TEXAS (KXAN) — Texas Health and Human Services officials have issued new guidelines for nursing facilities to protect the vulnerable from the coronavirus. That includes restricting access to staff, some medical professionals and other providers.

Nursing facilities were instructed to implement a screening process for those who go to the facilities and to restrict who can go inside.

Non-essential visitors, including family members, will only be allowed in the facilities in the cases of dire situations, including a resident’s end of life.

“We are now requiring nursing facilities to prevent non-essential visitors from access given the significant health and safety risk to residents posed by COVID-19,” said David Kostroun, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Regulatory Services. “These measures are precautionary and based on the state disaster declaration made by Governor Abbott, as well as new federal guidance.”

HHS licenses 1,222 nursing facilities across Texas.

Until further notice, a release from the department said nursing facilities are being encouraged to use Facetime, skype, phone calls or other ways of communicating for residents to keep in touch with family and friends.

“We understand how difficult these new restrictions will be for residents and their families and loved ones,” Kostroun said. “First and foremost, we must all share the goal of protecting the people who are proving to be most vulnerable to this new virus.”

COVID-19 screening protocols directed by the CDC will be for staff, medical professionals and other essential visitors.

HHSC staff will be conducting inspections for facilities with a history of infection control deficiencies in the last three years.

Long-term care facilities in Texas are required to maintain strong cleaning programs to prevent the spread of diseases.

If a facility believes a resident, visitor or employee might have been exposed or infected with COVID-19, they are required to report it to their local health department or DSHS.

Facilities are also required to post signs at entrances about access restrictions, check for fever, suspend group gatherings, monitor and isolate residents with fever or respiratory symptoms, train staff for infection control, wash hands and give protective equipment to residents and staff as needed.

The agency will be issuing updated information for general and psychiatric hospitals, child care operations and long-term care facilities. Stay up to date on the latest guidance here.