INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) One of the measures enacted by Indiana during the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus was the suspension of patient visitation at long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
On Wednesday, during Governor Eric Holcomb’s COVID- 19 response news conference it was announced that outdoor visitation will now be allowed under certain circumstances.
During the news conference Dr. Dan Rusyniak, Chief Medical Officer for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, acknowledged that the no-visitation policy, except for end-of-life circumstances, have had negative consequences on the well-being of residents, particularly those with cognitive deficits.
The use of technology such as video chats while allowing families to stay connected does not substitute for in-person visits. One study has shown that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is 19 times greater indoors compared to outdoors.
The following criteria must be met in order for outdoor visitation to be allowed:
- There must be no new COVID cases that originated within the facility, including those involving residents or staff, within the last 14 days. New COVID admissions to a facility would not constitute a facility-onset COVID case.
- A schedule of visitation hours must be established.
- Adequate staff must be present to allow for personnel to help with the outdoor transition of residents, monitoring of visitation, and wiping down visitation areas after each family, partner or friendship visit.
- Resident visitors must be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID.
- Areas where visitors and residents sit must be wiped down between visitations using an approved antiviral disinfectant – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html
- There must be adequate PPE to permit residents, if they are able to comply, to wear a face mask during visitation.
- Visitors must appropriately wear a face covering at all times.
- Outdoor visitation spaces must allow appropriate social distancing of at least 6 feet between visitors and loved ones.
- Facilities must provide alcohol-based hand rub to families visiting residents and demonstrate how to use it appropriately if necessary.
- Facilities may establish additional guidelines as needed to ensure the safety of visitations and their facility’s operations
- Residents must have the ability to safely transition from their room to an outdoor visitation location.
- Residents who have had COVID-19 must no longer require transmission-based precautions as outlined by the CDC.
- Prioritization for visitation should be for residents with diseases that cause progressive cognitive decline (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) and residents expressing feelings of loneliness. Loneliness can have deleterious consequences, including increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behaviors, and anxiety.
- Residents who are able to should wear a face mask during the visitation.
- Must wear a face covering or mask during the entire visitation.
- Must use alcohol-based hand rub before and after visitation.
- Must stay in designated facility locations.
- Visitation should be restricted to children 12 years of age or older. Visitors with children must be able to manage them, and children must be able to wear a face mask during the entire visitation. Special family circumstances warranting children under the age of 12 to visit can be approved by individual facilities.
- Must sign in and provide contact information.
- Must not have signs or symptoms of COVID-19; visitors must also attest to their COVID status (testing results) and if they have had COVID-19, they must provide documentation (e.g., doctor’s note) that they no longer meet CDC criteria for transmission-based precautions.
- Visitors may provide food and beverage to the resident consistent with dietary considerations, but food should not be shared between residents and visitors.
Visitations should occur only on days when there are no weather warnings that would put either visitors or residents at risk. Furthermore, visitation spaces must provide adequate protection from weather elements (e.g., shadedfrom the sun). Any facilities that meet the above criteria would still retain the right to deny outdoor visitation if they believe, 1) circumstances pose a risk of transmitting COVID-19 to the facility, or 2) either the resident or visitors might be at risk of