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Many Worry About SC Assisted Living Facilities As Gov. Lifts Ban On Visitations, Issues Guidelines

The big difference between nursing homes and assisted living communities? Funding.

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On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced guidelines long-term care facilities are required to follow as they re-open for outdoor public visitation.

However, some are worried that a lot of these long-term care facilities won’t have the funding to meet the criteria listed in the guidelines for reopening — which will allow outdoor visitors to care facilities. Before Tuesday, visitations at these facilities had been banned since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

The problem? Assisted living communities are not covered under Medicaid in South Carolina — which makes it difficult for them to meet this criteria.

“While nursing homes have received funding under the CARES Act for PPE, testing reimbursement, etc., assisted living facilities have gotten none of that,” a source close to the situation told FITSNews Tuesday. “That’s going to be a big problem when the guidance says in order to reopen, there must be adequate testing supplies and PPE.”

Under the guidelines (at bottom of this story), each care facility must have gone 14 days straight without a COVID-19 case. They must have reoccurring COVID-19 testing at the facility for staff, residents and visitors and also are required have an adequate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

“There’s going to be a lot of caregivers and families frustrated when they find out that the nursing homes are going to reopen but the assisted living facilities won’t have the capacity,” the source said. “These privately funded (assisted living) facilities couldn’t have possibly anticipated the cost of PPE and consistent testing for residents and workers.”

Our source said that unless these assisted living facilities get state funding from the legislature, many would be forced to shut down or continue to ban visitors, which puts a major strain on the residents and the workers.

Dr. Joan Duwve of SCDHEC said Tuesday that 90 nursing homes will be able to reopen after meeting the requirements, but she didn’t say how many assisted living facilities would be able to open.

McMaster called the ban on long-term care facility visitors a “heartbreaking necessity.”

Long-term care facilities have been targeted by COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. As of Aug. 27 (SCDHEC’s latest report), 359 facilities have reported 4,887 COVID-19 cases among residents and 1,028 COVID-19 deaths among staff and residents.

In total, about 40-percent of COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina were among long-term care facility residents and staff members.

This list gives a breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes and community residential care facilities (also known as as assisted living facilities) in South Carolina.

Below is a look at the guidelines for long-term care facilities from SCDHEC.

Outdoor-Visitation-Guidelines_9.1.20

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Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].

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