After Months Of Lockdown, New Plans For Washington State Care Facilities Will Allow Family Visits

Dorothy Campbell talks to her husband, Gene Campbell, on the phone through his window at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 5, 2020, in Kirkland. CREDIT: Megan Farmer/KUOW
Dorothy Campbell talks to her husband, Gene Campbell, on the phone through his window at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 5, 2020, in Kirkland. CREDIT: Megan Farmer/KUOW

READ ON

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced new regulations Thursday for long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, that give families better visiting options. These facilities, where people with vulnerable conditions reside, were put on lockdown as the pandemic began to spike this past spring.

“I’m very pleased today to say that we have come far enough both in our restraint of the pandemic and in our ability to develop protocols that will work to continue to protect the physical health of our residents while giving them much greater contact with their loved ones,” Inslee said during a press conference in Olympia. “More grandmothers visiting their grandchildren. It will mean more fathers visiting their sons. It will mean more friends getting together,” he said.

The state has developed a new four phase plan for the long-term care settings. This plan is entirely separate from the four phase protocol for reopening Washington state counties.

  • 1st phase: Allow compassionate care visits, window visits, remote visits, and outdoor visits limited to two per day.
  • 2nd phase: Allow indoor visits, but limited.
  • 3rd phase: More visits; easing up on restrictions.
  • 4th phase: Return to normal visitation.

In order to move forward in the phases, a long-term care facility has to go 28 days without staff or residents testing positive for COVID-19. They must also have a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment. Phases for facilities will also be based on conditions in the county they reside. Areas with higher transmission rates will have slower openings at healthcare facilities.

As of Aug. 4, there have been 5,694 cases of COVID-19, and 894 deaths, associated with long-term care facilities in Washington state. These cases include residents, employees and staff.

State Secretary of Health John Wiesmann said Thursday that data clearly shows that the elderly population is more at risk during the pandemic. He stressed that limiting activity outside the facilities in daily life will add up to improved conditions for Washington’s vulnerable populations.

Inslee echoed that sentiment.

“We know this virus is extremely active and we know that we are acting outside of these facilities to take care of folks inside by wearing masks,” Inslee said.

” I’m serious when I say that I hope people, the next time they think about going to a big party where they are going to hang around 20-30 people, not wearing masks, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, breathing on each other, I hope you think about the lives that would cost, the people that you love who might be in a long-term care facility, or yourself for that matter.”

Related Stories:

Mary Estime-Irvin, a councilwoman in North Miami, Fla., writes the name of a friend lost to COVID-19 on a symbolic tombstone that is part of a pandemic memorial at Griffing Park in North Miami in October. CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

U.S. Records 400,000 Lives Lost To COVID At 1-Year Mark Of 1st Confirmed Case In Washington

While millions wait for a lifesaving shot, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus continues to soar upward with horrifying speed. On Tuesday, the last full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, the official death count reached 400,000 — a once-unthinkable number. More than 100,000 Americans have perished in the pandemic in just the past five weeks. Continue Reading U.S. Records 400,000 Lives Lost To COVID At 1-Year Mark Of 1st Confirmed Case In Washington

Tim Killian, a spokesman for Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., prepares to give a daily briefing to reporters on Wednesday. CREDIT: Ted S. Warren/AP

COVID First Hit Long-Term Care In Puget Sound Region. Now It’s Hitting Home In Rural Areas

Some of the hardest hit places have been long-term care facilities in rural areas like Tonasket in Okanogan County, and in central Washington. At least three care facilities in Grant County have reported outbreaks and deaths since a large wedding near Ritzville last month attended by some care facility staff who later tested positive for COVID-19. But a definitive connection between those outbreaks and the wedding remains unclear. Continue Reading COVID First Hit Long-Term Care In Puget Sound Region. Now It’s Hitting Home In Rural Areas

Tonasket, in Washington's Okanogan County, no longer has a police force after the mayor disbanded it. Courtesy city of Tonasket

Care Facility In Small Okanogan County Town Of Tonasket Reports 12 Deaths In COVID Outbreak

The county health department said Monday night that North Valley Extended Care in Tonasket has recorded 11 deaths. That number includes 32 total residents who have contracted COVID-19. Health officials did not disclose a time frame for the cases and deaths. Two staff members there are hospitalized, according to the health department. Continue Reading Care Facility In Small Okanogan County Town Of Tonasket Reports 12 Deaths In COVID Outbreak