Outdoor visits allowed at Michigan nursing homes starting today: What to know

MDHHS order also requires precautions against spread of COVID-19

A nursing home resident

LANSING, Mich.Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Michigan can start seeing visitors outdoors Tuesday as a new order goes into effect.

An order signed last week by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will allow an exception to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restriction on visits during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new order, which goes into effect Tuesday (Sept. 15), will allow outdoor visitation as long as certain COVID-19 safety guidelines are followed.

“Limiting visitation has saved lives,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “Seeing loved ones in person is important for mental health. Allowing outdoor visits -- with proper procedures such as requiring social distancing and masks -- is good for residents and can keep everyone safe.”

The flattening of the COVID-19 curve and feedback about how the burden of restrictions has grown over time were both factors in the decision, officials said.

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Last week, COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate facilities declined 19% -- from 83% to 67%, according to officials.

This order allows local health departments to stop visitation, if necessary.

Facilities have to ensure visitation areas allow for at least six feet of separation between all people and provide protection from weather elements. They must also have someone trained in infection control within sight range to enforce the rules.

Facilities must meet criteria specified in the order, including having had no new COVID-19 cases originate there within the previous 14 days.

Here are some other requirements for facilities before they allow visitation:

  • Permit visits by appointment only.
  • Limit the number of visitors during each scheduled visit to two people or less.
  • Exclude visitors who cannot or will not wear a face covering during the entire visit.
  • Require visitors to maintain social distancing.
  • Limit the number of overall visitors at the facility at any given time based upon space limitations, infection control capacity and other appropriate factors to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Prohibit visits to residents who are in isolation or under observation for symptoms of COVID-19.

Click here to view all the requirements in the emergency order.

“The Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program welcomes this cautious step forward to allow outdoor visits with residents of long-term care facilities,” said Salli Pung, the program ombudsman. “We also appreciate residents will now have access to medical and non-medical services that many residents have not received for nearly six months. By promoting these vital and basic visits and services, long term care facilities can better ensure and address residents' quality of life.”

The order applies to residential long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, homes for the aged, adult foster care facilities, hospice facilities, substance abuse disorder residential facilities, independent living facilities and assisted living facilities.

MDHHS previously eased visitation restrictions for residential care facilities in an emergency order issued June 30.

Facilities are not required to allow outdoor visits.

Restrictions on visits don’t apply to medical service providers, resident physicians and window visits when there is a barrier between the resident and visitor. Volunteers trained in infection control who supervise visitations also do not count as visitors. Additional non-medical services performed by visitors such as hairdressers can be provided under certain circumstances, officials said.

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Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.