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MDH lays out guidelines for 'window visits' at long-term care facilities

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health

While long term care facilities are still on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health announced guidelines Monday that would allow loved ones to visit at a distance.

The guidelines lay out how people can visit someone at a long-term care facility through a window. The older, at-risk residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been disproportionately affected by the virus. While other parts of the state have been given the green light to begin opening up, long-term care facilities have remained largely closed.

Under the new guidelines, people can visit a resident of a long-term care facility through a window outside. The window may be open, but both parties must wear cloth masks. Social distancing of at least six feet must be maintained.

Those wishing to visit should also contact the facility in advance, according to the guidelines.

According to the Department of Health, Minnesota’s long-term care and assisted living facilities account for 15 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 80 percent of deaths.

While these guidelines are some of the first to allow outside contact at facilities, Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, said they don’t go far enough.

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Housley called for widespread testing at long-term care facilities that would allow for more outside contact by loved ones.

“Unfortunately, Minnesotans still have no clarity about when they might be able to spend time with their loved ones – many of whom suffer from physical or mental conditions that make window visits nearly impossible,” Housley said in a statement. “Life does not stop, even during a pandemic.”

The Department of Health cited expanded testing for long-term care facilities as a priority in a presentation last month, including for all symptomatic residents and staff and those that live in facilities with cases. 

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