Even though Gov. John Carney’s State of the Emergency order governing COVID-19 expires Tuesday, Delaware will keep visitation and testing guidelines in effects for long-term care facilities.
The Delaware Division of Public Health issued a press release Monday saying it wanted to keep residents of those nursing home and assisted-living facilities safe and healthy. They will continue to operate under Delaware’s COVID-19 Updated Reopening Plan in Long-Term Care Facilities.
While visitation by loved ones is encouraged, the type of visitation that is allowed depends on each facility’s current status in terms of positive cases of COVID-19 among residents, the county’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate and the percentage of residents who are vaccinated.
Among other things, those rules include screening for COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status, social distancing, frequent handwashing or sanitizing and the use of face coverings or masks by unvaccinated visitors and by all in each facility’s common areas.
“In partnership with the long-term care facilities, we will do everything we can to continue to facilitate indoor visitation for residents and their family members or close friends, but that will depend on each facility’s status,” said DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik.
Highlights of the guidance include:
- LTC facilities should allow and support indoor visitation for all residents regardless of vaccination status. Exceptions should be limited to unvaccinated residents, residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection and residents in quarantine.
- Limiting the number and timing of visits is permissting.
- Visitors should go directly to the resident’s room or designated visitation area, and visitor movement in the LTC facility should be limited.
- Visits for residents who share a room should be conducted outside the resident’s room, if possible.
- If a resident and their visitor are fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with the visitor without a face mask. Regardless, visitors must physically distance from other residents and staff in the facility.
- Outdoor visits are preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Visits should be held outdoors whenever practicable.
- An facility may not restrict visitation without a reasonable clinical or safety cause.
- Compassionate care visits — including end-of-life and other emotional support visits — should be allowed at all times regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s positivity rate, or an outbreak.
- Visitors should not be required to be tested or vaccinated (or show proof of such) as a condition of visitation.
- Although not required, facilities in medium- or high-positivity counties are encouraged to offer testing to visitors, if feasible.
- Facilities may encourage visitors to be tested on their own prior to coming to the facility (e.g., within 2–3 days).
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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