Under Gov. Ivey’s amended Safer at Home Order, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are allowed to have visitors starting Friday. Residents in those facilities will be allowed one visitor at a time.
The health order says facilities need to consider their coronavirus situation, whether residents or visitors are having any symptoms - and their county's coronavirus risk status as they start to allow more people in.
The Alabama Nursing Home Association -- which represents more than 90% of the state’s nursing homes -- said the move is an important first step.
"We're not ready to get back to normal visitation like we had pre-COVID,” John Matson, the group’s communications director, said. “But these limited indoor visits, along with the outdoor visits, are a good step on the road to getting back to normal.”
Matson said Thursday the updates to the health order are exciting -- even though they are on a limited basis.
The order says nursing homes should follow the guidelines laid out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Those include no new cases in the last 14 days, no current outbreak testing, limiting visitors to one per resident and limiting which parts of the building vistors are allowed into.
CMS also recommends visitors be required to pass a health screening and wear masks that cover their nose and mouth during the visit. Facilities can deny future visits to anyone who violates the rules.
Still, one of the most important considerations in the guidelines is something nursing homes can't control.
"The nursing home can meet all the criteria set forth by CMS, but if the county positivity rate is greater than 10%, the nursing home can't allow visits,” Matson said. “So this is where the public comes into play. Everything you do every day to help stop the spread of COVID-19 helps us be able to open our doors to indoor visitation."
Once you're aware of the guidelines, Matson said the best way to set up a time to see your loved one is to call the facility directly.