New guidelines allow indoor visits at assisted living facilities

The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidelines Monday allowing indoor visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the new guidelines, indoor visits are allowed at most assisted living facilities that have not had new COVID-19 infections in the previous two weeks and where the infection rate in the surrounding county is no more than 10%. MDH continues to recommend that all visits be held outdoors if possible because they pose the lowest risk of transmission. 

Health officials are encouraging facilities located in counties with medium (5%-10%) or high (10% or above) positivity rates to test visitors if they can and encourage visitors to get tested on their own prior to coming to the facility. 

Patti Cullen, with the Senior Living Industry Group Care Providers, says indoor visitors will have to pass a screening, wear a mask and, at some communities, be confined to a designated visiting room.

"For every building, it's not going to be automatic," said Cullen. "And I want people to just know that we are going to do the best we can to make sure your loved one can connect with you but it's very individualized." 

Monday's guidance replaces the guidance from late summer, which allowed designated “essential caregivers” such as a family member, friend or volunteer, to make in-person indoor visits. Others were allowed to visit with residents outdoors or at a window.