MASON CITY, Iowa - For many, visiting a loved one at a long-term care facility has been a challenge. But new guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health may allow personal visits once again.
The new guidance would allow more indoor visits, depending on facility policy and per Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommendations. For indoor visits, regardless of county positivity rates, the Department encourages facilities to use chat boxes and/or plexiglass separators when possible. In addition, the guidance would allow more access for quality of life services, like barbers and beauticians. It would also expand the scope of compassionate care visits outside of end-of-life scenarios, such as transitioning to a home, or for grievance purposes.
Earlier this year, the Good Shepherd Health Center dealt with a severe outbreak of coronavirus cases. Now, CEO Ian Stockberger says the facility has been COVID-free for about a month.
"We worked with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Cerro Gordo Public Health, any state agency that would be involved with us. We were able to separate people and get it calmed down here in the facility where we're now COVID-free."
In addition, the facility has added more communication devices to allow family members to visit with residents.
"We are offering an amped up hybrid window visit, where we have purchased some good audio equipment and some microphones. People are able to have a high quality visit with a glass partition in between them. It's very safe, very easy to hear people."
Stockberger says the facility is considering allowing indoor visits again. However, he says they do not want to risk any more spread, with one factor being taken into consideration is Cerro Gordo County's positivity rate, as well as surrounding counties.
"This is such a multi-layered problem. It's federal, it's state, it's local, you have to consider all the facts. At Good Shepherd, we made the decision early and we've really stuck by it, that our safety is not to be compromised. We learned a very valuable lesson this summer. COVID enters these buildings, and it's not because you're not being safe in the first place. If there's anything to take away from this, it's absolutely that safety cannot be compromised."