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Nursing homes, hospitals can have limited visitors

Face coverings will still be required through Nov. 8, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday morning.

The governor held a press conference Wednesday morning in Montgomery.

Alabamians have been under a mask order since July 16 and the order had been extended twice.

Ivey said that the upcoming Nov. 3 election is the reasoning for the extension of the order.

“I want everyone to (vote) and to be able to do it safely,” the governor said.

Ivey said that the state’s number have been on decline since she issued the order.

Policies have also changed to allow limited visitors at nursing homes, long-term facilities and hospitals.

The new policy allows patients or residents to have one caregiver or visitor at a time.

“It’s important for nursing home residents and their family members to be able to visit in person and this is another step toward returning life to normal in nursing homes,” said Brandon Farmer, President & CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association. “We are pleased CMS is moving in this direction and thankful Governor Kay Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris amended the state health order to accommodate this change. We are working closely with Governor Ivey’s administration and the Alabama Department of Public Health to help our members understand and implement these guidelines.”

According to the CMS guidance referenced in the amended state health order, visitors and nursing home staff must follow certain requirements for the limited indoor visits. The CMS guidance says, “we encourage facilities in medium and high-positivity counties to test visitors, if feasible. Facilities may also encourage visitors to be tested on their own prior to coming to the facility (e.g. within 2-3 days) with proof of negative test results and date of the test.” Visitors must also adhere to CMS’ core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention and pass a health screening. The requirements are designed to protect the health of nursing home residents and staff members. Visitors who do not comply with the infection prevention requirements will not be allowed to visit. According to CMS, nursing homes located in a county with a positivity rate of greater than 10 percent will not be allowed to offer indoor visitation.

For indoor visitation, CMS says nursing homes must have no new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and not be currently conducting outbreak testing, limit the number of visitors per resident, limit the number of visitors in the building at one time and limit visitors’ movement inside the building. Visitors must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose and practice social distancing while visiting their loved one during their entire visit. Violation of these policies could result in denial of future indoor visits.