HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order Wednesday requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter nursing homes.
The order takes effect on Saturday.
Visitors have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and if eligible, under FDA or CDC guidance, have received a booster shot.
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test result can be provided on paper or electronically. A rapid antigen test must be completed within 48 hours prior to the visit. A PCR test must be completed within the previous 72 hours.
Visitors can also take a rapid test at the nursing home. The governor’s office says the Connecticut Department of Public Health plans to distribute 50,000 rapid antigen tests to all nursing homes to facilitate safe visitation.
Test distribution will begin Friday.
“We know that some of the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 include those who live in nursing homes, which is why we need to be doing everything we can to protect them from this virus,” Lamont said. “This is one more precaution we can implement at these facilities to keep them safe.”
The order requires nursing homes to deny entry to any visitor who tests positive for COVID-19 or who refuses to take a rapid test.
According to guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the order also says a nursing home cannot deny entry to any visitor who is willing to take a rapid test but cannot because the nursing home is unable to provide one.
Masonicare will pick up their allotment of rapid tests Friday. Facilities like theirs still do not know how many tests they will be receiving or if there will be more shipments in the future.
“We don’t know how long this will go for, we anticipate that it will be a while, so we need to make sure we are prepared for it,” said J.P. Venoit, CEO of Masonicare. “If someone refuses to take an antigen test and doesn’t have a proof of vaccine, we can’t let them into visit.”
This move comes after the Lamont administration issued guidance earlier this month, asking short and long-term care facilities to take in COVID-19-positive patients if they can, in order to alleviate some stress on hospitals. It is not a requirement to take them in.
Matt Barrett, the president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said he is concerned over the recent spike in COVID-19 cases at nursing homes in the state.
He said after a call with the state Department of Public Health Wednesday, he learned, as of Jan. 11, 203 out of the state’s 209 nursing homes are experiencing an outbreak.
On Dec. 14, that number was only 132.
“Visitors, you know seeking to visit loved ones, are very regrettably and unwittingly contributing toward the spread of the virus,” Barrett said. “Even if overall the consequences are less severe, with the sheer numbers we need to do what we can to prevent the spread so that the negative outcomes are as small as possible.”
Severe staff shortages are also impacting nursing homes.
“Some organizations have accepted hundreds of COVID-19 residents because they have the tools to care for them and do so in a way that won’t contribute toward the further spread of the environment but that is not the case across all nursing facilities,” Barrett said.
As for vaccines, under an additional executive order, all staff at long-term care facilities are required to get boosted by Feb. 11.