Visitor restrictions ease for Minnesota long-term care facilities as coronavirus cases spike

For the first time since the pandemic began, the state of Minnesota is easing visitor restrictions for long-term care facilities on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Rules meant to keep residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities safe have been a hardship for families who haven’t had much face-to-face contact with loved ones.

"We are both excited and nervous," said Duane Larson, Presbyterian Homes Senior Vice President of Operations. "We’re excited because the easement comes for families and residents to connect, which is really critical and important. Yet, it also comes at a time when we are seeing county positivity rates increase."

Presbyterian Homes has nearly 7,000 employees and serves 27,000 older adults in 52 communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

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"We’re looking at it from the perspective of the resident and what would be best for the resident," said Johannes Koomen, Presbyterian Homes Vice President for Clinical Services. "And we’ve been really focusing on the physical safety. And we learned during this period that there’s a lot more to it than just physical. There’s the emotional, social, intellectual aspects. And we want to make sure people maintain their mental health. So, from that point of view, we welcome it and we’ll work as hard as we can to provide the safest possible visits as fast as we can."

Safety protocols will still be in place at long-term care facilities and visitors will be expected to follow them.

"So, we’ve become, at least within our health care systems, very accustomed to saying you check your temperature, you wash your hands before you enter the building, you’re social distancing by six feet," said Larson. "And these have become normal commonplace pieces; you wear your [personal protective equipment] when you’re in the building. Those will all be in place for any type of visitor entering. And so, with that as a nuance, then yes, we come in and visit. But all of those pieces will still be in place."

According to the new COVID-19 guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, visitor access will be dependent on local COVID-19 case numbers in each county. If a county has a positivity rate greater than 10%, visits will be limited to essential care and compassionate care visits.