Visitation at the Witherell: New Hope for the Future

As spring approaches, optimism is in the air! As of this writing, most of our residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and we continue to make strides in vaccinating all staff. New federal data now show that the number of new COVID-19 cases in nursing homes has dropped dramatically since December, when vaccinations of older adults first began.

While this news signals a much-hoped return to normal, it’s important for us all to remember how we got here in the first place. It was our careful and constant vigilance in following recommended health protocols that helped prevent the disease from spreading.

“This report is encouraging and uplifting,” says John Mastronardi, executive director at the Witherell.  “It reinforces that the COVID-19 plan we initiated and continue to follow works. It also underscores the importance of getting vaccinated. “

In light of this positive downward trend for COVID-19 in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare has issued revised guidelines for in-person visitation.

While many are eager to return to indoor visitation, we wanted to clear up any confusion as to what the new guidelines mean, and how they’ll be implemented. After so many months of virtual and outdoor visits, allowing in-person indoor visits again—complete with those all-important hugs—is our ultimate goal. But in order to keep everyone safe, we’ll need to proceed as directed.

Please note the following regarding visitation at the Witherell in the near future:

  • Outdoor visitation is still preferred. As the vaccine offers important disease protection, it does not completely eliminate risk. So, for frail seniors, caution is still paramount. Visitors will continue to undergo a pre-visit health screening.
  • We will open our doors for in-person visitation for residents and their families on a limited basis. Visits will happen in the auditorium to allow for increased spacing and airflow. Indoor visitation requests need to be arranged in advance. Please contact Nursing Administration for details and scheduling.
  • Vaccinated residents can also opt to have physical contact with their family members during a visit if all are masked and hand hygiene is practiced after the visit.
  • Please note that indoor visitation will be suspended if any resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 during weekly testing. Indoor visits can be reinstated once we’ve completed a full round of outbreak testing with no new positive cases.

It’s always a thrill for us to see our residents engaging with their loved ones, and we look forward to the day when all barriers to physical contact can be removed completely. Rest assured that in addition to staff engagement and therapeutic recreation programs, we’ve also continued to socialize in small groups. Everyone is happy about the prospect of being back with friends again! As we navigate this new chapter together and look to the future with much hope, we thank you all for your patience and understanding.


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