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'It's definitely a step in the right direction' | NCDHHS order allows residents of nursing homes indoor visits

A newly issued Secretarial Order from Dr. Mandy Cohen broadens the scope of what's allowed for nursing homes, which includes indoor visitations.

During this pandemic, skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities heightened restrictions following orders from state leaders. 

On Monday, Dr. Mandy Cohen and the Department of Health and Human Services loosened these restrictions with the latest Secretarial Order, regarding visitation at long-term care facilities.

Earlier this month, health leaders allowed families to visit their loved ones at the facilities, as long as it was outdoors, employing social distancing and other coronavirus safety protocols, and the facility had no coronavirus cases for nearly a month. 

Now, nursing homes and similar facilities can allow indoor visits as well, if a facility goes 14 days without a positive COVID-19 case, and the county's positivity rate for the virus is 10 percent or below. State leaders are taking cues from federal guidelines, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Credit: WFMY News 2

Families of those living at these facilities say the updated guidance is certainly a step in the right direction. 

"We love her so much and she's all about family, she's always been about family," said Trina Williams about her grandmother, Hazel. 

Her grandmother has been living in a Thomasville nursing home, at one point battling COVID-19 on top of cancer. Williams says although she visits multiple times a week, during the pandemic, they were forced to see one another through her window. 

"She would cry and say, what did I do? Why do they have me locked in here?"

RELATED: Thomasville family says an in-person visit is the reason 79-year-old relative is still alive

A few weeks ago, the facility gave her a call, scheduling an end-of-life visit - an exception to the strict COVID-19 rules. Little did Williams know, this would not be the last time she saw Hazel. 

"We didn't expect to see her again after that night," she said, "But literally by the next day, her vital signs had gone back to around normal. I'm not going to say [she's] healthy, but [she's] stable, and the only thing that the staff can tell us is it has to do with the physical contact visit."

For several months, Tim Wall has fought to see his mother - Peggy - in her Kernersville nursing home. Although she has not contracted the virus, he says she's physically and mentally diminished due to isolation and loneliness. 

More opportunity for visitation, and the love and care of family, he believes, is much needed. 

"The facility cannot continue to perpetuate the isolation," he said, "They are mandated to comply."