Oklahomans will be able to visit loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, per an announcement Tuesday afternoon from Gov. Kevin Stitt.
The announcement came during a news conference at St. Ann's Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Oklahoma City.
Visitation to long-term care facilities first closed in mid-March 2020 -- a decision Stitt said helped to save many lives.
Now, after almost a year of closed visitation Stitt and state health officials are working to safely bring families back together.
"Now is the time to reunite Oklahoma families and let them visit their loved ones safely," Stitt said.
According to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of Feb. 14 weekly new deaths among nursing home residents have decreased by 83% since vaccinations began, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said Tuesday in a news release.
Under the new guidelines, residents at long-term care and assisted living centers can designate one or more essential caregivers who will be allowed to make in-person visits.
The essential caregivers will have to take state provided training. The training will be available online and should not take more than 15 minutes, health officials said.
“This significant change will ensure the safety of residents, staff and family members and continues our ongoing efforts to adjust our state guidance based on the realities on the ground here in Oklahoma. We urge all long term care centers to follow these new guidelines,” said Deputy Commissioner of Health Innovation Travis Kirkpatrick.
Once the training is completed, OSDH said visitors will need to follow these guidelines:
o If both the resident and visitor are vaccinated:
A mask is required and proof of vaccination completion must be provided for both to have non-supervised contact.
o If either the resident or visitor is not vaccinated:
A mask is required and proof of a negative COVID-19 test or onsite test may be required for both to have non-supervised contact.
o If neither the resident nor visitor are vaccinated:
A mask is required and proof of a negative COVID-19 test or onsite test may be required for both to have a supervised, no-contact visit.
“I do want to remind Oklahomans that despite recent updated guidance from the CDC for those who have been vaccinated, if you’re visiting a long term care center it’s still important to follow the masking guidelines outlined above out of an abundance of caution,” said State Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye. “This is for the safety of your loved one and everyone in the building who may be vulnerable to COVID-19. We are excited this will give families the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones in a safe way.”
Details of the enhanced visitation plan are included below: