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Nursing homes taking extra precautions as they re-open to visitors

A lot of families are anxious to visit loved ones, and a lot of long term care providers are cautious about letting them in.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are starting to re-open. A lot of families are anxious to visit loved ones, and a lot of long term care providers are cautious about letting them in.

“I’ve been at Sayre almost ten years, and I will say the last three months have been the most trying times for our ministry because at the end of the day the people that are most affected by this are our residents,” notes Karen Venis, the CEO of Sayre Christian Village in Lexington.

Venis oversees all coronavirus testing for her residents and staff, approximately 335 people. So far, they’ve done five rounds of mass COVID testing.

“We did have a resident that went out from the facility and came back,” says Venis. “As our protocol is, any time anybody leaves and come back we do as a precaution COVID screen them. That resident did return with a positive screen. We received that information, the very next morning we did another round of mass testing.”

Current guidelines from the state won’t let any facility open unless they’ve been COVID case free for at least 28 days. Right now, only assisted living and personal care homes are allowed to open to visitors. By mid-July, families can begin limited visitation at skilled nursing and long-term healthcare facilities. Visitors will have to wear face masks, get their temperatures checked before entering, practice social distancing, and wash their hands.

As visitation progresses, so will the importance of contact tracing. Katrina Howard with the Lexington Fayette County Health Department helps with the testing and the tracing.

“Whenever you have an unknown come in, you have unknown for asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, you have a lot of different scenarios that potentially could increase the risk of future exposure, that will increase the risk of future cases, and everybody knows this, but when you have a plan of action in place, when you know your staffing, when you know what you’re gonna do, and you have active testing involved in this, this is gonna be a way to identify any cases quickly,” says Howard. During the pandemic, she’s helped secure COVID-19 test kits and test results for about a dozen long term care facilities. The new state prerequisite for re-opening nursing homes makes her work even more crucial.

“The long term care facilities are doing the best that they can,” says Howard. “They’re being active in conversations, they’re being active in plans, they’re on board. We’re not seeing resistance. We’re not seeing anybody not wanting to do what they need to do to make sure all their residents are safe.”

“Obviously there’s no rule book. We have sometimes had to change our policy two and three times a day just to make sure that we are doing every single thing we can to keep our folks safe,” notes Venis. Sayre Christian Village is still working on a re-opening plan. It’ll head to the governor’s desk for final approval.

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