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Limited visits to be allowed at nursing homes with no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days

Starting Oct. 1, limited indoor visitation and outdoor visitors will be allowed at facilities with no new COVID-19 cases after 14 days.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health and the Unified Command Group announced changes to expand visitation options and allow for more resident activities at long-term care facilities.

Starting Oct. 1, limited indoor visitation and outdoor visitors will be allowed at facilities that don't have new COVID-19 cases after 14 days. People will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing to keep residents. In some cases, visitors will also need to be tested for COVID-19, according to a release from officials.

Facilities that do not report new cases for 28 days will also be allowed to offer an essential caregiver program, officials said. Caregivers are people who may visit frequently and help residents with daily living such as feeding and bathing.

If a facility reports a new case, expanded visitation will be suspended, according to a release from officials.

Facilities that don't report new cases of COVID-19 after 14 days will also be able to resume communal dining, therapeutic activities and social activities for residents. They can also welcome visits from personnel like barbers and beauticians. They will also need to wear masks and follow capacity limits.

Officials also said that the  COVID-19 Long-Term Care Task Force helped create the new guidelines. The group develops and implements new policies to address issues in facilities.

Members include representatives from the Tennessee Department of Health, TennCare, advocacy organizations, health care providers, facility administrators and several others.

The task force also monitors the safety and effectiveness of new guidelines, refining them as necessary.

This is something Knoxville local Charles Denney is excited about. He hasn't been able to hug his mom since February. "I would just like to be there without the barrier of a screen or a window."

His mom suffers from dementia and it's been hard for him and his family to not be by her side. He's excited that some routine may be back in her life. "That's critical for her care. For her to develop a routine and stability. Her concept of time and place is off. Looking forward to hugging my mom again."