by KATE EVANS
Governor Jim Justice issued an executive order on Wednesday, August 12 that temporarily prohibits in-person visitation to all nursing homes in West Virginia after 28 active outbreaks of COVID-19 infections occurred in nursing homes around the state. Justice was also concerned about community spread of the virus and 12 new deaths from COVID-19 in various counties-11 of the deaths in elderly individuals.
Exceptions to the nursing home visitation restrictions were “cases of compassionate care due to end-of-life or deteriorating physical and/or mental health,” according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.
The ban on visits went into effect at midnight on August 13 and doesn’t include assisted living facilities.
Stonerise HealthCare’s Berkeley Springs Center and War Memorial Hospital’s Extended Care Facility have both stopped visitation to their facilities in compliance with the Governor’s order.
Neither facility has had any cases of the COVID-19 virus in residents or staff. Neither has had any deaths from the virus and there are no active outbreaks of the disease in their facilities.
War Memorial Hospital’s Extended Care Facility said they had restarted patient visitation on August 4 out on the patio outside where social distancing was possible but it has stopped due to the Governor’s order.
On their website, Stonerise Health Care officials expressed hope that they would soon be able to welcome in-person visitors at their facilities once the Governor relaxes his restrictions. They noted that his visitation restrictions were in response to outbreaks at facilities that weren’t a part of the Stonerise HealthCare network.
Stonerise HealthCare offers televisit options for families so they can see their loved ones via video. They use Zoom for the scheduled televisits, which family members, friends and spiritual advisors can request.
Governor Justice had originally asked state nursing homes to halt visitations on March 12 and on April 17 mandated COVID-19 testing for all residents and staff of state nursing homes.
West Virginia was the first state in the country to put full nursing home testing into place.
On June 10 the Governor announced plans to resume nursing home visitation with some restrictions in place.
Under this plan, each facility would be evaluated as Phase Red, Phase Blue, Phase Yellow or Phase Green with different protocols for visitation, screening, non-essential personnel, communal dining, outside trips, group activities and salon services, depending on the facility’s COVID-19 status and the level of county transmission spread.
Phase Red-designated nursing home facilities had active COVID-19 resident cases or positive cases within a 14-day period.
Phase Blue facilities had two or more residents with COVID-19 in the Green or Yellow Phases or substantial community spread.
Phase Yellow was for facilities with no COVID-19 cases and/or no substantial community spread for the prior 14 days.
Facilities that have progressed for 14 consecutive days under Phase Yellow with no COVID-19 positives and no substantial community spread would enter Phase Green. Phase Green has the least restrictions and Phase Red the most.
Justice said that they would be working hard to devise a metric as soon as possible so they could make decisions for each county and not have to close everything statewide. That way they “can have visitation in some nursing homes, even if they can’t have it in others.”