Why are fully vaccinated nursing home residents in Pa. not allowed to leave?

Investigators

New Bloomfield, Pa. (WHTM) — It has been a tough year for Connie McComb and her husband Harry, who is in a nursing home.

“No physical contact, no kiss on the cheek, nothing,” said Connie McComb.

So, when Connie and Harry finally got to visit each other in person this week, they were very excited.

“He was happy,” said Connie. “He just wanted to be outside and be with me.”

Right now, when Connie wants to see her husband she has to make an appointment and the time of the visit is limited.

Since Harry is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Connie was hoping that would allow them to get back to their normal visits, which include car rides.

“He thought when he got those shots he would be right out the door. That didn’t happen. That is the part I don’t understand,” said Connie.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines, nursing homes should consider the following when developing policies for non-medical outings:

  • The extent to which infection prevention and control precautions (including universal masking, hand hygiene, and physical distancing) are achieved based on the circumstances of the outing;
  • Whether the resident is fully vaccinated.
  • The resident’s level of vulnerability due to any chronic or immunocompromised conditions; and
  • Duration of the outing, including whether it includes an overnight stay.

If the outing poses a high risk based on a number of factors (below), testing may be appropriate. Ideally, wait at least 2-3 days following the outing to perform testing. Residents with this type of high-risk outing do not need to be placed under transmission-based precautions unless exposure is known or highly suspected8. Factors of a high-risk outing include:

  • Substantial community spread in the area(s) visited or home county (≥10% county positivity rate or incident rate ≥100/100,000 incidence) AND
  • A gathering of more than 10 people AND
  • Failure of consistent universal masking for the duration of the outing OR
  • Failure of physical distancing from resident (for example, hugging or riding in a vehicle with persons not wearing face coverings or masks).

The concern for Connie is how do you balance preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the mental health of residents in nursing homes that can’t leave?

“I don’t want him to be stuck in here forever thinking he is never going to get outside to do anything. It is hard enough,” said Connie.

Connie has already made another appointment to see her husband. “If people are getting to see their family I hope it’s a great day for them. It was a great day for me,” she said.

Connie expressed she is not upset with the nursing home but with the situation, which many people are feeling right now.

The abc27 Investigators contacted several nursing homes which stated CDC and Pa. Department of Health Guidelines are being followed. Until guidelines change, visiting policies will remain the same.

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