Colorado to allow indoor visitation at nursing homes as early as next week
Colorado nursing homes will be allowed as early as next week to resume indoor visitation for the first time in more than five months — as long as the state’s COVID-19 cases stay under control and residents’ relatives agree to wear masks and keep their distance.
Gov. Jared Polis in March put a halt to family visitations at the state’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as the pandemic first gripped the state.
Since then more than 100 Colorado nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have experienced outbreaks. The virus infected 3,538 residents and killed 978 in those outbreaks. An additional 2,727 staff members were infected, and seven died.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been allowed to offer outdoor visits since June. Currently, families can only visit indoors under limited circumstances, such as saying goodbye to a dying relative. Facilities wouldn’t be required to offer indoor visits under the draft guidelines announced Wednesday, and could set stricter rules, Polis said at a news conference.
So far, outdoor visitation has gone well, and the plan is to offer a “reasonably safe” way to meet indoors, Polis said. State health officials will be watching the rollout and will flag if homes allowing indoor visitation have more outbreaks than those that don’t, he said.
“It’s obviously a balance between assuring our older adults are protected and allowing our older adults to see their loved ones,” he said.
Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, said the group is still analyzing the proposed rules, but most of their member homes are interested in offering more options to visit.
“Most homes have been looking for a path back to safe, indoor visitation,” he said.
Visitors wouldn’t have to undergo a COVID-19 test in counties with fewer than 25 cases for every 100,000 people, though they would be screened for fever and other symptoms. As of Tuesday afternoon, 18 counties met that threshold: Baca, Cheyenne, Crowley, Gilpin, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Jackson, Kiowa, La Plata, Lake, Las Animas, Lincoln, Moffat, Park, Phillips, Rio Blanco, San Juan and Yuma.
Visitors from all other counties would need to show they had a negative test within 24 hours of their visit, in addition to passing the symptom screening. Antibody tests wouldn’t be allowed as proof of immunity.
If a county had more than 175 cases for every 100,000 people, indoor visitation would stop. No counties currently have that level of spread, Polis said.
Before indoor visits could begin, a facility would have to test all residents, and document that anyone who refused to take a test hadn’t shown symptoms for 28 days. All staff would be tested weekly. Indoor visits would have to stop if a facility developed an outbreak of COVID-19 or another infectious disease, like flu or norovirus.
New residents wouldn’t be allowed to receive visitors during their two-week quarantine, and children under 18 wouldn’t be allowed at any time. Visitors would have to schedule an appointment time, give their full contact information, wear masks and meet in rooms that allow for social distancing.
The public can comment on the draft regulations until 5 p.m. Friday on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Polis also announced a “gap fund” for grants and loans to businesses with fewer than 25 employees. Business owners can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and $20,000 in loans starting Monday at energizecolorado.com/gap-fund.
Additionally, the governor announced a new Department of Local Affairs task force to examine housing instability due to the COVID-19 crisis and look at ways to prevent evictions. The task force will be asked to present recommendations to Polis and the department’s director within 30 days of its first meeting.
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