By Audra Streetman

DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working on new guidelines for nursing home visitations during the coronavirus pandemic. People over the age of 80 make up nearly 8 percent of COVID-19 cases in Colorado and more than 53 percent of deaths, according to CDPHE.

(credit: CBS)

In April, the state created a Residential Outbreak Task Force to create a plan to protect vulnerable nursing home residents while giving them more freedoms. The task force is made up of health care policy and financing experts and the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, visitation by family members and close friends to the majority of such facilities has not been allowed. For more than 80 days, most residents in senior care have spent nearly their entire day isolated in their individual rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some specialists are concerned the limitations could lead to an increase in depression among older adults. Health officials said the new plan aims to maximize the quality of life for people in assisted living, while still protecting them.

CDPHE is reporting a decrease in deaths and cases in nursing home and assisted living facilities. The Residential Outbreak Task Force has developed strategies to prevent the spread of the virus, including more testing, infection control education and enforcement, providing personal protective equipment to residents and staff and identifying additional staffing to help during an outbreak.

Gov. Jared Polis announced that the state’s new plan to help address those concerns is called Lifeline Pass. While leaders will spend the next week hashing out the specifics, that general rule will be that outside visits will be allowed for relatives who test negative for COVID-19 and who have no known exposure and don’t have any coronavirus symptoms. The opportunity for a visit would expire 48 hours after a negative test result comes in.

More information about the current public health order regarding nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities and living residences can be found here.

Audra Streetman