Home News COVID-19 Situation County positivity rate just above threshold to allow nursing home visits

County positivity rate just above threshold to allow nursing home visits

Mission Arch will provide outdoor visits for the families of residents, once Chaves County is allowed to do so, says the chief medical officer for the facility’s parent company. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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State expects to issue guidance, eligibility requirements by Monday

Chaves County had about a 5.4% positivity rate per 100,000 people on Friday when it came to COVID-19 testing, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

That rate is 0.4% higher than the 5% threshold established by the state to approve counties to offer in-person visits for family members of residents in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

A spokesperson for the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department said that guidance and the eligibility criteria are expected to be added to the New Mexico Department of Health website (cv.nmhealth.org) by Monday so that visits can begin that day.

Breanna Anderson added that positivity rates for each county are also expected to be added to the website and updated weekly.

“Our department, as well as DOH (Department of Health) have daily meetings for the most part with many of the long-term care facilities, if not all of them, so they can definitely ask the state institutions that they have meetings with … about who is eligible,” she said.

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials announced at an online press conference Thursday that changes would occur to a March 13 public health order instituted near the beginning of the state’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis. That order prohibited most visits at care facilities, and the changes will relax the rules starting Monday to allow in-person visits by appointments under certain circumstances.

There are now 21 states eligible for visits because of a positivity rate below 5%, according to a news release issued Friday by the Aging & Long-Term Services Department. Those counties listed in the news release — which are different than the ones listed during the Thursday press conference — are Bernalillo, Catron, Colfax, De Baca, Grant, Guadalupe, Harding, Hidalgo, Los Alamos, Quay, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Sierra, Socorro, Taos, Torrance and Valencia.

During the beginning phase of visitations, visits will be by appointment only and will be limited to one visit per family per month. The visits will have to occur outdoors, through open windows with plenty of distance between the residents and family members, or in plexiglass structures, what the state has termed a “chatterbox.” The facility cannot have an active COVID case, and family members will have to follow safety protocols and be free of COVID.

Several Roswell facilities were asked to comment on the change, but only Mission Arch Center chose to respond by press time.

Dr. Richard Feifer, chief medical officer with Genesis Health Care, which owns Mission Arch Center, said that the facility has been restricting visits to video teleconferencing or other remote means since mid-March, except under “exceptional circumstances, such as end-of-life situations.”

He said Mission Arch is prepared to offer in-person visits when the state allows.

“We will be offering visitation outside once we get permission from the state,” he said. “At that time, visitors and residents will wear masks, practice safe social distancing, and visitors will be screened prior to the visit, including a temperature check. Visits will be pre-scheduled, staff will be trained on the appropriate precautions and staff will be present to assist with the visits once we get the go-ahead.”

Until in-person visiting is allowed in the county, telephone and video visits with all patients are permitted. In-person visits are usually allowed during hospice, end-of-life or palliative care.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.