How will nursing home visitation work in phase 3?

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EUNICE, La. (KLFY) – For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak began, nursing homes can become less restrictive if their parish meets the state’s criteria.

Under phase three, outdoor in-person visitation will be allowed if a parish is under 5% test positivity for the past two weeks and the nursing home has had no cases in two weeks.
The parish will have to opt-in for a 28-day pilot program.

When the governor announced phase 3, only 5 of 64 parishes had low enough percent positivity to qualify for outdoor nursing home visitation. The next update releases Wednesday, and that’s when each parish will learn if it gets the green light for the first close contact in six months.

St. Landry Parish was close, with 5.2% positivity four weeks ago and 3.5% a week later. Jean Andrus has visited her mother nearly every day since she was admitted into Eunice Manor nursing home years ago but ever since March, it’s been through a window.

“We got a barrier between us right now, you know, and I don’t think that’s the way God intended us to visit,” she said after a phone call with her mother separated by double-pane glass.

She’s thankful she can do that much to keep connected with her mother when many others can’t. According to Andrus, “The touch of family is huge in giving you life.” The physical touch has been missing to protect life from COVID-19, but Wednesday that could change.

St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard has been in communication with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and said if the last two weeks are revealed to have back to back percent positivity below 5%, he’ll opt-in for visitation.

Bellard told News 10, “At this point where the numbers are getting down where they need to be at, let’s try it, and hopefully, they do the right thing.”

Masks will be required at all visits and no one with COVID-like symptoms will be able to visit. Eunice Manor Administrator Nickie Toups said her staff will be giving screenings, questionnaires, and requiring hand washing. She also expressed taking a COVID test before your visit would be helpful.

According to LDH, 40% of all coronavirus deaths in Louisiana were inside nursing homes. At the time of this report, it was 59 of the 120 deaths in St. Landry Parish.

“I feel like we’re ready. I feel like we’ve learned so much over the past six months ago,” admitted Toups. “In the beginning, we didn’t know. It was like a secret, silent enemy, and now we’ve learned, and I think we’re more prepared than we’ve ever been.”

It’s good news is encouraging to Jean Andrus, but also her 89-year-old mother, Betty Leger.

“It’s so good to know that it’s almost time to be able to touch them,” Leger said through the window and over the phone. “I thank God for what’ he’s doing, and I will be a happy person.”

Andrus said her mom being happy is all she wants, and all Mom wants is a hug and a kiss, even if it’s through a mask, with her favorite creation on the planet.

Leger said, “I want to thank god for the greatest thing in the world. Family.”

On Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards and Dr. Alex Billoux said more information would be made available “in the coming days.” Parish President Jessie Bellard said he’s been told to expect more information Wednesday when each parish recent a percent positivity report for the last two weeks. It will be posted on the LDH coronavirus website.

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