HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Just before the holidays, the federal government released new guidelines stating that visits should be allowed for all nursing home residents.
This is a major milestone for families living for a year and a half with restrictions and residents in isolation.
Zoom chats, drive-thru celebrations, and lockdowns during outbreaks were common during the pandemic.
But now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees Hawaii’s nearly 50 nursing homes, have said “visits are now permitted for all residents at any time.”
“It will be a great joy because everyone wants to be with their family,” said John McDermott, Hawaii State Long Term Care Ombudsman.
The changes come after high vaccination rates among staff and residents as well as growing concern about residents suffering from isolation.
“We are able to start bringing families back and really see if we can somehow reverse these effects – the social isolation that this puts on our residents,” said Suzie Schulberg, CEO of Arcadia Family of Companies.
“Although exterior visits are always preferred, the facilities are now able to allow interior visits at any time according to the discretion of the resident, which is huge,” she added.
Schulberg said the new guidelines mean nursing homes cannot require visitors to be vaccinated.
“We can ask what their vaccination status is, but we cannot prevent them from entering the facility if they are not vaccinated,” she said.
CMS said in areas of low to moderate transmission, “If the resident and all their visitors are fully immunized and the resident is not moderately or severely immunocompromised, they may choose not to wear face covers or masks. and to have physical contact. “
“You really don’t have to take all of these precautions indefinitely. It has been almost two years of hell for these residents, ”said McDermott.
“We also had very painful stories where someone died in the facility and the family had not seen him for over a year,” he added.
The state health department clarified that despite federal guidelines, Hawaii still has an indoor mask mandate.
“Visitors are required to wear masks to protect themselves, the people they are visiting, other residents who may or may not be vaccinated and those who work in the facility,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesperson for DOH in an email.
“Each visit should be conducted in a way that does not put other residents at risk,” he added.
Federal guidelines state that “although it is safer for visitors not to enter the facility during an outbreak investigation, visitors should still be permitted to enter the facility.”
“It could be just one person and we can isolate, facilities can isolate themselves in their COVID unit and that way it will not have a negative impact on the rest of the community,” said Schulberg.
She warns that the pandemic is not over and cases are increasing on the continent, COVID protocols must still be in place.
“It’s a balance,” she says.
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