Nearly all long-term care residents and staff in South Dakota have been tested for COVID-19. Now, the Department of Health has released guidelines for reopening those facilities.
The plan includes three phases with different levels of restrictions. The first phase now allows outdoor visits between residents and family if the facility has completed mass testing. All residents, staff and visitors must wear masks and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
Secretary of Health Kim Malsom-Rysdon says nursing homes must also complete randomized weekly testing in order to move to a new phase.
“In the case of long term care, the state public health lab has sent test kits to facilities across the state so on a weekly basis they will be testing two asymptomatic staff and one asymptomatic resident so we can monitor potential COVID activity in these facilities moving forward,” she explains.
If a new case is discovered, the department will order more testing to identify and isolate any other cases.
“So that could be a situation where you have a resident on one wing who’s been visiting other people on that wing, we’d want point prevalence testing of the residents and staff that work in that wing.”
Malsom-Rysdon says the phases of reopening depend on the number of COVID-19 cases in the nursing facility and the level of community-spread cases in the surrounding area.
“Depending on those two factors," she says, "facilities will move up and down the phases as appropriate.”
Each phase lasts at least 14 days. If even one new case is discovered in a facility, it has to start the process over again with the highest level of restrictions.
Long term care facilities in the state have been closed to visitors since March.