Governor, DHEC release limited outdoor visitation guidelines for nursing homes

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Gov. Henry McMaster, along with public health officials in the State House Tuesday afternoon, rolled out new guidelines that will allow some nursing homes to have limited, outdoor visitation with families.

In a release, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said a facility’s ability to allow visitation depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Existing cases of the virus within the facility
  • Facility’s staffing capabilities and PPE availability
  • Facility’s ability to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) testing requirements.

DHEC says each nursing home and assisted living facility will need a reasonable amount of time in order to meet the criteria outlined in these guidelines, meaning outdoor visitation will not be immediately available.

Health officials are asking visitors to coordinate directly with facilities to determine when visitation may be permitted and to coordinate visits when possible.

“If we know there are no cases in the facility, we know there are no cases with the staff, and we do all this layered protection, then we feel confident that we are not increasing risk at this facility,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, the Public Health Director for DHEC.

According to DHEC, the guidelines are available in full on DHEC’s website, on the “Nursing Homes” resource webpage accessible toward the bottom of the main COVID-19 landing page.

DHEC says facilities that can meet the criteria outlined in the guidelines, may allow for physically distanced outdoor visitation for a limited period of time.

According to the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control, as of Tuesday, there are 90 nursing homes in the state that meet the criteria of not having cases among residents or staff within the prior 14 days, and there are 31 nursing homes that have only had one case in the last 14 days and would hopefully soon meet this criteria as well.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, DHEC reports that 7,625 people who either work or live in nursing homes have tested positive for COVID-19, and 1,075 have passed away from the virus (that accounts for 41% of all COVID-19 related deaths in South Carolina)

At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. McMaster said it was heartbreaking to restrict visitors at nursing homes back in March, but necessary to keep people safe.

“It was the most effective way to contain the spread of COVID-19, and to save the lives of our state’s elderly and at-risk citizens,” Gov. McMaster said.

The Governor said if everyone follows the rules, then more people can have quality time with their loved ones.

“We are committed to protecting the physical, mental, and emotional health of our elderly and at-risk people and their loved ones, and there are rules and procedures that if we follow them, then I think we can accomplish this and move to the next step,” Gov. McMaster said.

Here is a link to DHEC guidelines for outdoor visitation https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/Outdoor-Visitation-Guidelines_9.1.20.pdf

Categories: ABC Columbia News Update (Second Row), Local News, State