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State offers new coronavirus guidance for nursing homes

From the mountains to the coastal plains, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 21 COVID-19 outbreaks across the state Wednesday.

Eighteen of those outbreaks are in long-term care facilities like nursing homes, and Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a new executive order to help make sure those facilities have the resources they need.

“Overnight, test results revealed a hotspot of transmission in Orange County,” Cooper said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “A series of tests for COVID-19 has revealed at least 60 positive results in a skilled nursing facility in Orange County with more likely to come. Of those, seven are hospitalized and two have died.”

While a previous executive order restricted visits to those facilities to only end-of-life situations, new guidelines from NCDHHS takes the following steps:

  • Requiring all nursing home staff to wear masks when interacting with patients to prevent the inadvertent spread of disease.
  • Requiring all facilities to close communal areas and restrict all non-essential personnel.
  • Requiring all residents and staff to be screened daily for symptoms to detect the disease as early as possible.

“Additionally, if an outbreak happens, quick and aggressive action must happen,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “Facilities should immediately implement testing and assessment of residents to determine the spread of disease, and residents with COVID-19 should be grouped in a separate area of the facility and make sure they are cared for by a separate group of staff so that there are no interactions with residents or staff that are not COVID-positive.”