CLEARWATER, Fla. – To Jodi Merritt’s mom, Betty Lou, visits with grandchildren are akin to the very air she breathes.
“She is like why are you leaving, and I say, ‘Mom I have to go, I am only allowed to stay an hour.'”
With the delta variant raging and cases on the rise, Bay Area nursing homes are taking a hard look at their procedures. To visit the 83-year-old stroke victim inside her Tampa nursing home, Merritt has to get tested twice a week. There are more loose requirements for outside, and she hopes that even with state positivity up fivefold in five weeks, it stays that way.
“If family members aren’t in the rooms, to see the people interact, they’re completely isolated,” she said.
Industry groups say visitation rights are often dictated by positivity in each county, and that PPE for staff and visitor screening has been required all along.
LeadingAge Florida says at 500 facilities they represent, they’ve only had outbreaks of fewer than ten cases, and are not seeing numbers like before there was a vaccine.
They have not yet decided on additional visitation restrictions.
“Our providers have fought this virus with courage and resolve for a year and a half,” said LeadingAge Florida’s spokesperson Nick Van Der Linden. “It has always been about educating and trying to prevent the virus from getting into the community.”
He says about 60 percent of staffers are vaccinated, and that they are pushing for 75 percent.
Emerald Gardens in Clearwater is not considering new restrictions because they have been strict since the beginning and have no cases inside.
“We are not going to let our guard down until this whole COVID situation resolves,” said Kamran Rouhani, the Emerald Gardens administrator.
Nursing homes are operating under the rule that if there is a case inside, the entire unit is locked down for at least two weeks after the most recent positive test.