RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina residents will soon finally be able to visit loved ones indoors at most long-term care facilities, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
“It’s like the world seems brighter right now because we can be in each others’ physical company,” Susi Robinson told WBTV.
Robinson and visited her 85-year-old father Gordon Haight last week. She said it was the first time they were together indoors at the Matthews Glen nursing facility in almost one year.
“It was probably April when the facility that my parents were in started having a lot of cases,” Robinson said.
Her mother passed away, unrelated to covid-19, in June. It made it even harder for Gordon to be isolated.
NCDHHS says that new COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities across the state have declined “rapidly” over the past several weeks, with case rates down more than 15-fold in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and other licensed facilities since the peak of transmission in January 2021.
“Given the rapid decline in new cases, most facilities currently meet criteria to resume indoor visitation while continuing to follow infection prevention recommendations,” a release from NCDHHS read.
Health officials say the rapid declines in case numbers can be attributed to early vaccination prioritization for residents and staff of long-term care facilities and decreasing community transmission. More than 205,000 vaccines have been administered to long-term care staff and residents, and vaccinations through the federal long-term care partnership for COVID-19 vaccinations will continue into March.
“Protecting our residents and staff in long-term care has been a top priority in our pandemic response efforts and seeing cases decrease in these settings is heartening,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “I know it has a been a long, difficult year for residents and families, but those measures saved lives and are now allowing us to resume safe, indoor visitation. While we need to continue infection prevention practices, this decrease is also a positive sign of the impact vaccinations have in our communities.”
While facilities may conduct visits at any time for residents at the facilities, federal and state guidelines have additional criteria for facilities to resume indoor visitation, which include following infection prevention practices and having no new cases of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Medicare certified skilled-nursing facilities must meet additional criteria required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Outdoor visitation is still preferred,” Adam Sholar, North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association President, told WBTBV. “There’s still gonna be scheduling, screening of visitors, the requirement to wear a mask and social distance.”
Robinson says she appreciates the protocols.
“When you arrive you have to take a rapid covid test and wait for the results until you can go visit,” she said.
It is bringing her closer to her dad, and closer to normalcy.
“It’s just a different demeanor than when we have a Facetime date, noticeably different, much happier,” she said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Matthews Glen told WBTV:
“We are excited about any opportunities to have families together and will continue to follow all federal, state and local guidelines to best assure the safety and well-being of our residents, their families and our staff.”