COVID-19: Federal guidelines relaxed for nursing home visits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the first time in a year of the pandemic, federal rules have been relaxed for nursing home visits.

This is a big win for families across our area who’ve been waiting to see their loved ones.

Mary Daniel’s husband, Steve, has been cooped up inside his Memory Care facility in Jacksonville for a whole year, except for the one time he left for a root canal appointment.

But things have improved since March 11, 2020.

“I’m able to visit Steve anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for as long as I want to wear a mask, and they have hand sanitizer everywhere,” said Daniel.

Her husband is vaccinated and so is she, but she still can’t take him out of the facility like she used to.

“To get him out on a day like today — the weather is so beautiful. I just want the sun on his face. I want him to be with our family,” she said.

She’s been told by the facility that she can soon take him out and she believes it’ll happen in a matter of days.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has relaxed guidelines for nursing homes.

Facilities can now allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status — but with a few exceptions.

But because the facility where Steve is doesn’t take directives from CMMS, Daniel worries changes could be delayed.

“Maybe this will be different. I don’t know. I know that there are people already calling their facilities and saying, ‘When can I get in?” she said. “I would be surprised if it went smoothly; it didn’t go smoothly in the past.”

Florida Gov.r Ron DeSantis said nursing homes should be open.

“Now that you have the vaccines they need to live life, let them make these decisions. We have no restrictions on that. We want them to be able to do it,” said DeSantis.

Daniel said, so far, her husband’s facility has been cooperative.

A year after the pandemic, she saidshe’s now found a new purpose: advocating for caregivers and nursing home residents.

“I’m going to share our story; our hope is that this doesn’t happen to anyone else again down the road. We’d like to have dialogue, would like to have some legislation that keeps essential caregivers as part of the equation forever,” said Daniel.

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