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Public health officials announced Thursday they would begin approving proposed indoor visitation plans for long-term care facilities with low COVID-19 rates.

Visitations have been restricted at Delaware's 88 long-term care facilities since mid-March, but the Department of Health and Social Services will allow eligible facilities to soon resume those interactions. As of Wednesday, September 2, 2020, the DHSS said it has approved 26 submitted plans at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. 

“We know that families and close friends of residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have been eager to see their loved ones indoors again,” DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik said. “We are pleased that our Division of Health Care Quality and Division of Public Health will be working with eligible long-term care facilities across the state to provide this opportunity for indoor visitation.”

The reopening plan for indoor visitations goes into effect September 8. Eligible facilities must not have had a new COVID-19 case within the previous 14 days, and be adequately staffed to address the needs of residents according to submitted plans. Visitors will be restricted to a max of two outside visitors, and an appointment must be made. Visits will be restricted to a visitation room near the entrance of any facility. Additional rules include: 

  • Only residents who are negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease may have visitors.
  • Visitors and residents must wear face masks at all times and must practice proper hand hygiene.
  • All visitors must maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet and must not have contact with the resident they are visiting.
  • Visitor testing is strongly encouraged, but at the discretion of each facility.
  • Staff will monitor the visits to ensure safety compliance.
  • Staff will disinfect the visitation area before and after each visit.
  • If the facility has a COVID-19 positive case originate there, indoor visitation would be suspended until the facility again reaches the 14-day mark without a new case.

A designated "support person"--either a family member or outside caregiver--can also be identified now for eligible facilities to assist with activities like bathing, grooming, and meal set-up, officials said. That individual must have visited twice per week prior to the pandemic. Full details on that designation can be found here