Delaware officials advise outdoor visitation of long-term care facilities

WILMINGTON — State officials are recommending any visits to long-term care centers occur outdoors, amid rising COVID-19 case rates throughout the state.

On Nov. 20, the Delaware Division of Health Care Quality issued updated guidance to long-term care facilities regarding visitation and residents leaving the facility.

The guidance emphasizes outdoor visitation over indoor visitation for families and friends whenever practicable because of the lower risk of virus transmission due to increased space and airflow. The guidance continues to say that “aside from weather considerations, an individual’s health status, or a facility’s outbreak status, outdoor visitation should be routinely facilitated.”

It also asks long-term care facilities to have a plan in place to limit the number and size of simultaneous visits.

“We know that it’s important for people to spend time with their loved ones, so if visitation takes place, we do recommend outdoor visitation,” said Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay this week. “It’s just much safer.”

Dr. Rattay added that there are some facilities that are allowing indoor visitation at this time. But it is only the facilities which have not recorded any recent positive cases of COVID-19.

The updated guidance also recommends against residents leaving long-term care facilities to avoid a potential increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community. It asks facilities to embrace alternative means of communication, such as phone calls and virtual visits.

This is significant during this time of year because it is common for residents to leave to spend time with family during the holidays, Dr. Rattay said.

“We are very strongly recommending that they don’t do that this year,” Dr. Rattay said. “There is a real risk for these long-term care residents if they get exposed.”

Any long-term care resident who does leave the facility will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine upon their return, in accordance with the updated guidance.

The guidance also supports compassionate care visitation for family members and others beyond end-of-life situations. According to the DHCQ, such situations include new residents who are struggling with the change in environment and lack of family support; a resident who is grieving the loss of a family member or friend; a resident who needs encouragement with eating or drinking, which was previously provided by a family member or caregiver; or a resident who used to talk and interact with others and now is seldom speaking or is experiencing another form of emotional distress.

All long-term care staff, volunteers and vendors are being asked to be extra cautious this holiday season by limiting their at-home gatherings to immediate households. This is to prevent a staff member becoming an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 and potentially infected the long-term care facility in which they work.

Long-term care centers are required to ensure they have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for 30 days, are maintaining proper hand hygiene and are meeting social distancing requirements. Dr. Rattay said based on her experience she thinks facilities are in good shape with their PPE supply headed into the winter.

“We know that the facilities, over the last six months or so, have been working to stock up on PPE,” Dr. Rattay said. “We haven’t had a lot of requests for PPE from long-term care, which is an indicator to us they feel like they’re in pretty good shape right now.

As of Thursday at 6 p.m. there have been 1,633 positive COVID-19 cases in long-term care centers, according to the DPH. A total of 431 long-term care residents have died due to COVID-19.

The DPH is monitoring significant COVID-19 outbreaks in eight different long-term care centers. Since Sept. 25 to Wednesday, the cumulative total of positive cases at the eight facilities are:

• Kentmere Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Wilmington — 55 residents and 47 staff members positive.

• Cadia Healthcare Silverside in Wilmington — 50 residents and 36 staff members positive.

• Regency Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington — 74 residents and 40 staff positive.

• Lofland Park in Seaford — 19 residents and 11 staff positive.

• Cadia Healthcare Capitol in Dover — 45 residents and 24 staff positive.

• Delmar Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Delmar — 34 residents and 32 staff positive.

• The Moorings at Lewes in Lewes — 14 residents and 29 staff positive.

• Oak Bridge Terrace at Cokesbury Village in Hockessin ­— 14 residents and 11 staff positive.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.