State lifts curbs on indoor visits to senior homes, but urges caution

Despite an alarming surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Tim Walz’s administration is rolling back a heart-wrenching policy that prevented families from visiting their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities during the pandemic.

The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidelines Monday that allow indoor visits at most senior homes that have not had new COVID-19 infections in the preceding two weeks and the infection rate in the surrounding county is no more than 10%. But the state recommends that long-term care facilities limit how many visitors a resident can have at one time, as well as the duration of indoor visits.

The guidance was issued in response to a new federal policy and significantly eases restrictions in place since March, when nursing homes and assisted-living complexes across the state shut down and barred family visits in an attempt to protect older residents who are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory infection. As the pandemic wore on, advocates for residents and their families have been clamoring for an end to the lockdown, noting that many elderly residents have suffered anxiety and depression, as well as physical decline since the ban was imposed.

In Minnesota, and across much of the nation, the seven-month lockdown has turned many senior homes into small fortresses, with only staff and essential caregivers allowed inside. For months, many anguished residents have only been able to talk to their relatives via remote video feeds or through cracks in windows. Such limited interactions have failed to ease the anxiety of many who suffered from dementia, or those who simply wanted to hug or kiss their relatives, say eldercare advocates.

“We are really looking to make sure that we do everything that we can to have the residents and families be able to connect with one another,” said Lindsey

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