Care facilities can soon allow visitors but only if they meet strict criteria

Care facilities can soon allow visitors but only if they meet strict criteria

ATLANTA — Nothing has felt the full weight of the coronavirus pandemic more than Georgia’s long-term care facilities.

But new rules could soon allow Georgians to once again visit older loved ones in care facilities.

Visiting care facilities was shut down at the beginning of the pandemic as the coronavirus spread quickly across care homes.

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Nearly 40% of all COVID-19 deaths happened there. Gov. Brian Kemp even called out the National Guard early in the pandemic to visit virtually every facility in Georgia to help disinfect them.

But things are finally getting better, meaning that health officials will soon allow families to start visiting their loved ones again.

“As of yesterday, there were less than 700 active cases throughout Georgia. That’s down from a high in August of almost 2,000 cases, so it’s a significant decrease,” said Tony Marshall, the director of the Georgia Health Care Association.

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The governor’s office and the Georgia Department of Health put out the new visitation guidelines this week – but the criteria is strict.

“Public health mitigation efforts remain critically important, especially in long term care settings. The state acknowledges that it is equally important to consider quality of life and dignity of the residents,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

“The biggest part of our struggle is that our residents have not been able to see their loved ones,” said Jennifer Vasil, the administrator for the Westbury Medical Care and Rehab facility in Butts County. “It’s been challenging to us to watch the window visits and facetimes and just not be able to let them come in and give them a hug.”

Under the new guidelines, visitation will only be allowed where nursing homes and the county they are in have a positivity rate of under 5%. Currently, only 25 counties in Georgia meet that criteria.

The state of Georgia’s positivity rate is 10.3%.

Vasil said she’s excited about the new guidelines but acknowledges it won’t be easy to meet them because the county has to meet them. She says residents seeing their loved ones is important to their overall health.

Deaths related to coronavirus climbing again in Georgia nursing homes