MORGANTOWN — After suffering long months of isolation from one another, families and loved ones in nursing homes will be able to visit face to face starting next week.
The limited, phased-in nursing home plan will begin June 17, Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday.
To qualify for the in-person visits, facilities must have had no active cases for the past 14 day — since June 3 — and must certify with the Department of Health and Human Resources before reopening, he said.
Visitation will be by appointment only and visitation rules will be determined site-by-site, he said.
For people who haven’t seen their mothers, father and grandparents since March, the announcement is a welcome one.
“There’ll be happy days starting June 17,” Justice said.
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch said each facility will decide the pace at which it wants to pursue the reopening.
The changes could also open the doors to nonessential personnel that have been sorely missed by residents during lockdown — podiatrists, nutritionists and beauticians, for example.
Increased group activities will resume and life will hopefully get back closer to normal, Crouch said.
The number of visitors will be limited based on space, he said. Because the elderly are most vulnerable, visitors must remember to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, keep the visit as short as possible, maintain distancing and try to resist hugging.
Justice also updated a smattering of other Comeback guidelines. He’d previously announced that outdoor concerts may resume July 1. He added Wednesday that they will have the same guidelines as fairs and festivals.
Whitewater rafting passenger limits will also be raised in response to high-water safety concerns from the rafting industry. He said Wednesday the number will increase from six passengers to eight, plus the guide.
“Unless they’re my size,” he joked.
The existing restriction that the raft’s passengers should be limited to the same family or group that came to the site together remains in place. More detailed guidelines were to be posted Wednesday.
At Huttonsville Correctional Center, he said, only five active COVID-19 cases remain; 116 people have recovered.
The Dominion Post passed along a reader question concerning a bride-to-be who’d postponed her wedding because of the pandemic.
Does she have the go-ahead to send those invitations out?
Justice said that weddings are now considered essential and the various restrictions don’t apply. For specifics, she or anyone planning a wedding can call his office at 304-558-2000 or 888-438-2731.
“I think she’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful wedding,” he said.
Despite easing of rules and regulations, Justice and COVID-19 Czar offered reminders that the pandemic isn’t over.
Justice noted that there have been four church-related outbreaks across the state since services resumed, with 24 positive cases total.
Marsh said 19 states have seen an uptick in positives since Memorial Day, and nine have seen more people hospitalized. Arizona has activated its emergency plan because more people are being admitted to intensive care units than ever before.
“We still need to recognize that COVID is out there,” he said.
Justice echoed the need for continued safety.
“Don’t be the next statistic,” he cautioned.
The state experienced a 20-day period of positive case spikes May 1 to 20, and it’s only been 20 days that the trend has turned back downward.
“If you think it’s over,” he said, “and you can absolutely do any and everything you want to do, you’re making a mistake.”