PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s the day families in Rhode Island have been waiting for since March.
Families can now visit their loved ones in long-term care and assisted living facilities, as long as they follow a set of guidelines to ensure the safety of the staff, residents and visitors.
Those living in these facilities are the most vulnerable population in the state and they have been impacted the worst by COVID-19.
The latest data shows that more than 2,600 residents in congregate care settings contracted the virus, with about 230 in long-term facilities and 40 in assisted living facilities dying after catching the virus.
In the past two weeks, there have been only a few, if any, new cases in nursing homes and no new cases in assisted living facilities.
The R.I. Department of Health is now allowing family members make appointments for half-hour slots — preferably outdoors — on the lawn of a facility.
Visits will be limited to only those essential to the resident’s physical and emotional well-being and care.
Facilities must actively screen everyone for a fever and symptoms of COVID-19 before they enter. Visitors will also have to wear a mask and keep a distance.
All facilities have been required to submit a plan on how they’ll keep everyone safe while allowing visitation.
The health department said their standard visitation plan was designed for facilities that do not have their own plans, adding that some facilities may take different approaches.
One woman says she thinks assisted living facilities should have had looser restrictions than nursing homes during the outbreak.
“She’s pretty lonely and loneliness causes depression and depression can cause cognitive decline and that’s such a vulnerable population, and early on I would start to see her get confused,” Sheila O’Connell said about her mother. “It got better and she got more adjusted, but she stopped getting dressed so she just stays in her nightgown and robe. She’s not walking much because she’s not supposed to leave her apartment.”
Many care takers and staff members in these settings have also contracted the virus in the past few months.
Later on Wednesday, the House Finance Committee is expected to meet to discuss establishing minimum staffing standards for nursing homes in this coming fiscal year’s budget.