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By Elizabeth Janney, Patch Staff, June 20 2020

Some Maryland nursing home residents will be allowed to eat meals together and have visitors outside, the Maryland Health Department said.

Nursing Home Residents Can Have Outside Visitors: Maryland Health Dept.
(Elizabeth Janney/Patch)

MARYLAND — This weekend residents at Maryland nursing homes may have visitors for the first time in more than three months. Ahead of Father’s Day weekend, the Maryland Department of Health announced Friday it was easing restrictions at facilities where there had not been any cases of the coronavirus among residents or staff in 14 days.

Facilities must meet other stipulations such as having adequate personal protective equipment and no staffing shortages.

Visitors must be screened and wear face coverings. Each resident may have a maximum of two guests at a time, and the outdoor visitation has to be monitored by staff to ensure social distancing.

In addition to outdoor visits, nursing homes will allow limited communal dining and small group activities among residents.

The older population has been particularly vulnerable to the virus, and visitors to nursing homes have been restricted since March 10.

More than 12,100 people in Maryland’s congregate living facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state health officials. More than 62 percent of Maryland’s coronavirus deaths have occurred in congregate living facilities, state health data shows.

With more parts of Maryland reopening, state officials say coronavirus testing is increasingly important to ensure that potential outbreaks are identified and contained. State health officials sent a letter this week to local leaders urging them to make testing more accessible to everyone.

“It is absolutely critical to step up local COVID-19 testing response efforts so that we may continue to move forward on the road to recovery,” Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall and Maryland Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips said in a letter sent Thursday to local leaders.

Gov. Larry Hogan allowed gyms, malls, bowling alleys and casinos to reopen Friday with safety and sanitizing measures in place.

High-volume testing sites will open in the coming weeks, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

These are the groups the Maryland Department of Health has prioritized for coronavirus tests:

  • Anyone with symptoms
  • People who do not have symptoms meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • Those who have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases
    • Residents and staff of congregate living facilities and long-term care facilities
    • Health care workers and first responders
    • Patients, especially those who are high-risk, whose care would be altered with a COVID-19 diagnosis
    • Those working in close-contact settings
    • Those who have been in a large gathering
    • Those who have been directed by the Maryland Department of Health to get tested associated with a cluster, outbreak or contact investigation

Authorities said 408 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the past day. There are 63,956 confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland, state health officials reported Saturday.

Since the pandemic began in March, state health officials say more than 555,000 coronavirus tests have been administered across Maryland, and nearly 10,500 people have been hospitalized with the virus. Over 4,700 have been released from isolation. A total of 2,923 people have died from the coronavirus, state health officials reported Saturday.