DENVER — Nearly six months after COVID-19 was first confirmed in the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has released its guidance for indoor visits at nursing homes and other residential care facilities.
Indoor visits have been allowed in recent months, but typically only under end-of-life situations. Outdoor visits have also been allowed, but some families have said this is not enough.
The new CDPHE guidance also allows for visits from service providers such as beauticians, barbers, podiatrists, dentists and therapists, according to a news release distributed on Thursday.
Visitors must be 18 and older, schedule appointments in advance, wear masks and not have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus. Some visitors must also have had a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the visit.
For facilities to allow indoor visitation in the first place, CDPHE said they must meet the following criteria:
- They must be in a county that has less than or equal to an average of 25 new, active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, or be in an area in the Protect Our Neighbors phase.
- In counties with 26 to 175 new, active cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, visitors must prove they’ve had a negative COVID-19 test in the 48 hours before their visit.
- Visits are not allowed indoors at facilities in counties with more than 175 new, active cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days.
The CDPHE said other criteria for indoor visits includes testing, outbreaks, personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and staff at a given facility.
Since the pandemic began, outbreaks at nursing homes and other healthcare facilities have been particularly deadly. As of this writing, there are 18 active outbreaks at skilled nursing homes.
"It’s heartbreaking. Truthfully it’s heartbreaking. The frustration level is huge. I could help her, I could help her understand, I could help her know what’s going on if I could just see her," said Zoe Okie, whose mother is in an assisted living facility in Arvada. "More than once my mother said she’d rather die of COVID than be sitting there by herself."
Okie’s 96-year-old mother Patricia hasn't seen her family face to face in a long time. For the past six months, COVID has kept them from being able to see each other.
"I try to explain to my mom, and she’s on the ball for 96 years old," said Okie. "I tell her you don’t even know what it’s like out here. You don’t want to come out."
For facilities that have fought to keep the virus outside of their doors, the new guidance provides a new challenge.
Telia Wendell works with the Cherry Creek Retirement Village in Aurora. She said the facility hasn’t had any cases of COVID-19. In May, they held a socially distanced parade for family to see loved ones. Now they’ll prepare to eventually allow in-person visitation while keeping residents safe.
"Our residents have really been wanting to be with family. Obviously it’s been very difficult for them not to be able to have visitations," said Wendell. "We're happy that we’re going to be able to move to a new level so that our residents are going to be able to see their loved ones as they’ve longed for. Concerned in the fact that we need to have everything in order to continue to keep our residents safe."
The state says facilities will first have to implement numerous protocols before they can allow visitors which could take some time.
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