State looking at more options for visits at long-term care facilities

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 3:42 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Department of Health is looking at ways to allow more options for visits at long-term care facilities.

Currently, most facilities around the state offer only outdoor meetings with physical distancing and mask requirements. Only a handful are allowing indoor visits with the same precautions. None of them, per state regulations, allow visits with physical contact between residents and visitors, so no hugs or handshakes. Something family members and residents have told us they miss after five months.

Friday, Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith made no promises that the rules would change, noting that they remain highly concerned about Vermont's vulnerable seniors.

"We need to think about the risks and whether they outweigh the benefits in any decision that we make," Smith said. "This is especially true when we're talking about vulnerable populations who will have poor outcomes if they contract the virus. There's a cost associated with risky behavior."

With Friday’s announcement about looking at revisions also came news of two COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities in Vermont, both discovered during state testing protocols. One is a resident at Helen Porter in Middlebury. The other is in a single-occupant unit at Wake Robin in Shelburne. The state is now looking to confirm those tests.

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