CORONAVIRUS

Iowa sets guidelines for family visits to care facilities

'We know this has been a very difficult time for patients and their families'

SondyDaggett (left) visits her wife, Liz Hoskins, on their 10th wedding anniversary with Liz's daughter, Sara Hoskins (r
SondyDaggett (left) visits her wife, Liz Hoskins, on their 10th wedding anniversary with Liz’s daughter, Sara Hoskins (right), and granddaughter, Allie Hoskins (center), at Bickford of Marion Senior Living in Marion. The state on Thursday issued guidelines for when long-term care centers might once again allow family members to visit Iowans living in care centers. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — State health officials have developed guidelines that will allow family members to resume in-person visits with their relatives who live in long-term care facilities, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday.

“We know this has been a very difficult time for patients and their families, and we understand this has been a challenge for everybody,” said Dr. Cailin Pedati, state medical director and epidemiologist for the state Department of Public Health.

There is no set date for when family visits, halted in mid-March, can resume.

Instead, the state has developed a three-phased plan — contained in a 13-page set of guidelines — to assist care facilities in deciding when such visits are safe.

The guidelines, modeled after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, are posted on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website. Iowa has had COVID-19 outbreaks — three or more cases — at 40 long-term care facilities. There have been 290 deaths associated with long-term care centers, but another 755 Iowans at those facilities have recovered from COVID-19 respiratory issues.

Iowa’s plan will be done in conjunction with COVID-19 testing and other provisions designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in facilities where vulnerable populations are in congregate or close settings, Pedati said.

Data will help officials understand local virus activity.

Pedati said state health officials created the guidelines with input from professional associations.

“Family members with loved ones in long-term care facilities are asking when they’ll be able to be reunited again,” the governor added. “I understand that this time of separation has been extremely difficult for residents of long-term care facilities and their loved one.

“I’ve heard stories of spouses who have been married for over 60 years who have rarely spent a day apart until these last three months, of sons and daughters who worry that they’re missing precious time with an elderly parent, and of the serious concerns about the impact that this separation is having on the mental health and well-being of all long-term care residents.”

Daily numbers

Statewide, another 13 Iowans died from coronavirus during the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 579 since mid-March.

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The deaths included three in Polk County, two each in Mahaska and Pottawattamie counties, and one each in Black Hawk, Dallas, Lucas, Marshall, Montgomery and Wapello counties. Montgomery County’s death was its first.

Thursday’s data showed 696 new positive COVID-19 cases, with Iowa’s total now standing at 20,706.

Polk County has the most positive cases with 4,517, followed by Woodbury County with 2,836, Black Hawk County with 1,772, Buena Vista County with 972 and Linn County with 968.

The number of Iowans hospitalized with coronavirus-related symptoms or ailments stood at 310, which marked the eighth straight day of declines. There were 105 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units and 70 needing ventilators to assist their breathing, according to state data.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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