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Grafton County Nursing Home relaxes visitation restrictions

December 09, 2021
HAVERHILL — In response to new CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) guidelines, the Grafton County Nursing Home relaxed visitation requirements - just in time for the holidays.

According to Grafton County Nursing Home Director Craig Labore, the most significant change was increasing visitation hours to seven days a week. The new policy was enacted on Nov. 22, replacing a schedule limited to four days a week.

"With it being opened up to seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., our residents have certainly enjoyed increased family visits. It's created more opportunity to see family that typically wouldn't be in the area," stated Labore.

Family members may now enter the facility without appointments. The nursing home also simplified its entry process with self-screening stations. As part of the self-screening process, visitors must replace their masks with new ones provided by the facility.

However, a maximum of two visitors at a time are allowed per resident as part of the nursing home's continued safety protocols. If additional visitors arrive simultaneously, those visits must occur at a different designated area, said Labore.

Likewise, meal and drink-sharing remain prohibited, and family members cannot join their loved ones in the dining area. Infants and small children are still not allowed in resident rooms.

Anyone wishing to organize small celebrations such as birthday parties or small family reunions should plan to schedule such events at least two weeks in advance. A limit of six to eight people is allowed.

In a letter addressed to family members, Labore stated, "While this new visitation guidance is welcomed news for us, I do feel it is important to remember that we continue to see significant increases in our daily and weekly positivity numbers throughout our state and neighboring communities in Vermont. Please do not visit our nursing home if you are not feeling well or if you, or someone whom you are close with, has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. As we continue to see a significant community spread of the virus, it is certainly better to take the better-to-be-safe-than-sorry approach when it comes to visiting our nursing home."

Labore anticipated that the admission freeze enacted in September could lift in early 2022 due mainly to injunctions against federal vaccination mandates for health care workers. A preliminary nationwide injunction, filed by a Louisiana judge on Nov. 30, came one day after a District Court judge in Missouri halted the mandate in 10 states, including New Hampshire.

Approximately 80 percent of the Grafton County Nursing Home staff are fully vaccinated, but a rising concern about potential mandate-related resignations spurred the facility to stop accepting new residents in September. Staffing shortages remain a concern, said Labore.

"We continue to deal with the staffing levels as best as possible, and we've been dealing with it for years. It was probably in place before the pandemic," noted Labore.

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