Inslee announces plan to welcome visitors back to long-term care facilities

Like state's 'Safe Start' reopening, the plan has four phases; first phase allows limited outdoor family visits

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wears a face mask as he arrives to speak at a news conference on June 23, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, contributed photo courtesy of The Columbian)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today announced a four-phase plan to allow family visitation at long-term care facilities throughout the state. 

At a press conference held this afternoon, Inslee said this is a “big step forward for the state” and described it as a “joyous celebration of families being able to come together again.”
The first phase of the plan will allow a limited number of family members to meet outdoors with their loved ones at long-term care facilities and have remote, window and compassionate-care visits. To move into this phase, a long-term care facility must be in a community with fewer than 75 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks. 

The facilities also must prove additional measures, such as having no reported cases of COVID-19 amongst staff or residents for 28 days; a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment for all staff and residents; and the ability to test all residents and staff for COVID-19. The phases also are connected to the state’s “Safe Start” reopening plan, in that the long-term care facilities cannot move into a phase beyond the phase their county is currently in. 

Clark County is currently in Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan, and Inslee recently paused counties’ ability to move into higher phases due to a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the state. 

Phase 2 of the long-term care facilities reopening plan will expand visitations and permit one visitor indoors, if family members are unable to meet with their relatives outdoors. The visitors will be checked for symptoms of COVID-19 and required to wear masks. Limited group activities also will be allowed in this phase. 

Phase 3 will expand the indoor visits. Residents may also leave the facilities in Phase 3 if they agree to wear a mask and practice social distancing. The residents will be screened for symptoms when they return to the facility. Outdoor visits will still be encouraged in this phase.

The final, fourth phase restore visitations allowed prior to the pandemic, but will have testing and screen protocols for COVID-19 in place. 

Asked if he thought people would be confused by his announcement earlier this week that in-person learning would be too dangerous for many Washington school districts this fall while touting the benefits of slowly reopening visitations at long-term care facilities, Inslee said he believed Washingtonians were smart enough to recognize the difference between “25 children in a classroom running around for six hours a day” and “a grandmother meeting with her children, all of them washing their hands and wearing masks.” 

Inslee said he is confident the state’s plan will prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities, which have been connected to at least 800 COVID-19 related deaths in Washington over the past five months. 

“We have carefully calibrated to ensure against transmission in these centers,” Inslee said. “I’m very confident that we’re in the sweet spot of (allowing families to see their loved ones) while also protecting these residents.”