As North Carolina’s key metrics continue to remain stable and strong infection prevention and control requirements remain in place, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today issued a Secretarial Order updating visitation guidelines for nursing homes to allow indoor visitation.
“We have focused on protecting the health of nursing home residents since the start of this crisis. Our progress in testing, infection control and slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities allows us to move forward with safe indoor visitation in accordance with federal guidance,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
Indoor visitation will only be permitted in nursing homes with no COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and in counties with a percent positive testing rate of less than 10%, reflecting guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The updated order reflects the state’s dimmer switch approach to responsibly ease restrictions, while maintaining strong prevention measures. North Carolina continues to build on the early and aggressive actions it took to protect nursing home residents and staff. In addition to restricting visitation at the start of the pandemic, the state has provided personal protective equipment; helped fill staffing shortages; provided infection prevention and control training, support teams and targeted funding; mandated testing; and completed on-site infection control inspections of North Carolina’s more than 400 nursing homes.
Local community transmission levels are the key factor for nursing home outbreaks, emphasizing the importance of community-wide adoption of proven prevention practices (the 3 Ws). Facilities allowing in-person visitation will be required to follow strict infection prevention guidelines.
Throughout NCDHHS’s pandemic response, its five-point strategy for long-term care facilities has focused on prevention, staffing, testing, outbreak management and oversight. The department’s innovative universal testing strategy within skilled nursing facilities has been cited by the Rockefeller Foundation as a national model.