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State officials urge visitors be severely limited at senior, long-term health care centers
Gov. Brian Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp

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Long-term health care centers in Georgia are being urged to restrict all visitors except those offering “compassionate care,” such as end-of-life care, to protect residents from the potential spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Health Care Association issued a statement Monday, March 16, specifically citing skilled nursing facilities, assisted-living communities and personal-care homes.

The statement was issued to follow “the recommendations of federal and state public health officials, and in light of data revealing a high mortality rate among the elderly and chronically ill with COVID-19.”

“These facilities should make every effort to provide alternative means of communication for family members and residents while visitation is restricted,” according to the statement.

"We also encourage health care providers to avoid all group activities and communal dining; continue active screening of residents and health care personnel for respiratory symptoms, including actively checking for a fever; identify staff that work at multiple facilities and actively screen and restrict them appropriately; and enforce sick leave policies for ill health care personnel that are non-punitive, flexible, and consistent with public health policies allowing personnel who are sick to stay home.”

Hall County senior facilities have been taking steps to guard against coronavirus, such as sanitizing residents’ rooms and surfaces and restricting visitors.

The World Health Organization estimates a 21.9% mortality rate for those over 80 who are infected with COVID-19, and “there is a significant risk that individuals who seem healthy could visit a facility and unintentionally endanger residents,” the statement says.

“As such, it is critical that we take these precautions to protect the frail and elderly. We ask all members of the public who have loved ones residing in a long-term care facility to remain patient.”

The statement continues: A temporary restriction on visitation “is critical in the fight to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

More information about how to keep such facilities safe can be found on the American Health Care Association’s website, ahcancal.org.

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