Coronavirus in Ark.: Gov. Hutchinson announces visitations to long-term care facilities can resume July 1

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday visitations to long-term care facilities can resume starting July 1.

This includes nursing homes, assisted living and residential facilities.

The facilities can resume visitations as long as they have completed testing and met the Department of Health guidelines.

Jerry Sharum, the Director of the Division of Provider Services and Quality Assurance with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said the facility’s resuming visitations will also depend on nearby hospital and intensive care unit’s capacity as well as the number of staff and personal protective equipment.

Sharum also said visitors will be screened.

State officials warn some facilities won’t be ready by July 1.

Outdoor visits are preferred but indoor visits will be allowed if the resident cannot be safely moved outside or when the weather is too hot.

State officials say facilities will spend the coming weeks modifying both indoor and outdoor space that will be used for visitations. Facilities will also be putting scheduling systems in place.

State officials say end of life visits for families will continue.

According to state officials, visits will be scheduled in advance and the space will be sanitized between each visit.

There is a minimum of two visitors per resident and masks must be worn.

State officials say if facilities develop positive cases, they will work with the Arkansas Department of Health and will have to close again.

Rachel Bunch, Executive Director of the Arkansas Health Care Association said visitation will not look the same at facilities.

The governor said he received a lot of communication from people about visiting their loved ones in long-term care facilities. Hutchinson said he received a letter from a woman saying her mother is in a nursing home in Fort Smith with Alzheimer’s and did not understand why her loved ones could not visit.

The guidance also includes expanding activities, beauty salons for residents and communal dining.

Sharum said only one-third of the facilities in the state have active cases, and 80% are in 12 facilities.

Sharum said the positivity rate for the 14,000 tested in nursing homes so far is less than one percent.

Sharum said facilities can be treated differently based on their circumstance and it will be on a facility-by-facility basis.

Sharum said the requirements will need to be followed.

The governor also announced as of Wednesday afternoon, there are 13,606 total COVID-19 cases and 197 deaths in Arkansas. That is an increase of 415 cases and nine deaths.

Governor Hutchinson said the counties with the highest number of new cases are Washington County (90), Benton County (81), Lee County (24) and Pulaski County (21). Hutchinson said the rest of the counties had fewer than 20 cases.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said 35 of the new cases are in correctional facilities and 380 are in the community.

Dr. Smith said there are currently 4,513 active cases in Arkansas. According to Dr. Smith, 147 of the active cases are in nursing homes, 676 are in correctional facilities and 3,590 are in communities.

State officials said hospitalizations due to the coronavirus increased by three to a total of 217.

Dr. Smith said 8,896 people have recovered from the virus in Arkansas, which is an increase of 331 people from Tuesday.

Governor Hutchinson said 7,514 tests were done Tuesday.

So far this month, 80,105 tests have been completed. Dr. Smith said the state is two-thirds of the way to the goal of 120,000 tests in June.

Smith said a team with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in northwest Arkansas. According to Smith, the team met with representatives of the Marshallese community and are also working with the Latino community and to create a unified approach with southwest Missouri.

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