Opinion

Opening Iowa's nursing homes safely

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Iowa’s nursing homes and their direct care staff have done an exceptional job protecting the health of their vulnerable residents throughout this public health emergency.

While the physical health of Iowans residing in nursing homes is extremely important, we must not forget the toll isolation from loved ones can have as well.

Last week, after a year of extremely limited visitation, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Department of Inspections and Appeals expanded their indoor visitation guidance at long-term care facilities. This guidance takes into consideration the Long Term Care Pharmacy Partnership Program, which as of March 12 has administered 139,142 vaccine doses to Iowa’s nursing home residents and staff. As of March 17, there is only one nursing home out of 444 that has COVID-19 cases. The updated guidance requires nursing homes to allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident or visitor, unless these three instances arise:

•Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated

•Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions or

•Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

The guidance continues to have infection control recommendations for all visits, including screening of everyone entering the facility, face coverings and 6-foot distancing.