Associated Press
Wednesday, March 10, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A year into the coronavirus pandemic, people can now spend time with family members and friends in South Carolina nursing homes and residential care facilities after state officials updated visitation guidelines Wednesday.

Most of the state’s nursing homes will have to allow in-person, indoor visitation after federal authorities approved the changed guidelines, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced.

“Too many South Carolinians have been prohibited from visiting their loved ones in long term care facilities because of overburdensome federal guidelines,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement. “Prioritizing the physical health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens is critically important, but we must also protect their mental and emotional health.”

Under the new criteria, facilities must let visitors indoors if community spread of the virus is low in the county where the facility is located, no residents or staff have contracted COVID-19 in the past two weeks, and the facility is following other virus prevention measures.

These facilities will continue to require visitors to wear face masks and practice social distancing. They also must limit the number of visitors and the length of visits.

More than 98,000 vaccine doses have been administered to people living and working in the state’s long-term care facilities so far, and most of the state’s nursing homes and residential care facilities have completed their first and second vaccination clinics through a federal partnership with the pharmacies CVS and Walgreens.

Nearly 1,900 people living in the state’s long-term care facilities and 29 staff members have died of COVID-19, according to health department data. The state has recorded 7,768 total virus deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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