Gov. Justice announces County Alert Map to determine nursing home visitation

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY)- During Monday’s briefing, Gov. Justice and state health leaders announced that West Virginia’s nationally-renowned County Alert System – the color-coded and metric-based map being used to determine school reopenings – will now also be used to indicate the status of nursing home visitation in each county.

Nursing homes across the state will begin using the same green-yellow-orange-red color scale to notify the public about visitation protocols.

“We worked hard last week with the West Virginia Health Care Association to develop a system that would allow us to determine which facilities we could allow visitation and which we could not,” Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said.

Orange and red counties will not allow visitation, except in cases of compassionate care due to end-of-life or deteriorating physical and/or mental health. Red counties will also restrict activities for residents such as communal dining and non-essential services.

Green and yellow counties will permit nursing home visitation with varying levels of safety restrictions.

“We are pleased to roll this new system out to make sure we’re allowing loved ones to get in to see their family members,” Sec. Crouch said. “But still, even if your county is green, I urge everyone to contact your local nursing home to arrange visits throughout the pandemic.”

“We’re going to approach this with the utmost caution because I remain tremendously concerned about our nursing homes,” Gov. Justice said. “But you’ve got a tough situation here, because you’ve got people in nursing homes that desperately need to see their family and you’ve got their family that desperately wants to see their loved ones.”

Gov. Justice issued an executive order today that will lift his most recent ban on all nursing home visitation, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020; clearing the way for the County Alert System to be used in determining nursing home visitation. However, health officials will continuously monitor nursing homes moving forward, allowing for swift changes if necessary.

“I can assure you just this about using the color coding: we’re going to watch our numbers with everything in us and if, by chance, we have additional outbreaks because of visitation, then we’re going to have to batten down the hatches and go back to no visitation,” Gov. Justice said. “I just hope and pray, with all in me, that we’re not far off from a vaccine.”