NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The Tennessee Department of Health has released new guidelines for long term care facilities to resume activities and increase visitation while maintaining COVID-19 precautions.

After 14 days of no positive cases of COVID and starting on October 1, health officials said workers at skilled nursing facilities, assisted living care facilities, and residential homes for the aged should resume activities and communal dining.

After the 14-day threshold, more than 700 facilities "will be allowed to offer outdoor or limited indoor visitation with residents." 

“It’s time to reunite residents and their families in a safe and disciplined manner so we can better balance the physical and emotional needs of older Tennesseans," Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said in a statement on Thursday. 

If it is indoor, it would be limited to a designated common space. There is also an exception for in-room visits if the resident can’t leave their room.

Tennessee Department of Health stated after the 14-day threshold, long term care facilities can resume the following activities:

  • Barbers and beauticians may work in the facilities
  • Volunteer staff may work in the facility 
  • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Services
  • Small group social activities
  • Communal dining
  • Medically necessary trips 

The long term care facilities should limit communal gatherings to no more than 10 people or 50 percent of capacity. Staff, visitors, and residents are required to wear masks, stay at least six feet apart, and practice social distancing guidelines. 

“The health and safety of vulnerable Tennesseans, especially our long-term care residents, remains our top priority, and our comprehensive and persistent efforts to protect this population from COVID-19 have saved lives,” Piercey said.   

Until the 14-day threshold is met, health officials said long term care facilities should continue to not conduct activities in the common area and meal service will be limited to in-room dining.

The Tennessee Department of Health said non-medically necessary trips outside the building should be avoided and Telemedicine should be utilized whenever possible.

The workers at the long term care facilities should take time to clean the areas for communal activity and make sure they are properly staffed, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

After 28 days with no new COVID cases, the facilities "will be allowed to offer an essential caregiver program."

"Essential caregivers are designated individuals who may visit frequently to assist LTCF residents with activities of daily living, such as feeding, bathing and dressing," the Tennessee Department of Health said in a statement on Thursday. 

Piercey said they’re trying to balance the physical and emotional needs of the residents. The new Tennessee COVID-19 Long-Term Care Task Force has been established to enhance the well-being and quality of life of Tennesseans. 

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