DHSS COVID-19 visitation policies to remain in place as State of Emergency ends
DELAWARE – Delaware’s State of Emergency ends on Tuesday. But the Department of Health and Social Services is going to keep its COVID-19 visitation policies and restrictions in place for their long term care facilities. All 86 of the first state’s facilities will follow existing visitation and testing guidance. DHSS says they’re doing this in order to keep residents safe and health amid COVID-19.
Some of those facilities include nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. DHSS says visitation by loved ones is still encouraged, but it all depends on each facility’s current status with positive COVID-19 cases among residents, and the over all positivity rate. “It’s going to depend on how the pandemic is going. The federal government, the CDC, and the community to collect data, are watching COVID. Being that this is our most vulnerable population, we’re going to continue to protect them,” said Nurse Administrator for DHSS’ Division of Health Care Quality Kim Reed.
As a reminder, indoor visitation at long term care facilities is still allowed. However, DHSS is limiting visitation of unvaccinated residents in counties with a positivity rate greater than 10%, and if fewer than 70% of residents at a given facility are vaccinated. Plus, residents with confirmed COVID-19 cases and those in quarantine will have limited indoor visitation.
DHSS says they’ll also be keeping a close eye on how many visitors are inside facilities at one time, and monitoring visits. They say they’re trying to ensure that visitors go directly to a resident’s room or designated visitation area. Visits for residents who share a room will not be conducted inside that room, if possible. DHSS adds that if a resident and their visitor are both fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact. Visitors must still socially distance from other residents and staff.
When it comes to outdoor visitation, DHSS says those are preferred to indoor visits. They say unless the weather doesn’t permit them or the resident’s health is at risk, outdoor visits should be routinely facilitated. Plus, DHSS says long term care facilities must not restrict visitation without a reasonable cause. They also say residents who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 should only get visits virtually, through windows, or in person for compassionate care situations.
Those compassionate care visits should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status or the rate of COVID-19 cases in the area, according to DHSS. But, DHSS says the term “compassionate care visit” doesn’t just refer to end-of-life situations. Some other types of compassionate care visits include residents struggling with their change in environment, grieving residents, and residents who need help with eating, drinking, or those who are experiencing emotional distress.
DHSS says compassionate care visits can be done by family members or clergy. DHSS says those visits should be done with social distancing. Plus, fully vaccinated residents and visitors can choose to have close contact, while socially distancing from other residents and facility staff. DHSS is also asking long term care facilities to use the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program to identify residents who might need a compassionate care visit.
Lastly, DHSS says visitors should not be required to get tested for or vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of visitation. While all of that isn’t required, facilities in medium or high positivity rate counties are encouraged to offer testing to visitors if they can. DHSS says facilities are still allowed to encourage, not require, visitors to get tested two to three days before they visit.
DHSS says not only is protecting vulnerable populations the top priority, but so is the mental health of those people. In a news release, DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik says getting to see a friendly face can make a world of difference for residents. “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 Magarik.