In response to new federal guidelines, Gov. Tim Walz's administration has moved to further ease rules that prevented families from visiting their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced Thursday that senior homes should allow indoor visitation "at all times and for all residents," regardless of whether the resident or visitor has been vaccinated, except in certain scenarios.
The action follows new federal recommendations issued Wednesday and builds on Minnesota's existing policies, which already permit the vast majority of the state's 2,100 senior homes to open their doors to family visits.
The policy change comes as coronavirus cases and deaths among senior home residents have plunged across Minnesota, and at the same time that COVID-19 vaccinations have accelerated. As trends have improved, advocates for residents and some lawmakers have been clamoring for an end to facility lockdowns, noting that many elderly residents have suffered anxiety and depression as well as physical decline since many homes placed strict limits on visitation nearly a year ago.
The new guidance should lead to more relaxed visitation policies, though consistent with the federal guidelines, it does come with some notable limits. Indoor visits should be allowed at all times, the guidance states, unless a guest is visiting an unvaccinated resident in a county where the COVID-19 positivity rate is higher than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the nursing home have been fully vaccinated.
The guidance also says to limit visits if residents are infected with COVID-19 or are in quarantine.
"Vaccinations and the slowing of coronavirus infections are allowing us to safely expand visitation and allow indoor visits that bring families and residents together," the Department of Health said in a statement. "Minnesotans can help continue the positive momentum by taking the right steps to prevent spread of COVID-19. These include masking up, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate."
Chris Serres • 612-673-4308