Hoosiers will soon be able to visit loved ones living in long-term care facilities including those in Washington County.

Holly Ann Lee Thompson, administrator of Salem Crossing which is owned by American Senior Communities, said this morning on WSLMs Coffee Club that their company hadn’t released guidance yet for this.  

“I don’t like the bell curve going up. I would rather be safe than sorry,” she said. “We’re still taking care of the most vulnerable population. Nursing facilities will probably be one of the last ones to open up.  We are taking some baby steps.  Still waiting on policies and guidance. We have to have masks, social distancing…a lot of steps in allowing that to happen.”

Both facilities in Washington County – Salem Crossing and Meadow View Healthcare – have been Covid-19 free. 

The state plans to issue guidance for outdoor visitation, according to Family and Social Services Administration Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak.

“While the congregate nature of a nursing home can amplify the spread of COVID-19, recent evidence in the scientific literature has shown that transmission risks are much lower outdoors,” Rusyniak said during state officials’ briefing Wednesday. “We believe that the risk of COVID transmission in long-term care facilities and the need for family, partners, close friends, and those interactions can be balanced.”

Rusyniak said that the guidelines will take into account the COVID-19 rates in the particular facility, as well as the surrounding community, and visitors will have to be screened for symptoms.

The announcement came just days after new federal statistics revealed that more Indiana nursing home patients have died from COVID-19 than previously thought. Rusyniak said the discrepancy could be due to the fact that facilities had more time to gather information to send to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “We’re going to continue to look into the differences in our two systems, and we’re going to work to transition away from our online reporting form and to using the same data the same way as CMS, to better align our numbers with theirs,” he said.

At the same time, Rusyniak said there’s been a steady decline in the number of new cases and deaths in long-term care facilities. Now, the state plans to test all nursing home staff during the month of June. “This point prevalence survey will tell us how many staff in these facilities test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms, and the data we collect from this and the Fairbanks study together will better inform us on who in a nursing home needs to be tested and then in the future, how frequently that needs to occur,” Rusyniak explained.

No plans are in place yet to test every long-term care facility resident, but Rusyniak said they’ll continue to be tested when outbreaks occur.

“Weather is a factor in it. Lots of components. There are a lot of ateps involved in letting that happen. I like that it’s another step to allow family and their loved ones to be together again,” said Thompson. “We haven’t worked out the policy. Will have to have designated times and staff available. And weather will play a factor. If it’s too hot or too cold or warnings….we would t be able to have a visit. This population is near and dear.”