By Kati Weis, CBS4 Denver, June 23 2020
DENVER (CBS4) – Since March, nursing home residents have been isolated from their loved ones, and other fellow residents in their facilities. But Tuesday, state health officials announced those residents can begin seeing visitors face-to-face, with restrictions.
Visitations will be allowed outdoors, by appointment only, according to Randy Kuykendall, director of health facilities for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, or CDPHE.
Kuykendall said only facilities that do not currently have outbreaks, and have not had any coronavirus cases in the last 14 days, will be allowed to accept visitors. Kuykendall said the appointments will help with contact tracing measures.
Further, Kuykendall said all visitors must wear masks, facilities should sanitize meeting areas in between visits, and facilities should only allow six visitors at a time per resident.
“It’s about the health, safety, and welfare of residents in these facilities,” Kuykendall said.
Anyone showing signs or symptoms of the coronavirus will not be allowed to visit, according to Kuykendall.
Kuykendall serves as co-chair of the Residential Care Strike Team, a task force created by the governor designed specifically to assess proper pandemic guidelines for residential care facilities, like nursing homes. Kuykendall said the change in visitation guidelines has been a central focus of the team for the last several weeks.
“This has been one of the most difficult sets of decisions that we’ve been called upon to make in public health, certainly in my 40-year career,” Kuykendall said.
The change in guidelines could not come soon enough for some families.
Patricia McCracken’s mom, Donna Geyer, has been isolated at the Hallmark Nursing Center in Denver since the pandemic began.
“It’s been really tough on her,” McCracken said. “I’ve cried a lot.”
McCracken said her mom has not even been allowed to leave her room or socialize with other residents, due to state restrictions.
“Just this last week, she can go out of her door and into the hallway, but she can’t go into anything,” McCracken said.
McCracken worried about her mom getting depressed due to the isolation, and said she is grateful to hear the state will finally allow visits.
“Whatever it takes to see my mom again,” McCracken said.
Beth Williams, a spokesperson for the Hallmark Nursing Center, provided the following statement about the new changes: “At Life Care Centers of America, residents are – and have always been – our highest priority. We are aware of Gov. Polis’ announcement allowing limited visitation at nursing homes. We are currently reviewing the governor’s plan and are incredibly excited to begin offering these limited visitations at our centers that meet the plan’s criteria.”
Kuykendall said this is the first step in allowing visitations. Next, the task force will look at how to safely allow indoor nursing home visitations.