 18.

The new guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services late Thursday allows nursing homes to conduct outdoor visitation with social distancing. Nursing homes located in parishes with no more than 10 percent test positivity and without any new onset of COVID cases in the last 14 days can allow indoor visitation. CMS does recommend the number of mitigation measures, including that nursing homes limit how many visitors a resident can have at one time, as well as limiting the number of visitors that can be in the facility at once. The guidance also says face coverings, the social distancing of at least six feet between people should be adhered to at all times and that all visitors must be screened for symptoms of COVID-19, including fever.

CMS imposed restrictions on nursing home visitation in March in an effort to control outbreaks of the coronavirus and protect one of our most vulnerable populations.

“Recognizing the impact of isolation and the importance of connectedness, Louisiana’s Department of Health was slated to release details today of a nursing home visitation pilot in our state; instead, we will move quickly today to implement this new federal guidance,” Gov. Edwards said. “We know these past several months have been tough, especially for our nursing home residents and their loved ones. It’s time for us to do something. At the same time, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and these residents are among our most vulnerable. We all must do our part to make sure this new policy is successful. That means wearing our masks and staying six feet away from others, including when we visit our loved ones in nursing homes.”

“I want to thank the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Nursing Home Association for their collaboration on this issue and the nursing homes across Louisiana that have worked to manage the health of their residents in a very difficult time.”

To date, a total of 2,225 nursing home deaths have been identified in Louisiana. These deaths make up 43.4% of the all COVID-19-associated deaths in Louisiana. Nursing homes in Louisiana have reported more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases among residents and staff. Nearly every nursing home in the state has had at least one COVID-19 case among residents or staff.

The following is from the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs:

Under the direction of Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs will begin conducting an initial outdoor in-person visitation program on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at four of its veterans homes following new guidance from the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The homes included in the initial visitation program are the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Monroe, the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Home in Bossier City, the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve and the Southwest Louisiana Veterans Home in Jennings. LDVA will conduct the program at facilities which are 14 days past the most recent resident or staff COVID-positive test result. This outdoor visitation program will be conducted for at least 28 days.

“I am so pleased to be able to offer this outdoor in-person visitation to our residents' families beginning next week,” LDVA Secretary Joey Strickland said. “We will continue to follow the guidance of our federal and state partners as we move forward through this pandemic in terms of other visitation options. We greatly appreciate the support that our residents' families and the local communities have shown us during these unprecedented times.”

All visitation will be outdoors in an area that allows for social distancing and no visitors will be allowed to enter the building. Visitors will be screened, including a temperature check, as well as asked to use hand sanitizer and wear a facemask covering for the duration of the visit. Children under 14 may not visit at this time. Anyone who does not pass the screening criteria will not be allowed to visit a resident at that time. Visitation will be conducted Monday through Friday from 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. Family members will need to contact the individual homes to schedule their appointment for visitation prior to making plans to go to the facility.

Per CDC and CMS guidance, these outdoor in-person visits may and will be stopped by the facility at any time at which a new resident or staff COVID-positive test result is received which originated within the facility. We will continue to test our residents and staff weekly following current medical protocols from our public health authorities.

AARP Louisiana State Director Denise Bottcher released the following statement:

"We would like to commend Governor Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Health for announcing they will be taking quick action to implement new federal guidance to enable in-person nursing home visitation. This is good news for Louisiana families who have struggled during these past six months without in-person visits. Social interaction with family and friends is critical to the overall health and wellbeing of all long-term care residents.

"Balancing the resident’s need for social interaction and right to visitation with the importance of minimizing exposure and risk of transmission to all residents, families and staff can be accomplished. It will be critical that all long-term care facilities strictly adhere to and enforce infection control procedures and guidelines. For those who are unable to visit, AARP urges that facilities must make virtual visitation available.

“Given that approximately 43% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Louisiana’s nursing homes, AARP’s overarching goal has been and continues to be ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our loved ones who reside in these facilities.”

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