Most Tennessee nursing home patients still haven’t been able to see their families in person since the pandemic started, but state health officials say they’re looking for ways to relax restrictions to make that happen in the coming weeks.
The Tennessee Department of Health moved fairly quickly to lock down nursing homes so that just patients and staff could enter. And even then, the coronavirus continued to spread.
Visitations technically resumed in June, but very few facilities could meet the strict guidelines, which included having no COVID cases for a month straight.
Now state officials want to find a way to reconnect patients after weeks in isolation. Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey is forming a task force to recommend relaxed rules for visitation that would still keep patients safe.
“We know that the elderly and disabled that are in our nursing homes, miss and love and need that interaction,” she says.
But the state is limited in what it can do since federal rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dictate much of what happens in a nursing home.
During the pandemic, more than 40% of all deaths nationwide have been tied to nursing home residents. In Tennessee, more than 460 residents have died — roughly one-quarter of the 1,725 fatalities statewide — and 6,000 have tested positive, according to state figures.