The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services says it is working on changes to the state’s reopening plan for long-term care facilities following federal guidance issued Wednesday that nursing homes should resume visits for all residents.
Facilities should allow indoor visits for all nursing home residents, regardless of whether the resident or the visitor is vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in its new guidance. In addition to being inside a facility, it’s OK for a visitor to hug or touch a resident if the resident has been fully vaccinated, the agencies said.
The federal guidance, however, doesn’t change states’ individual restrictions. Washington continues to limit visits in all long-term care facilities and has a four-phase plan for facilities to open their doors. Indoor visits are in the third and fourth phase; the third phase is for counties with 25 or fewer new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
Changes to the plan would need to be approved by Gov. Jay Inslee, DSHS spokesman Chris Wright said Wednesday.
“We know how eager families are for less restrictive visits with loved ones in long-term care facilities who have endured a year of social isolation, and we’d ask for just a little more patience as we ensure that happens in the safest manner possible,” Wright said in an email.
Nursing homes have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. In King County alone, 477 people connected to nursing homes have died, accounting for a third of the county’s total deaths.
Of the roughly 200 nursing homes in Washington, a third currently have at least one active COVID-19 infection among a resident or staff member. This is a significant decline from its peak in December, when more than two-thirds reported at least one case.