It has been two months to the day since California went into lockdown and at least that long since you last had physical contact with loved ones in their nursing home. With the state now gradually reopening, you may be wondering when eldercare facilities will allow family visitors once more. The date may be later than you think.
We are officially in phase two of Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-phase plan for reopening the state:
- Phase 1 (Mar. 19 – May 7): Lockdown with the strictest restrictions.
- Phase 2 (May 8 – Now): Lower-risk businesses such as malls, bookstores, and florists, all with curbside pickup and appropriate social distancing. Offices and dine-in restaurants will be part of a later Phase 2 opening.
- Phase 3 (No date specified). Higher-risk businesses and venues can open with social distancing. These include gyms, movie theaters, hair salons, barber shops, churches, and sporting events without live audiences.
- Phase 4 (No date specified). Stay-at-home orders end. The highest-risk sectors, such as conventions, concerts, and live sports, can open.
Unfortunately, none of the governor’s dispatches have addressed nursing homes whose occupants remain at the worst risk. Nearly half of the coronavirus deaths in California consist of residents and staff at eldercare facilities. Such locations require special consideration when it comes to re-opening.
Re-opening Nursing Homes
Because of the lack of state guidance, nursing homes have to turn to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It released guidelines that recommend and three-phase approach for reopening such facilities:
- Phase 1 (Current phase for nursing homes): Complete lockdown. External access is only allowed for staff, vendors, and medical professionals. Exceptions may be allowed for visiting a resident who is close to death.
- Phase 2: A facility may move to the second phase only if it showed no Covid-19 cases for 14 days. If a quarter or more of the residents have been infected, the facility must be free of cases for at least 28 days. This phase allows limited visitors during restricted hours and group activities such as communal dining with social distancing.
- Phase 3: The final phase is only available to nursing homes that continue for two more weeks without new cases. This phase returns to normal activities including more visitor access.
While these guidelines represent a sound approach to re-opening eldercare facilities, they demand continuous and rigorous testing. The state has ramped up general testing for the virus with 35,000 tests a day for a total so far of over one million. However, testing in California’s 1,224 nursing home lags far behind. The state is leaving decisions on who gets tested in such facilities to local health departments.
The best way to discover when your loved one’s nursing home open is to ask. Find out if it is following any government guidelines and how it is handling testing of residents. If you feel that something is wrong, or your loved ones have caught or died from the virus, please contact us. We can help determine the nursing home’s liability.
Disclaimer: The medical content of this blog is provided for information only and is not intended as medical advice or substitute for the advice of a physician.