New Hampshire’s long-term care facilities have received guidance from the state for resuming visitation, which could begin as early as this weekend, according to N.H. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.
During a Tuesday news conference, Shibinette said long-term care facilities are drafting individual plans for restarting visitation. There are a number of conditions they’ll have to meet, such as ensuring social distancing, keeping visitation outdoors and scheduling all visits by appointment.
“We’ve been working with stakeholders since last week and really came together collaboratively and said, ‘What could we do to really acknowledge the importance of the psychosocial value of having those visits continue or to start up again?’ “ she said, “and also acknowledge the safety of the residents and the visitors.”
Visits at long-term care facilities have been restricted since March.
The commissioner said the plan for each facility will look a bit different depending on its size. Visitors will be restricted to two guests age 12 or older. She added that visitation will take place in designated areas, which will be private but supervised, and that no physical contact will be allowed.
Shibinette also said the state will continue testing nursing home residents and workers, and nursing homes will screen visitors for signs of illness. She added that detailed visitor logs will be kept to assist with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
“If we get a positive case in a facility that had had visits, and maybe that resident had a visit, we will be able to identify the visitors that have been exposed through that visit,” she said.
The populations of long-term care facilities have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the state health department, nearly 83 percent of COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire were associated with such facilities as of Tuesday evening.