Louisiana Phase 3 reopening: Nursing homes to allow visitors after coronavirus lockdown
Visitors will be allowed to return to Louisiana nursing homes soon following a change in guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday.
Edwards said the state will "move to quickly implement" changes based on the new guidance to allow in-person visits to resume at nursing homes after visitors were banned in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We know these past several months have been tough, especially for our nursing home residents and their loved ones. It’s time for us to do something," Edwards said in written statement.
"At the same time, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and these residents are among our most vulnerable. We all must do our part to make sure this new policy is successful. That means wearing our masks and staying six feet away from others, including when we visit our loved ones in nursing homes.”
Nursing homes became early hotspots for the virus' spread during Louisiana's first COVID-19 wave in the spring.
Hundreds of the state's first deaths from coronavirus coming from nursing home settings where the virus spread more easily and residents are more likely to suffer its worst effects. More than a third of Louisiana's COVID-19 deaths are tied to nursing homes.
The state is adjusting its current operations to respond to the change in federal guidance and plans to amend its current prohibition on visitors shortly, Edwards said.
The new guidance will allow outdoor visitation with required social distancing at nursing homes across the state, and it will allow indoor visits for nursing homes in parishes with "no more than 10% test positivity" that have not had any new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, he said.
Mitigation measures, like face coverings and social distancing, will still be required under the new federal guidance to prevent further spread, and visitors will be required to undergo screening, such as temperature checks, before entering a facility.
Nursing homes are also encouraged to limit the number of visitors a resident can have at any one time and the overall number of visitors allowed in their facilities.
This week, Louisiana reached a milestone 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents throughout the course of the pandemic, according to data from the Department of Health.
Nursing home staff account for another 6,156 confirmed cases, meaning that more than 10% of the state's 160,000 confirmed coronavirus cases have been among people who either live or work at the facilities.
Louisiana has reported 2,225 deaths at nursing homes because of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. They account for 43% of the state's 5,172 COVID-related fatalities as of Friday.
Follow Andrew Capps for breaking news and updates on Twitter.