Many of Arkansas’ nursing homes are completely free of COVID-19 but some still have active cases. As of Wednesday, June 30, of the 5,926 active COVID-19 tests, 725 are nursing home residents.

On June 19, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that nursing homes, and assisted-living and residential-care facilities would be able to resume limited family visits and other activities on July 1.

This date is only effective if they have complied with the public health guidelines of the Arkansas Department of Health.

Many of Arkansas’ nursing homes are completely free of COVID-19 but some still have active cases. As of Wednesday, June 30, of the 5,926 active COVID-19 tests, 725 are nursing home residents.

In a recent report provided by the Arkansas Department of Health, Jefferson County Nursing Home COVID-19 cases are decreasing.

As of June 29, Villages of General Baptist West has zero cases. Previously there were two residents and two health care workers who were positive. All made a full recovery except for one resident who passed away. A spokesperson for the nursing home said they have not received clearance from the health department to allow visitors beginning July 1.

Waters of White Hall Nursing Home is still recuperating with 27 of their 46 residents recovered and 5 of their 35 health care workers recovered from COVID-19. According to ADH, 16 residents have passed away.

June 1 started the statewide COVID-19 testing of all nursing home facilities as the residents make up the most vulnerable population to this deadly disease. Up to 50,000 tests were needed to cover everyone at long-term care facilities throughout Arkansas.

Hutchinson said the increased testing in long-term care facilities was to not only identify and respond to COVID-19 cases, but also provide state officials with a direction in how to best reopen the facilities to family visits.

Those reopening guidelines from the Arkansas Department of health came with a lengthy amount of guidelines that nursing homes will have to meet before families are able to visit their loved ones.

According to ADH, to be eligible to expand visitation and other activities, a facility must meet the following facility-specific requirements:

• The facility has completed baseline testing of all residents and staff at least once and has provided the results and all requested documentation of such to the Arkansas Department of Health.

• The facility has complied with these requirements and all other guidelines issued by the Arkansas Department of Health after baseline testing in response to any positive cases identified during baseline testing.

• There are adequate hospital beds and ICU services available in the applicable region to serve any new COVID-19 cases, as determined by the Arkansas Department of Health.

• The facility is able to staff direct care, housekeeping, and dietary services departments to meet the needs of the residents and existing legal requirements.

• The facility has proper PPE and sufficient supply for residents and staff. This will be assessed by documenting sufficient supplies within the mandatory weekly report submitted to the National Healthcare Safety Network Long-Term Care module. Visitors must supply their own face mask or covering.

• The facility is prepared to expand visitation and other activities for its residents, including with consideration of any special needs of its residents and other relevant safety factors. The Arkansas Department of Health will provide guidance for facilities.

• The facility conducts screening of every visitor, vendor, and employee of the facility prior to entrance.

Once a facility meets these requirements, a facility may expand visitation, activities, and communal dining.

Visitors will have general visitation requirements set by ADH also which include:

• Visitors must participate in and pass the facility’s screening process prior to each visit.

• The facility screening process must include a screening questionnaire, which will record the identity of the resident visited, date, name, address and phone number of the visitor and maintain these records so that they can be made available upon request by the Department of Health and the Office of Long-term Care. The questionnaire will also include a declaration regarding signs and symptoms of infection, contact and/or exposure to known COVID-19 positive persons, and any prior testing for COVID-19, as well as a statement that the visitor will inform the facility immediately if they develop symptoms within 72 hours of visiting or test positive for COVID-19 after visiting.

• Visitors must not have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 3 days. If any visitor previously tested positive for COVID-19, they must not visit within 14 days of a positive test.

• Visitors must wear a mask at all times.

• Visitors must sanitize hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or by handwashing with soap and water when entering and exiting.

• Visitors cannot eat during the visit.

• Visitors must schedule visits in advance.

• Visitation will only be allowed during select hours of each day.

• Visitation will be limited to two visitors per one resident at a time.

• The facility must monitor all visits carefully to ensure that masks are worn and visitation polices are followed.

• All visitors will be provided the opportunity to visit according to the number of positive cases, and the length of visits will be subject to these requirements and depend upon overall demand.

• Visitation will not be allowed for residents considered to be infectious for COVID-19, which is the period of 14 days after the first positive test. The Arkansas Department of Health will provide additional guidance for visitation of residents that test positive more than 14 days after the first positive test and remain in isolation or quarantine at the facility.

The guidelines give guidance for indoor and outdoor visitation. ADH states recent data shows that the risks of transmission are lower in outdoor settings.

The reopening process encourages visitation to include outdoor family visitation at long-term care and assisted living facilities.

To prevent overcrowding during indoor visits, visitation will be staggered throughout the day to accommodate the visitation space and appropriately limit the overall number of individuals visiting at one time.

Before visiting your loved one, it is advised you call the facility first.

“The residents of nursing homes have been cut off from direct visits with family and friends for three months,” said Hutchinson during his public address. “This isolation is very difficult on our loved ones, and because of our testing and other measures in place, we are ready to have visitors again.”