Outdoor visits OK’d for nursing home residents

Two guests allowed at a time starting Wednesday

STARTING WEDNESDAY, Massachusetts state officials will allow residents of nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities to receive guests during pre-scheduled outdoor visits.

Long-term care facilities have been walloped during the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly-contagious virus has claimed the lives of 4,349 people who live in such facilities. Visits to the facilities have been restricted since early March, but the governor indicated last week that plans were in the works to reestablish some form of in-person connection for residents. In a memo to long-term care administrators Monday, Elizabeth Kelley, the director of the Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, said starting June 3 they “may allow in-person visitation in a designated outdoor visitation space, provided that the long-term care facility implements all of the following safety, care, and infection control measures.”

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Those measures include a requirement that facilities screen visitors for fever or respiratory symptoms before transporting the resident to the visiting space, a two visitor limit, a mandate that all visitors remain at least six feet away from the resident at all times during the visit, and that a staff member trained in patient safety and infection control stay with the resident at all times.

All visitors will be required to wear a face covering or mask for the duration of their visit, and all residents and staff members will be required to wear a surgical face mask. Residents who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 cannot receive visitors.

Last week, the governor said a medical advisory board he relies on had been discussing the possibility of lifting restrictions on visitors to hospitals and long-term care facilities like nursing homes. “It’s a complicated issue, OK? Lot of psychological benefit in it, but big concerns about some of the issues associated with the virus,” Baker, whose father is in his 90s and lives in a long-term care setting, said. The administration said it will issue guidance “in the coming days” for the state-run soldiers’ homes in Holyoke and Chelsea, and other 24/7 congregate care facilities.