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S.C. nursing homes can allow limited outdoor visitation

Staff Report //September 1, 2020//

S.C. nursing homes can allow limited outdoor visitation

Staff Report //September 1, 2020//

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Nursing homes and assisted living facilities that meet newly issued S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control guidelines may allow limited outdoor visitation.

Facilities must screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms daily and staff at the start of each shift. Adequate staffing and personal protective equipment must be available, and a facility may not have had any COVID-19 cases among staff or residents within the last 14 days, among other criteria (.pdf).

Facilities must also provide a written plan for outdoor visitation to DHEC.

“We understand how difficult it has been during these past few months for friends and families to be distanced from their loved ones who reside in nursing homes and similar facilities, but we believe the visitation restrictions put in place have helped save lives and have helped protect the health and well-being of the dedicated workers who care for these residents,” Marshall Taylor, DHEC acting director, said in a news release. 

As of Tuesday, DHEC said 90 S.C. nursing homes meet the requirement of no cases among residents or staff within the prior 14 days, while 31 have had one case in the last 14 days.

DHEC said facilities will need “a reasonable amount of time” to meet the new criteria and encouraged direct coordination with facilities to determine when visitation may be permitted.

The new guidelines are based on the most recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, as well as DHEC protocols and visitation plans in other states, according to the release. 

DHEC also recommends that the guidelines be used by intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“Our first priority when developing these guidelines was to protect both the physical and mental health of our loved ones who call nursing homes and assisted living facilities their home,” Dr. Joan Duwve, DHEC public health director, said. As we are all too aware, these vulnerable individuals are among those at highest risk for developing life-threatening and life-taking complications from COVID-19.”

Since visitation restrictions were implemented in March, 129 S.C. nursing homes have received funding through the CMS COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant to connect residents with loved ones using tablets, smart phones and other devices, DHEC said.

Also Tuesday, DHEC announced that it will begin providing twice-weekly updates on the number of COVID-19 cases associated with students and staff at S.C. public and private schools in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The data will include both cumulative and rolling 30-day counts of confirmed cases among students, teachers and faculty members for every school, according to a news release. The information will be updated on DHEC’s COVID-19 webpage on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, with the first reports available online Friday.

Only those who physically attend school on a regular basis will be included in the counts, DHEC said. The agency emphasized that confirmed cases were not necessarily contracted at the schools, and also advised that some schools may self-report cases before DHEC confirms the information.

DHEC announced 761 confirmed new cases and 31 new probable cases on Tuesday, along with 37 additional confirmed deaths. Those numbers bring the state’s total of confirmed cases to 118,116, probable cases to 1,730, confirmed deaths to 2,626, and probable deaths to 131.  

The percent positive of 3,396 test results reported to DHEC on Monday was 22.4%, the agency said.

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