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Some families thrilled with DPH’s new COVID-19 guidelines allowing visitation at nursing homes, others say they don’t go far enough

Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Families are elated at the news the state is pulling back its pandemic-driven ban on indoor nursing home visits, but some loved ones say the rollback does not go far enough.

“Even this past Friday, I thought it was a beautiful day and she was saying it was cold. But she’s 96, so her tolerance for temperature is not the same as mine would be,” said Susan Ferency, whose mother is in a nursing home.

Ferency is thrilled indoor visitation is now allowed. The Dept. of Public Health order is effective immediately, but it’s up to individual nursing homes to come up with a safe visitation plan that incorporates state mandates including visitor screening, hand hygiene, PPE, and social distancing.

RELATED: DPH announces new COVID-19 guidelines allowing visitation at long-term care facilities

Ferency says it will be good for her mom’s mental and physical health: “She’s very very happy when she gets to see me,” she said.

But other families with loved ones in long-term care call the change a baby step towards getting nursing home residents the family-augmented care on which many had come to rely.

Stern says seniors are at risk of feeling intense social isolation without touch or closer contact.

“They want nothing more than to sit with a loved one and hold their hand. To sit six feet apart with a mask does not address their needs,” she said.

At Mary Wade House in New Haven, where they have not recorded a COVID-positive patient since late July, CEO David Hunter says they’re staying with outdoor visits for as long as weather permits.

RELATED: Gov. Lamont says Connecticut is slated for Phase 3 on Oct. 8; indoor dining capacity increasing to 75%

“We will continue to do it outside because Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, CMS, their guidelines are to continue to have visitation outdoors because that is the safest place,” said Hunter. “If it’s raining or as it gets colder we will be having a room inside for visitation and the protocol will be the same as it is outside. Good handwashing hygiene, wearing a mask, keeping distant.”

Governor Ned Lamont says he feels comfortable lifting the indoor visitation restriction due to nursing homes’ very low current infection rate. He says widespread testing will be used to monitor any upticks.

Senate Republicans including Sen. Kevin Kelly (R – Stratford) are pushing back, saying 74% of all state COVID-related deaths occurred in nursing homes, and the order does not go far enough towards addressing families’ concerns over social isolation. He said he’d like to see nursing homes on the agenda for the special session. Currently, the topic is not on the agenda.

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