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SC governor wants nursing home visits to resume soon

Nursing homes have essentially been shut down to visitors ever since the pandemic began in South Carolina in March.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is asking for the state to come up with a way to allow visitors to come to nursing homes again.

On Friday McMaster requested to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (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.”

Nursing homes have essentially been shut down to visitors ever since the pandemic began in South Carolina in March. The only exceptions were for end of life situations. 

That's led to situations where people haven't seen their families in months. 

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.

“We are committed to protecting the physical, mental and emotional health of our elderly and at-risk people – and their loved ones,” the governor continued. “Although no policy or procedure can eliminate all possibility of risk, it is clear that the time has come to expand current rules to allow in-person visitation by immediate family members, loved ones or caregivers.”