Gov. Greg Abbott expands visitation at nursing home facilities

Gov. Greg Abbott last week directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to expand visitation options for eligible nursing, assisted living and intermediate care facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The commission updated their emergency rules to allow a designated essential caregiver to provide hands-on care to facility residents who do not have COVID-19.

"It is critical to the health of residents that we provide opportunities wherever possible for families to reunite, while continuing to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of disease," said HHS Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young. "Safely visiting with family and friends is the best medicine and most reassuring act we can provide for our most fragile Texans during these challenging times."

Under the new rules, residents are allowed two essential family caregivers. Caregivers are to undergo training to safely enter a facility for a scheduled visit, including in the resident's room. They will not be required to maintain physical distancing, but only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time.

A long-term care facility resident also has the ability to designate the essential caregiver, who can be a family member, friend or other individual.

Facilities are required to train essential caregivers on the proper use of personal protective equipment and other infection control measures. Proper PPE must be used at all times during these scheduled visits, and the caregiver must test negative for COVID-19 14 days prior to the initial visit.

For general visitors who are not a designated essential caregiver, these rules will allow approved nursing facilities scheduled indoor visitation with the use of plexiglass safety barriers to prevent the spread of the virus. Physical contact between residents and general visitors is not permitted.

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