Visitation at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Oklahoma may resume Monday under a phased approach, according to an executive order by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
"It is important we take a measured and responsible approach to allowing visitors to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities, just as we did with the rest of our state," Stitt said in a statement. "This guidance will allow us to continue to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans while allowing them to safely resume valuable interactions with their loved ones."
Facilities must designate a licensed health care professional as their infection preventionist and submit to the state a plan covering steps for monitoring, staff training, and infection prevention and control.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health issued guidance to care facilities, which also covers group activities and outings. Under the first phase, visits are restricted to compassionate care situations like the end of a resident's life. Visitors must be screened before entering and wear cloth face coverings, and visits must be under limited and controlled conditions the facility coordinates, like visiting through a window.
Facilities in the first phase of reopening must have staff wear face masks at all times and personal protective equipment when interacting with residents. Group activities and dining are restricted to those who test negative for COVID-19 or are not exhibiting symptoms, and they must practice social distancing.
"Our mission is to support the mental health and quality of life for residents, while also taking into consideration the realities of COVID-19. We encourage families as they reunite with their loved ones to consider getting tested in advance and to wear masks for visitations and closely follow heightened protocols at the facilities," Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Lance Frye said in a statement.
Criteria for facilities to enter phases two and three of the health department's guidance are identical. It must have been 14 days since symptoms ended for the facility's last COVID-19 case or suspected case, the facility must have adequate staffing and PPE, local hospitals must be able to accept residents, and the county where the facility is must have a 14-day downward trend in new cases or positive test rates.
In phase two, visitation is still limited to compassionate care situations, but there are fewer restrictions. Visitors should still be screened. Residents can interact with each other more.
In phase three, all residents should be allowed limited visitation, with visitors continuing to be screened. Facilities must have a visitation policy available.
Limited outings for residents are allowed under phase three if they wear masks and are observed for 14 days afterward.
Facilities will return to phase one if a resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and one other person develops symptoms.