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Idaho's Long-Term Care Centers Can Open To Visitors This Weekend Under New Guidelines

DARIN OSWALD/Idaho Statesman
Families with loved ones at Paramount Park Assisted Living get a chance to wave and shout “I love you” to residents Wednesday, April 29, 2020 in Eagle.";s:

Long-term care centers will be able to open their doors to visitors beginning on Saturday, as the state moves into Stage 4 of its reopening plan. 


“We are simultaneously nervous about that, as well as excited about that,” Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said during a press conference on Thursday.


Many haven’t been able to see loved ones in long-term care centers, which include nursing homes, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities, since they began shutting doors to visitors in mid-March, in order to protect the high-risk populations from COVID-19.


“They want to know that their loved ones are okay, that they’re safe and that they’re getting good care,” said Amanda Scott, the state’s ombudsman for long-term care centers. Her team advocates for people in senior facilities around the state, and says families’ biggest concern right now is being able to check in on their relatives in the care centers.


The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has outlined guidelines for care centers to follow as they begin to relax restrictions and allow visitations. The health department says care centers should not open to visitors if they have active COVID-19 cases, meaning they’ve had a case among a resident or staff member in the past 28 days. But, facilities do not need the state’s approval to reopen. 


As of last week, 10 facilities in Idaho had active outbreaks. The Department of Health and Welfare is supposed to release its next weekly report of long-term care facilities with outbreaks on Friday, June 12.


Some protocols the state recommends for the care centers include having all visitors sign in, screening all visitors for fevers and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 and crafting a plan to test all residents and staff members if a confirmed case is identified. 


The guidelines also outline a resumption of group activities inside long-term care facilities if social distancing is possible.


About 60% of COVID-19 deaths in Idaho have been associated with long-term care centers.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 
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As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.