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People in care facilities can soon spend more time with family and friends

Some congregate care facilities are eligible to enter Phase 2 of the state’s long-term care plan. Families have long anticipated spending more time with loved ones.

People who live in long-term care facilities have endured a road of loneliness and isolation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent decreases in the number of new cases per day in Pierce County could mean an expansion of freedoms for many long-term care facility residents.

More than 60 percent of people who died from COVID-19 in Pierce County lived or worked in a long-term care facility. The residents who didn’t catch COVID-19 have not been able to see family members and other loved ones for many long months. They have faced disruptions to their routines. Facilities have canceled group activities and communal dining to prevent disease transmission. And social activities and group outings were on hold.

But restrictions at these facilities have been necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in congregate care settings. People living in care facilities often have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of poor outcomes if infected with COVID-19. When COVID-19 gets into one of these facilities it is very difficult to stop. For this reason, long-term and other care facilities follow some of the most restrictive COVID-19 guidance set by the state’s departments of Health and Social and Health Services.

Until recently, every congregate care facility in Pierce County was in Phase 1 of the state’s plan for long-term care facilities. For many of these facilities, Phase 2 will ease restrictions on visitation and activities:

  • Residents can have more than 2 visitors per day outdoors.
  • If a resident cannot meet outdoors and cannot use technology for remote visitation, they can have one essential support person visit once a day. Before, COVID-19 restrictions meant no visitors.
  • On-site activities resume but with no more than 10 people.
  • Residents can resume eating in the same room.

Little steps make a big difference in the lives of some of our most fragile neighbors.

When the county’s new cases per 100,000 population, with the 6-day lag, drops below 75, facilities can enter Phase 2. The 6-day lag is necessary to make sure the results are accurate. The state set other limitations before facilities can enter Phase 2 including:

  • Go 28 days without a client testing positive for COVID-19 or suspected of being positive.
  • Have a COVID-19 care plan.
  • Have adequate number of workers.
  • Have adequate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies stock.
  • Local hospitals must meet capacity guidelines.

If you or a loved one live in a congregate care facility, you’ve faced months of near isolation. Some have not had any friends or family to keep them company because of the restrictions. As facilities enter Phase 2, most residents will be able to spend time with family and friends.

Keep up the good work.

We are making good progress and the case numbers are coming down. We have more work to do.

  • Stay close to home.
  • Wear a mask when you leave home.
  • Limit your interactions to a small circle of friends and family.
  • Keep gatherings small, and outside if possible where fresh air circulates.
  • Stay 6 feet apart from others. Wear a mask when you cannot maintain 6 feet of space.
  • Get a test for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms, are Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, American Indian, Alaska Native—or have participated in any gatherings—social, civic, business, political, athletic or otherwise.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough, and keep up your best hygiene and sanitation.

The high rate of community transmission that began in mid-June, is only now beginning to come down. We don’t want to reverse that trend.

Let’s continue to fight COVID-19 together. Keep up the good work so families can have in-person visits. Learn more about COVID-19 at tpchd.org/coronavirus.