Friends and families of Connecticut’s nursing home residents are now allowed to make indoor, in-person visits under new guidelines from state officials.
Long-term care facilities have enforced a statewide ban on these kinds of visits since mid-March when COVID-19 activity began to pick up in the general population. State leaders issued restrictions in an effort to protect Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents.
Gov. Ned Lamont said they’re able to roll back some of these orders because of an increase in testing capabilities, a drop in positive cases and new federal guidance.
“We thought it’s much safer again to be able to see a loved one now than it was perhaps six months ago,” Lamont said Monday during a news conference in Bridgeport. “We’ve always had outdoor visitation. That’s probably a little less feasible in October, November.”
About two-thirds of the state’s 4,503 COVID-19 deaths have been residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Staff members have also fallen ill and died.
COVID-19 cases and deaths significantly dropped in Connecticut nursing homes over the summer -- there were 21 residents infected with the coronavirus between Sept. 16 and 22, according to state data.
The recent changes in visitation policies follow an updated directive from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It outlines how facilities can resume indoor visits safely while addressing the psychological well-being of residents, many of whom have been isolated and separated from loved ones for months.
According to an order signed by Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, nursing homes can allow indoor visits if they have had no COVID-19 cases for 14 days and are not doing outbreak testing.
New conditions include a limit on the number of visitors per resident and per facility, screening protocols, social distancing requirements and other prevention and monitoring actions.
“I urge nursing homes to work closely with family members to arrange for the type of visitation that is most appropriate for each resident’s physical, mental and psychosocial well-being,” Gifford said in a statement. “There will be protocols in place to make sure the visitation is as safe as possible, including personal protective equipment to limit the spread of COVID-19 among our most vulnerable population.”
The visitation guidelines also apply to social workers, clergy, hairdressers and volunteers, who have been largely absent since the spring.
Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living, and Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, expressed their support for the changes in a joint statement.
“Nursing home providers keenly understand the critical connection between visits from loved ones in nursing homes and the overall health and well-being of residents,” they wrote. “Moving to add the indoor visitation option, with the care and caution that is reflective in the new rules, is very well timed.”
Connecticut communities continue to see new cases of COVID-19. An additional 560 people have tested positive and two more people have died since Friday.