West Virginia governor loosens virus rules on nursing homes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday moved to resume visitations at nursing homes as he continues to lift coronavirus restrictions in the state.

The Republican governor said nursing homes can allow visits by appointment starting June 17 if the facility has had no active virus cases for at least 14 days. Nursing homes must also get approval from the state health department before reopening to visitors.

“We want to get you together as safely as we possibly can and protect all those within the nursing home system and everything,” he said.

Bill Crouch, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said outdoor visits would be best and recommended that visitors should wear face masks, avoid physical contact and keep visits short to limit risks of spreading the virus. Additional safety guidelines will be posted on the governor’s website.

“The bottom line is be safe and be cautious,” Crouch said.

Justice was the first governor in the country to order testing of all nursing home residents and staffers.

At least 85 people in the state have died from the virus and around 2,200 have tested positive, state health officials said. Around half of the state’s virus deaths have been linked to nursing homes, according to health data.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can bring about more severe illness and even death. The COVID-19 virus has killed over 30,000 people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.

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