State to allow limited visitation at nursing homes, long-term care facilities

Nursing Home Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Families kept apart from loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities will now be able to see them again.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced limited visitation rules for those facilities Thursday. Due to the new rules, the commission is also issuing more emergency measures for nursing homes to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Physical contact between residents and visitors is not allowed in any facility. Here’s a further breakdown of the rules.

Nursing homes

Only outdoor visits will be allowed, the commission says.

Before anyone can visit, the commission says nursing homes must meet these criteria:

  • No confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in staff in the last 14 days
  • No active positive cases in residents
  • Any facility previously experiencing an outbreak that has fully recovered must be adequately staffed and following adequate infection control procedures
  • Facility staff are being tested for COVID-19 weekly

Rules for window visits and parades will be posted on the HHSC website.

Long-term care facilities

Both limited indoor and outdoor visitation is allowed, the commission says.

Before long-term care facilities can hold limited visitation, they must meet these requirements:

  • No confirmed COVID-19 positive staff in last 14 days
  • No active positive cases in residents
  • Adequate staffing to facilitate visitation in compliance with infection control requirements
  • Use of plexiglass as a safety barrier for indoor visitation to prevent spread of COVID-19

More emergency measures

With the opening of visitation, nursing homes must follow new enhanced emergency rules.

  • Each nursing home must have a COVID-19 response plan that includes designated staff to work with groups of residents who have tested positive, and staff should not change designation from one day to another, unless required to maintain adequate staffing for a group
  • All nursing homes must screen all residents, staff and people who come to the facility in accordance with specified criteria, and each resident must be screened at least three times a day for signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Each facility must have plans for obtaining and maintaining a two-week supply of PPE and resident recovery plans for continuing care when a resident recovers from COVID-19

More guidance for nursing homes is posted online.

The commission says it continues to investigate all facilities in the state that have reported one or more positive cases of COVID-19.

“We’ll take it. We’ll take a small victory. This is going to make a lot of families very happy. This is going to help a lot of residents,” Mary Nichols said.

Her mother lives in a Texas nursing home, and she helped start a group called Texas Caregivers for Compromise — Because Isolation Kills Too. They sent a petition with thousands of signatures to the Governor’s office several weeks ago, asking for a the ban on visitors to be lifted.

“I saw a lot of messages that said, ‘Hold on mama, I’m coming,'” Nichols said.

She cried while explaining that, because of the restrictions, so many families will still not be able to see their loved ones.

“If you can’t go outside in a wheelchair, you are still going to be isolated from your family,” she said. “It’s very selective, just like the window visits were selective.”

Her group is still planning a protest in front of the Texas Capitol on Saturday, asking for even more options for people like her mom.

“It’s still not a solution, but it is a baby step,” Nichols said.

Mom Stephanie Kirby spoke with KXAN in late July. At the time, her son was in a supported living center in Denton, and she hadn’t seen him since March 12.

“I said: ‘Let Petre see me in the middle of a wide open field, let him just see that I still exist, that mom hasn’t abandoned him,” she said.

For more information on how the commission is handling COVID-19, you can visit the HHSC website.

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