Families elated over easing of COVID-19 restrictions on nursing homes, long-term care facilities

Posted at 5:02 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 21:51:06-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The state plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions on nursing homes and long-term care facilities has been a long time coming for many families.

Cindy Parton has not been able to see her 83-year-old mother with dementia since March. The extent of her interaction has been limited to video calls. The lack of physical touch has been extremely difficult for Parton who described her mother as her rock.

"She's my everything," Parton tearfully said. "My mother has been gone from me for six months and the only thing I've had is a camera."

Her mother Shirley Vineyard has been staying at a nursing home in Erin since 2017 after she was diagnosed with dementia. However, Parton and many other families expressed elation after hearing the state will allow facilities to hold outdoor and limited indoor space visits starting in October. It applies if the facility had no positive COVID-19 cases for 14 days. The changes would rely on cases within the particular facility, rather than the county as a whole.

"It's time to reunite residents and families in a safe and disciplined manner so we can better balance the physical and emotional needs of our older Tennesseans," Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said during the announcement on Thursday.

The visits will be limited to no more than 45 minutes with up to two adult visitors.

Relaxing the rules is a pivot from the strict guidelines placed on an industry where the state has seen some of the biggest outbreaks. New state infection data revealed 604 residents died out of the more than 4,200 cases across Tennessee.

"I'm so happy I can't contain myself. I'm going to actually get to see her eyeball to eyeball without a camera in between us!" Parton said.

If there is a positive case, visitation is on hold until the facility has no infection for 14 days. The new changes will also allow them to use a room if the loved one cannot leave the room and the visitor has a negative COVID-19 test.

Communal dining, some activites and use barbers are allowed but at limited capacity with safety precautions. Visitors must still be screened, wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.