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Connecticut relaxes restrictions on nursing home visits

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont rescinded emergency orders Monday that had banned most visits at nursing homes amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the state's Health Department issued new, relaxed guidelines.

The move will allow indoor visits to resume with certain conditions on screening, social distancing and hygiene.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, the acting health commissioner, said the conditions, which include limiting visitors to one per patient at a time, are based on new guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“Making the decision to limit in-person visits at nursing homes is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as governor, but amid the outbreak of this pandemic that is impacting the lives of so many people in our senior population, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Lamont said in a statement. “Each facility is strongly urged to develop a visitation plan and strictly adhere to it to the greatest extent possible so that we can keep this virus from spreading and impacting our most vulnerable patients.”

The new visitation guidelines also allow increased access to nursing homes for health care workers, social workers, clerics, hairdressers and volunteers.

Representatives of the state’s nursing home industry as well as advocates for nursing home residents applauded the move, noting it was important for the emotional health of the residents. Lamont first barred indoor visits in mid-March to prevent spread. To date, nearly 2,900 of the state’s COVID-associated deaths were nursing home residents. But recent statistics released by Lamont’s office have shown an overall sharp decline in the number of positive cases and deaths.

“Families have clearly expressed the importance of in-person visitation to the well-being of their loved ones. These rules go a long way to addressing their concerns,” said a coalition of advocacy groups in a statement. The group said they plan to work with DPH and the state’s longterm care ombudsman to make sure facilities fully comply with the new rules.

In other news related to the coronavirus pandemic:

MASK LAWSUIT

A state Superior Court judge began hearing motions Monday in a lawsuit that alleges Connecticut's requirement that children wear masks in school is harmful.

A group called the CT Freedom Alliance, which includes some parents of schoolchildren, is seeking an injunction that would strike down requirements from Lamont and the state Department of Education.

The plaintiffs argue that wearing masks is dangerous and damaging to the health, safety and emotional well-being of children and does not prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The state argues that it is following federal guidelines and that studies show masks are important in helping prevent the virus from traveling into the air and from one person to another.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher heard evidence Monday related to the qualifications of witnesses. The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

MASK DISTRIBUTION

The state has begun distributing 600,000 masks to schools from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The state is expecting two shipments of the cloth masks. The first delivery, which included only adult-sized, will be delivered to grades 7-12. It is anticipated that a second delivery will arrive soon containing child-sized masks, the governor's office said.

NEW NUMBERS

The state reported two new coronavirus related deaths Monday, bringing the total to 4,503 since the start of the pandemic.

The governor's office reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by a single patient over the weekend to 75.

There were 560 new cases reported, which is just over 1% of the of 52,022 tests conducted for the virus.

Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.

 

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