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NC Coronavirus: COVID 19 cases still increasing in nursing homes as officials loosen visitor restrictions

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been hot spots for the novel coronavirus.

Not only do these facilities bring people into close quarters where the virus can spread more easily, but Catherine Sevier, the president of the North Carolina chapter for AARP, said residents in these facilities are some of the most vulnerable to the infection.

“The biggest risk factor for dying from COVID is being older, having a comorbid condition, having another condition that puts you at risk and then being in congregate living,” Sevier said. “So when you put those three things together, that is ‘nursing home’ in bright lights.”

Back in April, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper instituted strict restrictions for nursing homes, banning visitors and closing common spaces to limit the spread of the virus. However, cases still began to spread throughout the facilities.

In early May, weekly COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes increased by 20%. By the end of that month, more than 3,000 residents were infected and more than 400 were dead.

Now, nursing home residents account for 40% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. In September, cases and deaths increased by nearly 7% and 31 facilities reported new outbreaks.

According to data submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in the last two months, 104 nursing homes statewide reported three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in a week. Ninety-three nursing homes reported their first case in the last two months.

But Sevier said isolating residents can have detrimental psychological impacts, and he believes plans to reopen to some degree are necessary for patient and family peace of mind.

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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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