The Minnesota Department of Health is relaxing visitor restrictions at senior care homes despite rising COVID-19 numbers statewide.
"Social isolation as a result of COVID-19 visitor restrictions is a significant concern and an issue that requires close cooperation between facilities, visitors, and local and state public health to address safely and successfully," the MDH said in a release featuring 22 pages of guidance.
"All visits should be held outdoors whenever practicable," the guidance says, noting that allowing indoor visits should be one person at a time and only if a facility has had no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days. It's the first time in approximately 8 months that indoor visits will be allowed.
In July, the health department loosened lockdowns at long-term care facilities by designating an "essential caregiver" to residents, who had spent the previous four months isolated from their families while COVID-19 spread in hundreds of senior care and nursing homes. To date, residents of long-term care have accounted for 1,522 of Minnesota's 2,144 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, according to state data.
As cases rise, Gov. Tim Walz on Monday officially extended Minnesota's peacetime emergency for another 30 days, marking the fifth time he's done so since the pandemic began.
“My top priority remains the health and safety of Minnesotans,” Gov. Walz said in a release. “As we watch cases rise dramatically in states around us, we must double down in our efforts to protect Minnesota from the spread of COVID-19.”
Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota have all seen test positivity rates, cases and hospitalizations reach record levels in recent weeks. Minnesota, meanwhile, has 446 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized (306 in non-ICU, 140 in ICU), according to state data.
Though restrictions are again being loosened as Minnesota heads deeper into fall and closer to the winter, when there are fears of increasing outbreaks when people spend more time indoors where the virus is known spread with more ease than in outdoor settings, visitors and staff will still have to follow strict guidance:
- Health screening, temperature checks for all visits upon arrival.
- Hand washing
- Face covering or mask covering mouth and nose.
- Social distancing at least 6 feet between persons.
- Instruction COVID-19 signage throughout buildings.
- Cleaning and disinfecting high frequency touched surfaces.
- Appropriate staff use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Separating residents to areas dedicated to COVID-19 care.
A flowchart, seen below, offers simple rules to follow for when visits can or can't be allowed.