COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities are getting closer to being back to normal for families across South Carolina.
On Friday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced updated visitation guidelines for facilities in order to better align with new federal guidance that was released last week.
Beginning Friday, all nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Carolina are required to offer outdoor and/or indoor visitation with few exceptions.
“Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as their families and friends, benefit emotionally, mentally, and physically from being able to see their loved ones,” said Nick Davidson, Senior Deputy for Public Health. “While visitation limitations were necessary for protecting the health of residents during the pandemic, current recommendations are now to allow for visitation with disease prevention protocols in place.”
While facilities are now required to allow visitation at all times and for all residents, there are circumstances involving a high risk of COVID-19 transmission where facilities could limit indoor visitation for specific residents, as outlined below.
- Unvaccinated residents: if the facility’s COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated
- Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue Transmission-Based Precautions
- Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine
- A new case of COVID-19 is identified, a facility must suspend indoor visitation pending the results of a round of facility-wide testing
Prior to these updated guidelines, there were 177 facilities in South Carolina reporting they were not allowing visitation based on previous visitation guidelines.
The new guidelines also allow for physical touch. They read:
Facilities shall allow fully vaccinated residents the option to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor if they both wear well-fitting face masks, perform hand hygiene before and after, and the visitor is physically distanced (maintaining at least 6 feet between people) from all other residents and facility staff. Visitors shall physically distance from other residents and staff in the facility. Visitors unable to adhere to the core principles shall not be permitted to visit or shall be asked to leave.
DHEC Senior Deputy for Public Health Nick Davidson said the department will follow up on complaints of facilities not following the new rules.
“We do have inspectors, those inspectors will as necessary, visit to ensure compliance,” he said.
He said the focus will likely be geared toward facilities where residents or families express concern.
Compassionate care visits will continue to be required under the rules.