CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Residential skilled nursing facilities in Rhode Island are taking action to help protect patients in light of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, the R.I. Department of Health directed these facilities to limit visitation hours.
Health experts have reported that many of those who have died due to COVID-19 are older or already have weakened immune systems or serious illnesses. In Washington state, most of the 10 people who have died there were residents of a nursing home just outside Seattle.
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The R.I. Department of Health said Thursday it’s working with hospitals and nursing homes to limit visitors, barring visits from people who are ill or children younger than 18 years of age.
Those restrictions are considered “level 1,” and during a conference call Friday, the health department informed these facilities the restrictions would be raised to “level 2,” which puts a limit on visiting hours. “Level 3,” if necessary, would ban all visitors from entering healthcare facilities, according to health officials.
Entering the Scandanavian Communities rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility on Broad Street in Cranston, visitors now pass signs warning them in multiple languages to please not enter if they fall into some of the cautioned categories. Sanitizing equipment, rubber gloves, and masks are also being provided.
“Whether it’s a flu outbreak or coronavirus, taking care of those residents is our top priority,” said Colette Silverman, the facility’s executive director.
Scandanavian sent out alerts this week to everyone related to both the Broad Street facility and their assisted living campus on Warwick Avenue “just to update them on what’s happening,” Silverman said.
“We are screening visitors when they come in,” said the director of nurses, Kerri Scalzo. “We’re asking them if they’ve traveled in the last two weeks out of the country, and we are asking them if they have any of the following symptoms: sneezing, coughing, fever, or shortness of breath — and asking them not to visit.”
“I know it’s very important for you to come in and see your loved ones, but we all need to calm down, and use a level of common sense,” administrator Tai Sodipo added, pointing out that staying in touch is easier at a distance with today’s technology — not just by phone or email, but by using video calling like on Skype, Facebook, or other providers.
And, as the signs loudly declare, to wash hands or use alcohol-gel hand sanitizer.
“You keep safe, so we can take care of your loved ones,” Sodipo said they’re advising.
Scott Fraser, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, which represents many other nursing facilities in the state, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:
“The health and safety of our residents and our employees is our number one priority. Our homes will work to comply as soon as possible with the new visiting restrictions.”
Anyone who has questions regarding the virus can call the R.I. Department of Health at (401) 222-8022 or visit the department’s website.