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DHEC releases new guidelines for nursing home and assisted living visitation

Updated: Mar. 10, 2021 at 3:54 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said they have received federal approval to update the visitation guidelines for nursing homes and residential care facilities.

The updated guidelines require facilities to use DHEC’s percent positive by county data to determine the status of visitations.

As of Wednesday, any facility that meets the guidelines must allow indoor and in-person visitation

DHEC’s updated guidelines are:

  • A percent positivity rate of 10 percent or less in the county the facility is located based on DHEC data.
  • No COVID-19 cases among staff or residents in the past 14 days
  • Maintain Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention.

Gov. Henry McMaster said the new guidelines represent progress but more work needed to be done.

“Too many South Carolinians have been prohibited from visiting their loved ones in long term care facilities because of overburdensome federal guidelines,” said McMaster. “Prioritizing the physical health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens is critically important, but we must also protect their mental and emotional health. These updated guidelines represent important progress and will result in many facilities opening for visitation, but there’s more work to be done and we will continue pushing federal agencies to allow expanded visitation.”

Prior to the change in guidelines, 177 facilities were not allowing visitation. DHEC says 43 of the facilities citing county percentage positive as the reason for not allowing visitation are in one of the 40 counties whose percent positive is below 10 percent and should be open to visitation provided they meet the other criteria.

DHEC says its county positivity rates are based on a 14-day average that is updated on Thursdays at 1 p.m.

Positivity rates by county can be found here.

DHEC says they will continue to provide weekly updates on the visitation status of all nursing homes and residential facilities in the state on their website.

Under the new guidelines, DHEC says facilities with limited visitation because of their county positivity rate should still encourage safe indoor visitation during compassionate care situations.

DHEC says to contact the nursing home of assisted living facility prior to visiting a loved one to confirm the visitation status and the policies and procedures surrounding the visit.

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