DHEC modifies new nursing home guidance from two weeks ago, all facilities can reopen

Easing restrictions at S.C. nursing homes

TEGA CAY, S.C. (WBTV) -There is good news if anyone has been missing seeing family members who have been sheltered inside a nursing home or in assisted living.

All of those facilities in South Carolina have to allow indoor visits. So, if someone has been waiting to eat lunch with the parent or have the grandkids see their grandparent, it is finally that time.

The state made those visitation changes mandatory a few weeks ago, but changed it to reopen all facilities. Instead of putting in limits on opening an entire facility—there may be just some individualized restrictions if there are COVID cases. It is giving places like Wellmore in Tega Cay more room to let their residents see their loved ones.

”I was lonely. I felt lonely I was isolated,” says Pearl Rosenberg, who lives at Wellmore Tega Cay full-time.

The pandemic kept her from seeing her grandkids and her daughter for months.

”I’m able to facetime with my children and my grandchildren but it’s not the same,” she says.

What she yearns for the most are the pre-pandemic times she spent with her daughter. ”My daughter and I used to hang out on Saturdays and watch Love It or List marathon and old movies. I’m looking forward to spending enough time to do that again,” she explains.

The wait is over. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control newest guidance allows every nursing home or assisted living facility to reopen. The previous guidance required facilities to open if the a county had a 10 percent or less positivity rate. It would also be open as long as there were no reported cases within 14 days and facilities have to maintain safety protocols.

The new guidance still has the 10 percent or less rate requirement but it’s more lenient toward facilities with vaccinated residents. It also keeps specific residents from seeing visitors if they have COVID or are in quarantine instead of the entire facility. Facilities have to keep the doors closed to indoor visits if a positive case arises and everyone has to be tested.

”It’s special and it feels good for all the staff because our goal is to take care of people,” says Executive Director David Dunn.

Dunn says he was almost as excited as the residents to reopen. The closures have been hard on his staff too.The team has been working hard to vaccinate everyone. He says 95 percent of the residents and 60 percent of the staff are vaccinated. He feels it is working because the facility has not had a COVID case in 30 days.

Now, he gets to see residents, like Rosenburg, see the people they have missed the most.

”It’s very exciting to take steps towards that again and to welcome families back in on a consistent basis. And to see residents get to hug their loved ones in sometimes months almost a year,” he says.

”She’s coming Saturday and I’m gonna ask her to bring me some sushi. Yay!” exclaims Rosenberg.

There are still about 118 facilities closed right now. Most of those places, including a place in Lancaster County, says staff shortages will not allow them to reopen. Nursing homes and assistant care facilities still have to maintain a very high standard of cleaning and safety. That means temperatures checks at the door, social distancing and visitation restricted to the residents rooms.

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