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SC governor wants to ‘promptly’ resume nursing home visitation

McMaster asked DHEC to issue guidance
For months, families have had to visit loved ones through windows at nursing homes. This...
For months, families have had to visit loved ones through windows at nursing homes. This picture was taken by WIS viewer Gina Kirkland-Hogan as she celebrated Mother's Day with her Nana.(Gina Kirkland-Hogan)
Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 12:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster called on the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to issue guidance to resume visitation in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state.

The governor made the request Friday in a letter to DHEC, saying the lack of visitation has caused problems for patients and their families.

“This separation and isolation has caused loneliness, depression, stress and anxiety among residents,” McMaster wrote, “and has frustrated those worried about a parent, grandparent or other loved ones’ well-being.”

McMaster issued an executive order in March stopping nursing home visitation in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. He called the move a “heartbreaking necessity...to save the lives of our state’s elderly and at-risk residents.”

But now, he believes the state has made enough progress to allow in-person visitation to resume.

“It is clear that the time has come to expand current rules to allow in-person visitation by immediate family members, loved ones or caregivers,” the governor wrote in his letter to DHEC.

McMaster had hoped visitation could resume in late June, but quickly reversed course in early July as coronavirus cases rose across the state.

Recently, South Carolina has recorded six straight days of fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. However, there is less testing happening and the percent of positive tests remains high; it’s above 10% and hit nearly 19% at one point in the past six days.

As of Thursday, DHEC has reported a total of 2,289 coronavirus-related deaths in the state. The majority of those lives lost were elderly people.

DHEC has reported 897 deaths for patients in long term care facilities and 14 staff deaths as of Aug. 18.

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