Health Officials Say All South Carolina Nursing Homes Are Open For Visitation

The Latest:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — All South Carolina nursing homes and assisted living facilities beginning Friday, March 19th are required to offer visitation with a few exceptions for high risk residents, health officials say.

New guidelines from the South Carolina Department of Health And Environmental Control will allow outdoor and indoor visitation to these facilities from family and friends, but will limit indoor visitation for specific residents if there are circumstances involving a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as their families and friends, benefit emotionally, mentally, and physically from being able to see their loved ones,” says Nick Davidson, Senior Deputy for Public Health. “While visitation limitations were necessary for protecting the health of residents during the pandemic, current recommendations are now to allow for visitation with disease prevention protocols in place.”

Officials say all visitors are expected to follow CDC and state health safety guidelines including wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting screening when entering any of these facilities for coronavirus symptoms.

As of Friday, facilities are required to allow visitation at all times for all residents unless their indoor visitation should be limited for any of the reasons below:

  • Unvaccinated residents: if the facility’s COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated.
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue Transmission-Based Precautions.
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.
  • A new case of COVID-19 is identified, a facility must suspend indoor visitation pending the results of a round of facility-wide testing.

The Original Story (3/10/21)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Governor Henry McMaster says South Carolina has received federal approval to begin allowing in-person visitation at nursing homes and community residential care facilities under updated guidelines.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will require facilities to use its percent positive by county data to determine their visitation status, and this update will allow indoor and in-person visitation options for facilities who have been restricted based solely on having a positive rate greater than 10 percent in their county.

Health officials say as of March 10th any facility that meets the following criteria can open for in-person visitation in South Carolina:

  • A less than or equal to 10 percent positivity rate in the county in which the facility is located.
  • No COVID-19 cases among staff and/or residents in the past 14 days.
  • Maintained CMS’ core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention.

“Too many South Carolinians have been prohibited from visiting their loved ones in long term care facilities because of overburdensome federal guidelines,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “Prioritizing the physical health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens is critically important, but we must also protect their mental and emotional health. These updated guidelines represent important progress and will result in many facilities opening for visitation, but there’s more work to be done and we will continue pushing federal agencies to allow expanded visitation.”

Officials say prior to new guidelines 177 facilities were not allowing visitation, and 43 of those facilities cited county percentage positive rates as the only thing stopping them, but are now located within the 40 counties statewide with a percentage positive of less than 10 percent.

Officials say 100 percent of residents in South Carolina nursing homes have had their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, and 86 percent have had their second shot to complete their vaccine series.

“Allowing visitation to the greatest degree possible consistent with safety for residents, staff, and visitors, is extremely important to residents’ mental and physical health and also for their families,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “The updated guidelines will help ensure as many residents as possible can have safe, in-person contact with family and friends.”