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'It’s a hallelujah moment for us' | Nursing homes will welcome visitors again

Nursing homes in Louisiana will be able to welcome visitors again if they meet certain criteria.

NEW ORLEANS — Federal, and soon Louisiana, guidelines are opening the door for visitation at nursing homes, after six months of lockdown. 

“We’re kind of on pins and needles just waiting to hear how and when,” said Carla Adams, the daughter of a resident of Poydras Home.

We first met her in July, when Poydras Home appealed to the Louisiana Department of Health to allow outdoor visits. With the help of technology and dedicated staff from Poydras Home, Adams was able to Facetime with her mother. 

Now, she’s thrilled for the chance to visit in person, even at six feet apart. She called her mother Friday afternoon after hearing the news. 

“She’s thrilled. She’s so excited, so relieved. Just told her cautiously optimistic that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later,” she said. 

Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services loosened up restrictions on nursing home visitation. 

It now allows for outdoor visits, but socially distant. Indoor visits can now happen as well at facilities with no COVID-19 cases for two weeks, and in parishes where the case positivity rate is below ten percent. 

All visitation requires screening, social distance, masks, and homes must limit the size of visits and number of visitors inside facilities. 

Governor John Bel Edwards immediately asked the Louisiana Department of Heath to enact the federal guidance. 

“It’s a hallelujah moment for us for sure, for sure,” said Mike Schonberg, CEO of Schonberg Care. 

Schonberg Care operates six homes in Louisiana, including two in New Orleans. He says visits could resume as soon as the state department of health sends out official word to Louisiana nursing homes, perhaps next week.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to have both inside and outside visits,” he said, adding that residents who have mobility difficulties or sensitivity to heat or cold may require indoor visits. Meanwhile, outdoor visits can better accommodate larger families. 

“I think they’ve [Department of Health officials] become a lot more confident that we’re taking it seriously and that we want to do the best we can for our residents, by way of making them safe, happy and healthy,” said Schonberg. 

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Schonberg said these new loosening restrictions could also be encouraging for families who were reluctant to move a family member into a nursing home during the pandemic. 

Data shows COVID spread has dramatically slowed at nursing homes.

Only two residents between Orleans and Jefferson Parishes tested positive last week, in numbers released September 15th. 

Many are hoping those numbers hold strong as families across Louisiana prepare to reunite.

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