Columbia, SC (FOX Carolina) - On Tuesday, Governor Henry McMaster and DHEC announced new guidelines to allow visitations to resume at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The visits will be outdoors and may not be possible for all patients at all facilities.
DHEC said the physically-distanced visitations may last up to an hour based on the health of the patient. Visitors must be 12 and older and limited to two visitors at once.
DHEC said facility’s ability to allow visitation depends on a number of factors, including:
• Existing cases of the virus within the facility
• Facility’s staffing capabilities and PPE availability
• Facility’s ability to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) testing requirements.
The move comes after Governor McMaster asked DHEC to reassess their guidance to allow for visitations back in August.
Previously, in a letter to Chairman Mark Elam, McMaster said he would like DHEC to "promptly issue up-to-date visitation guidelines providing all direction and information deemed necessary to resume – or require resumption if necessary – in-person visitation with residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”
For months, visits at care homes have been prohibited due to the potential of spreading COVID-19 to some of the state's most vulnerable residents.
“We understand how difficult it has been during these past few months for friends and families to be distanced from their loved ones who reside in nursing homes and similar facilities, but we believe the visitation restrictions put in place have helped save lives and have helped protect the health and wellbeing of the dedicated workers who care for these residents,” said Marshall Taylor, Acting Director of DHEC.
McMaster said the restrictions on visitations were heartbreaking but necessary.
The nursing and care homes may not be able to open for visitations right away. The facilities must be free from any COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days before visitations can begin. If any cases are confirmed, the visits must also cease until there have been no further cases for at least two weeks.
As of Tuesday, DHEC said there are 90 nursing homes in the state that meet the criteria, and there are 31 nursing homes that have only had one case in the last 14 days and would hopefully soon meet this criteria as well.
See the full guidelines for outdoor visitations below: