Visitation rules easing in Minnesota's long-term care facilities

A senior citizen holds the hand of a care coordinator
A senior citizen holds the hand of a care coordinator at a health facility in Miami on July 17, 2020. New federal guidelines released this week say facilities should allow indoor visits at all times and for all residents, except in circumstances where there is a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Wilfredo Lee | AP Photo file

New federal guidelines are relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for long-term care facilities in Minnesota.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released new guidance this week that allows for residents to receive visitors more widely than has been possible during most of the pandemic. 

The new guidance would continue to restrict visitation for:

  • Unvaccinated residents if the county positivity rate is above 10 percent and fewer than 70 percent of the residents in the facility are vaccinated

  • Residents who have a confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated

  • Residents in quarantine — vaccinated or unvaccinated

The guidance says compassionate care visits are to be allowed at all times, regardless of vaccination status, the local COVID-19 positivity rate or outbreaks.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health also adopted those standards. 

A majority of Minnesotans who have died from COVID-19 have been residents of long-term care facilities, despite virtual bans on visitors imposed early in the pandemic.

Visitation had opened up a bit in Minnesota in the fall to allow indoor visits, but how that was done varied facility by facility and had tighter restrictions around protocols and case numbers.

Facilities are opening up more across Minnesota, says Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, which represents many long-term care facilities in the state.

“We have a lot of buildings that have open, [but] they're not open to the extent that I think families and residents want — which is wide-open doors [to] any number of visitors,” she said. "What the guidance doesn't give us is the big step we wanted, which was, if our residents are vaccinated, and their families are vaccinated, they should be able to go out together, go to dinner together, go visit for Easter dinner.”

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