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Iowa eases nursing home visitor limits amid coronavirus outbreak

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For the country’s 1.4 million nursing home residents, lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have meant more isolation. Those who call Southern Pines home are still grappling with seeing loved ones only through window panes or screens. (July 17)

AP Domestic

Iowa officials moved Thursday to ease visitor restrictions at many nursing homes, where thousands of frail Iowans have been isolated since March because of the COVID-19 threat.

The new rules allow for indoor visits at nursing homes, especially in parts of the state with relatively low transmission of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has ripped through dozens of Iowa care facilities. Nursing home residents have accounted for 702 of Iowa’s 1,360 deaths from the disease, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported on its website Thursday.

Emma Jean Schrock, right, visits with her niece, Joyce Butler, through a window at the Pleasantview nursing home in Kalona. (Photo: Special to the Register)

The department said in a news release Thursday that the new rules balance coronavirus prevention efforts with residents’ social needs. “Nursing home residents derive value from the physical, emotional, and spiritual support they receive through visitation from family and friends,” the news release said. It said the changes in state rules follow new federal guidance on the issue.

Many nursing homes began setting up outdoor visits this summer, but such arrangements have become more difficult as autumn sets in.

The new state rules allow indoor visits at nursing homes in counties where less than 10% of people being tested for the virus are coming up positive. The guidance includes suggestions on how such visits can be handled safely, including the use of masks, distancing and hand-washing. It also says Plexiglas dividers may be used. 

In counties with higher positivity rates, nursing home visits should

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