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Families pushing for Governor McMaster, DHEC to resume nursing home visitations

Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:25 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s been more than five months since Governor Henry McMaster restricted nursing home visits to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Some families of the patients in those facilities said Wednesday their loved ones are suffering the consequences.

Lorie Harris said her mother has struggled with being separated from her family. She said it's taken an emotional and physical toll.

WIS is keeping the name and facility private to protect the patient's privacy.

"My father said, in his last days, and it's true of my mother, he said I would rather die living than be living dead. I would rather die living than be the living dead," Harris said.

She said her family has called the Governor’s office, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and other leaders about resuming visitations.

"To have her on your mind, and thinking that the last thing she said was 'I just wish God would take me on home." Because they're there, what is your hope? What is there to live for?" she said.

Martha Davis echoed similar concerns about her mother.

"The rapid deterioration for a dementia and Alzheimer's patient is devastating. We've seen a huge decline in her health," she said.

Davis said she fears for her mother's life, and CDC statistics show "excess deaths" (or deaths above the rate considered normal) is high for Alzheimer's in South Carolina.

The CDC is reporting 612 Alzheimer’s deaths above what is considered normal in South Carolina since Feb. 1.

McMaster's office said the governor is working with DHEC on finalizing guidelines to resume visitations.

While there is no timeline, the governor's spokesperson said via text that "we're hopeful to release those guidelines very soon."

DHEC sent the following statement:

“DHEC is working on a draft plan for when certain visitation restrictions may be lifted, and is taking into consideration the most recent CMS guidance for reopening nursing homes and CDC guidance for COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Also, I know you already have this information, but as an update, we now have 129 nursing homes in our state have taken advantage of CMS COVID- 19 Communicative Technology grant opportunity that provides funding to connect their residents with family members using utilize tablets, smartphones, teleconferencing, and other platforms.”

DHEC is reporting 897 deaths for patients in long term care facilities since April 3rd, and 14 staff deaths.

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