Officials Consider Two-Day COVID Pass for Nursing Home Visitors, But Details Remain Murky

As families across the country wait for guidance on how they can safely visit their loved ones living in skilled nursing facilities, one governor has proposed a novel idea: a two-day pass for nursing home visitation.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last week unveiled the concept of a 48-hour pass for nursing home visitation if a person is tested for COVID-19 before their visit, with no symptoms or exposures, Colorado Public Radio News reported.

But leadership from both the Colorado Health Care Association and LeadingAge Colorado both told Skilled Nursing News that the June 4 announcement is the only information they’ve received on such a plan, and Polis himself did not propose a timeline for the implementation of this policy, CPR News reported.

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LeadingAge Colorado first heard of the 48-hour pass concept in that June 4 CPR News report, director of public policy and public affairs Deborah Lively told Skilled Nursing News on June 8.

While she found another brief report in the Denver Post, she indicated that in conversations with state officials, the official position is that the state is considering this as part of a visitation plan.

That matches what the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center told Skilled Nursing News on June 9.

“While the governor mentioned visitations at nursing homes at his press conference, this is still being discussed and worked out with the Residential Care Task Force,” a spokesperson for the Center told SNN in an e-mail. “It is a hope that visitation restrictions can be eased, but not at the expense of resident safety. There are no details to release at this time.”

There are several considerations that would have to be factored into such a plan, Lively noted — though she also added these factors were simply some considerations that came to mind when thinking about the policy, rather than a specific LeadingAge Colorado response

“One of the concerns is what would the testing requirements be, to make sure people use appropriate testing and approved testing,” she told SNN by phone on June 9. “Another thought would be … they have 48 hours to come visit, so they get their tests and they come in, but then they leave and go to whatever and then come back into the facility. So that’s another concern.”

Other states have tentatively moved to reopen their nursing facilities to outsiders this month as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease in many communities, ending a federally recommended ban on all non-essential visits that had been in place since early March.

Massachusetts became the first state to begin allowing visits last week, with Indiana following suit shortly thereafter; both states put a host of restrictions on the visits, which generally must be conducted outdoors with proper social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.

Lively also acknowledged the physical challenges of handling multiple visits when considering the efficacy of the 48-day pass plan.

“Just managing it from the facility standpoint — if you had several visitors on the premises at the same time trying to visit their loved ones — that may be a logistical problem for the facility,” Lively said.

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