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Nursing home restricts visitors to shield residents from Coronavirus

By Jill Penley

The only people going into nursing homes and assisted living facilities at this point are the essential staff. While that is the only solution to keeping COVID-19 away, it also makes for some long days for Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation’s residents, especially those who are accustomed to daily visits from friends and family.The virus is a severe threat to long-term care facilities, where elderly and immunocompromised residents live in close quarters.

“Signature HealthCARE makes the safety and well-being of our residents and stakeholders our top priority, always,” said Joe Steier, President, and CEO. “Based on the instructions of the CDC and other government agencies, including the continued, daily guidelines issued by President Trump and the White House, our facilities remain under “limited access” which means no individual, regardless of reason, can enter a facility, except under certain and very specific circumstances, such as an end-of-life situation or when critical for a resident’s emotional well-being and care.”

On March 22, Tennessee Gov Bill Lee issued an executive order putting some of the CDC guidances into law by banning all visitors from entering “nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care or assisted-living facilities, unless to provide essential assistance or to visit residents receiving imminent end-of-life care, provided such visits may be accomplished without unreasonable risk to other residents.”

Kristi Wick, the Vicky B. Gregg Chair of Gerontology at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, leads a task force known as “COVID-19: Older Adult Community Response.” Wick said so far the group has worked primarily on securing needed supplies and food for isolated seniors because keeping them healthy at home is key to keeping them out of nursing homes and hospitals. Group living situations, including independent living or congregate housing sites, are one of the task force’s major concerns.

“We’ve been trying to provide guidance out there. Everyone seems to be on track with trying to follow the CDC’s guidelines for cleaning common areas and things like that, but [congregate housing] along with the assisted livings, nursing homes, and all the towers, they’re a particular concern for hotspots, for sure,” Wick said.

Nursing home infection rate date has always been monitored, and COVID-19 is no exception. According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. COVID-19 stands for “Coronavirus disease 2019,” which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered. To become more transparent, the Tennessee Department of Health released a list of nursing homes affected by COVID-19. Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center remain virus-free at press time.