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DHHS loosens restrictions on nursing homes with no COVID cases

That does not apply to the nearly 30 nursing homes in Eastern North Carolina that have confirmed coronavirus outbreaks.
Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 8:11 PM EDT
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BEULAVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Coronavirus restrictions at assisted living facilities are loosening across the state.

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen issued a secretarial order Monday, allowing nursing homes with no COVID-19 cases in counties with an infection rate of 10% or below to accept visitors.

“The updated order reflects the state’s dimmer switch approach to responsibly ease restrictions while maintaining strong prevention measures,” said Cohen in a statement.

That new order does not apply to the nearly 30 nursing homes in Eastern North Carolina that have confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks.

Four facilities in Duplin, Jones, and Beaufort Counties, among others, have confirmed over 250 cases of coronavirus and 23 deaths.

“At times, it seems like we just can’t do enough when it seems like we’re doing everything,” said James Cunningham, the Vice President at Autumn Village, an assisted living facility in Beulaville that has confirmed 21 new cases and two deaths this month. “As in with any healthcare or long-term care facility at this point, we’re all trying to go and be pro-active and do our mass-testing in our facilities.”

Cunningham said the facility had been testing for coronavirus out of a precaution but found that a handful of residents had tested positive earlier this month.

“We tracked down and found the root cause,” said Cunningham. “That was either to shared bathrooms or individuals that had not been symptomatic at that time.”

Since then, they have begun testing everyone at the facility weekly and putting in protocols like requiring staff members to change out of “street clothes” before beginning work that day.

“We ensure that their testing protocol is enacted when an outbreak occurs,” said James Madson, the Health Director in Beaufort County, where two facilities have confirmed over 100 cases and ten deaths. “The average age of death in our county is 77, and that’s with 24 deaths. So, we do see the trend that the older and the sickly are at higher risk.”

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