Indoor visits at nursing homes will be allowed under certain circumstances, in an emergency order issued by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Robert Gordon today.
The order links visitation rules by a county's risk level, as determined by the state's MI Safe Start Map. Indoor visitation will now be allowed in areas where the current risk level is A, B, C, or D, as long as the facilities have had no new cases, including those involving residents or staff, within the prior 14 days.
But indoor visits will not be allowed in counties at risk level E, meaning the average daily cases per million is greater than 150 or the positivity rate greater than 20%.
"We are happy to see nursing home residents are now able to see their loved ones in a safe way, adhering to all protocols laid out by the task force," said Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan Associate State Director, who was a member of the Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force, which issued a report in September.
Our seniors in nursing homes have been isolated and alone for too long, and I have heard from many people in our community about the detrimental effects isolation has had on their parents, grandparents and other loved ones
Three House Republicans -- Reps. Julie CALLEY (R-Portland), Bronna KAHLE (R-Adrian) and Bradley SLAGH (R-Zeeland Twp.) labeled the latest emergency order a "step in the right the direction."
"Our seniors in nursing homes have been isolated and alone for too long, and I have heard from many people in our community about the detrimental effects isolation has had on their parents, grandparents and other loved ones,” Calley said.
Kahle, a former senior center director in Lenawee County, urged the administration to determine their visitation policies based on county-level data, not data that is compiled regionally. Still, Kahle called the move a "great leap."
Under the rules, some visitors will be required to receive COVID testing prior to entry, and visitors will have to wear facemasks at all times and maintain social distancing.
The DHHS said visitors participating in end-of-life visits may have physical contact with a resident if that resident is not COVID-19 positive, the visitors are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and the time spent within six feet of the resident is no longer than 15 minutes.
While Gordon said, "visitation is a substantial source of risk," the order will provide "a plan for visitation that mitigates risk and continues necessary protections in facilities across the state."
The Health Care Association of Michigan (HCAM) said today it views the DHHS announcement as "a positive step toward carefully reuniting residents with their family and friends. This is an important quality of life issue for our residents as safely reintroducing in-person visits with their loved ones is essential to their mental and physical well-being."
The order continues to limit communal dining and internal and external group activities consistent with federal guidance and it requires quick notification in the event an employee or resident is confirmed as positive for COVID-19, according to DHHS.
This story is provided by AARP Michigan. Visit the AARP Michigan page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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