Why are Pennsylvania nursing homes reluctant to expand indoor visits?

Why are Pennsylvania nursing homes reluctant to expand indoor visits?

All around her, Mary Stackhouse sees new signs the COVID-19 pandemic is well on its way to becoming a distant bad memory.

Except when she visits her 88-year-old mother. Where she lives, life is stuck in 2020.

At the Northampton Township nursing home, most visitation is limited to certain days and hours, and only outdoors, Stackhouse said. Group activities and meals for residents remain paused. A single COVID case triggers a minimum two-week lockdown.

“It’s hard enough that she is in a nursing home,” Stackhouse said. “They deserve better.”

Mary Halter, left, of Warrington, gets her temperature checked by Tilly Jaho, the front desk receptionist at Neshaminy Manor in Warrington on Thursday, May 27, 2021. [MICHELE HADDON / PHOTOJOURNALIST]

Across Pennsylvania, falling COVID-19 cases and rising vaccine rates in the general public have led to a loosening of virus mitigation restrictions for the public and business owners. 

But skilled nursing homes, whose residents and staff were hardest hit by the pandemic, are holding tight to aggressive efforts to limit virus exposure, senior advocates said.

Facilities appear in no hurry to relax restrictions, despite high vaccination rates among residents, significant declines in new cases and deaths and changes in federal guidance, advocates added. 

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