SAINT PAUL, MN – Minnesota Department Health today released updated visitation guidance for those living in long-term care (LTC) facilities. Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, relentlessly advocated for these changes. She co-authored letters with Sen. Karin Housley, Chair of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, to MDH, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), and the entire Minnesota Congressional Delegation encouraging them to allow fully vaccinated LTC residents more freedom to visit with loved ones, including leaving the LTC facilities.
“I am so pleased that the MDH responded to the concerns we raised and provided updated visitation guidance for fully vaccinated long-term care residents,” said Robbins. “For over a year, seniors have been locked away for their own protection, which has caused great distress for residents and families. Now that the vast majority have been vaccinated, it is time to let them go out for a meal, attend church or go for a drive with their loved ones.”
The updated guidance includes the following recommendations related to outings:
• Residents who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine after non-medically necessary outings unless they spend 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period within 6 feet of someone who can spread COVID-19 (someone who has tested positive in the last 7-10 days.)
• Residents who are fully vaccinated may gather indoors or outdoors with other people who are fully vaccinated.
• Residents who are fully vaccinated can visit indoors or outdoors with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 infection.
• If the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with the persons they are visiting.
• If a resident who is fully vaccinated chooses to attend a place of worship or other group event, or to shop or eat in public establishments, the resident should follow the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention. MDH strongly encourages attending places of worship or other group events only when the 14-day county percent positivity rate is below 5%.
• Unvaccinated residents who leave the building to gather with others may be required to quarantine when they return. At this time, quarantine recommendations remain unchanged for an unvaccinated resident, regardless of the vaccination status of those with whom they gather.
“Families sacrificed so much over the past year in order to keep their elderly loved ones safe,” said Rep. Robbins. “Now that the vaccines have been made available to everyone who resides in long-term care facilities and healthcare workers, it is time to let seniors enjoy their lives again. I am proud to have fought for the many families who contacted me so they can finally reunite.”
The updated guidance also includes the following recommendations related to facility visits:
• Residents should be able to have private visits.
• If a resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitted face mask (if tolerated) and performing hand hygiene before and after.
• While taking a person-centered approach, outdoor visitation is preferred even when the resident and visitor are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, because outdoor visits generally pose a lower risk of spreading the disease. Visits should be held outdoors whenever feasible.
• Compassionate care visits, essential caregivers, and visits required under state and federal disability rights laws, should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak.
• Facilities in medium or high positivity counties are encouraged to offer testing to visitors as feasible. Visitors should also be encouraged to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity. While visitor testing and vaccination can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, neither testing nor vaccination should be required of visitors as a condition of visitation, nor should proof of such be requested.
• Screening questions must now include whether the visitor has had close contact in the prior 14 days with someone who is infected with COVID-19 (regardless of whether the visitor is vaccinated). If the visitor answers yes, the visitor should not be allowed to enter.