For months, families in Texas have been unable to see their loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, but now visitors will be allowed on a limited basis, officials announced Thursday.
At long-term care facilities that have no active coronavirus cases among residents and no positive test results among staffers for 14 days, some indoor visits will be allowed, according to Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s new rules.
Just as the rule changes were announced, news of a tragedy broke. A nursing home in Missouri City announced that 19 of its residents have died of COVID-19. A total of 85 residents and 24 staffers have tested positive for the virus.
At this time, nursing home facilities are permitted to conduct visits outdoors only. Physical contact between residents and visitors is not permitted.
Other requirements include:
- No active positive cases in residents.
- Any facility previously experiencing an outbreak that has fully recovered must be adequately staffed and following adequate infection control procedures.
- Facility staff are being tested for COVID-19 weekly.
At long-term care facilities, the above applies along with these rules:
- Adequate staffing to facilitate visitation in compliance with infection control requirements.
- Use of plexiglass as a safety barrier for indoor visitation to prevent spread of COVID-19.
The rule enhancements include that each facility must have a COVID-19 response plan that includes designated staff to work with cohorts of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, and staff should not change designation from one day to another, unless required to maintain adequate staffing for a cohort.
Both types of facilities also are required to adhere to the following rules.
- All nursing facilities must screen all residents, staff, and people who come to the facility, in accordance with specified criteria, and each resident must be screened at least three times a day for signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
- Each facility must have plans for obtaining and maintaining a two-week supply of personal protective equipment and resident recovery plans for continuing care when a resident recovers from COVID-19.
Information on window visits and vehicle parades, and limited indoor and outdoor visitor rules will be posted on the HHSC COVID-19 provider web page.
“Today’s announcement is a critical first step for every person in a long-term care facility and their loved ones,” said state Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), who is chair of the Texas House Committee on Human Services.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, was also pleased by the news.
“Access to family and loved ones is an important part of every resident’s health and well-being, which is why this policy shift is a move in the right direction for some of our most fragile Texans,” she said.