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SC nursing homes can allow visitors again with strict guidelines

The visitation only be allowed outdoors and visitors will have to adhere to strict rules.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and state health leaders have announced plans for limited outdoor visitation to take place again at nursing homes in South Carolina.

McMaster and  SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced the new guidelines at a news conference Monday afternoon.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, most nursing homes in SC have restricted visitors or not allowed them at all. "It was a heartbreaking necessity, but it was the most effective way to contain the virus," the governor said.

He said not having visitors has been a burden on families and nursing home residents. "I worry about the physical mental and emotional health every day," he said. 

The visitors will only be allowed to meet with their family member or loved ones outdoors, and must adhere to strict rules. Because this will take time for facilities to implement, this will not begin immediately. 

Visitation will only be allowed at facilities that have no COVID cases. Here's a quick look at what visitor will have to adhere to: 

Must have a negative PCR COVID-19 in the last 5 days and to provide documentation. They will be allowed to visit up to one hour

Must have a negative antibody test withing the last 30 days. They will be allowed to visit up to one hour 

If the person has no documentation, they will only be allowed to meet outdoors for 15 minutes

Visitors must pass a COVID screening for symptoms

Visitors must properly wear a mask at all times

No more than two visitors at a time, and visitors under 12 aren't allowed, although some exceptions may be allowed. 

A facility’s ability to allow visitation depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Existing cases of the virus within the facility
  • Facility’s staffing capabilities and PPE availability
  • Facility’s ability to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) testing requirements.

complications from COVID-19.”

These limited outdoor visitation criteria and guidelines are based on the most recent CMS guidance for reopening nursing homes, CDC guidance for COVID-19 in nursing homes, and DHEC’s long-term care facility testing guidance, as well as visitation plans from other states. The guidelines are available in full on DHEC’s website, on the “Nursing Homes” resource webpage accessible toward the bottom of the main COVID-19 landing page.

For those facilities that are able to meet the criteria outlined in the guidelines, they may allow for physically distanced outdoor visitation for a limited period of time.

Read the full nursing home guidelines below:

RELATED: New safety guidelines will allow visitation at care facilities in South Carolina

In August, McMaster requested DHEC Chairman Mark Elam, the agency “promptly issue up-to-date visitation guidelines providing all direction and information deemed necessary to resume – or require resumption if necessary – in-person visitation with residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”

RELATED: Columbia woman hasn't seen mom in nursing home in months due to COVID-19

“Restricting visitation to our state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities in March was a heartbreaking necessity,” the governor writes. “It was the most effective way to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to save the lives of our state’s elderly and at-risk residents.”

On June 26, the governor directed DHEC to develop guidelines to allow for or facilitate limited visitation in these facilities. The governor then, on July 2, asked DHEC to delay the release of those guidelines due to concerns about the rising rate of infection and hospitalization.

RELATED: SC governor wants nursing home visits to resume soon

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