State OKs outdoor visits with long-term care facility residents

Residents can see visitors outside as long as both parties wear masks and maintain social distance.
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Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesotans living in long-term care facilities can now meet with visitors outdoors, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the department issued guidelines for “window visits,” including allowing the window to be open if people wore masks and remained at least six feet apart.

Now, the department is allowing residents who are not infected with the coronavirus to visit outside, as long as both parties wear masks and maintain social distancing – physical contact will still not be allowed under state guidance. Facilities must also establish a schedule for visitation hours and screen visitors for coronavirus symptoms.

Residents in senior care facilities have not been allowed to see visitors in-person since the pandemic first began in March, prompting concerns of harm from prolonged social isolation while weighing the increased risk seniors face, in addition to living in close quarters.

So far, around 80 percent of reported coronavirus deaths in Minnesota were of residents in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

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The Star Tribune reports that in their analysis of death records, they found two residents whose cause of death included social isolation. The numbers could be higher because other phrases, like “failure to thrive,” are also often listed on death certificates.

“The Minnesota Department of Health recognizes how the effects of isolation can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of residents in LTC facilities. At this time, we believe the risk of COVID-19 transmission in LTC facilities and the need for family, partner or close friend interaction can be balanced under certain conditions,” the guidelines said. 

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