BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today signed an executive order that modifies restrictions on visitation at long-term care facilities in North Dakota during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for a phased approach to resuming visitation as outlined in the state’s Vulnerable Population Protection (VP3) Plan.
Visitation to skilled nursing, basic care and assisted living facilities was suspended by executive order on April 6. The amended order signed today allows for a phased approach to resuming visitation, based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the county and the number of active COVID-19 cases among residents of the facility.
Starting immediately, the state is strongly encouraging outdoor visitation by appointment, with appropriate social distancing and personal protective equipment, including masks. Family members should work with their loved one’s long-term care facility on appointments and details.
More than 40 long-term care facilities have been approved to begin Phase 1 under the VP3 plan, meaning they can reinstitute group dining and activities such as bingo. In 14 days, if they undergo another round of testing and there are no new active positives, they can begin indoor visitation.
“We know the stress and strain of isolation is real. We are completely and totally committed to making sure that we can reconnect people with their loves ones and to protecting all of those individuals in congregate care,” Burgum said during today’s press briefing, while also encouraging those planning visits to first get tested for COVID-19.
Burgum noted the phased resumption of visitation wouldn’t be possible without the state’s strong COVID-19 testing efforts. North Dakota currently ranks fourth in the nation in per-capita testing rate.
Garth Rydland, president and CEO of Grand Forks-based Valley Senior Living, a long-term care organization of 550 residents and over 800 employees, said aggressive testing will lead to a smart restart of long-term care and eventually allow for the reuniting of residents and their families.
“Testing all long-term care residents has saved lives and it will continue to save lives in North Dakota,” Rydland said. “While the pandemic is proving to be the most challenging thing we will ever face in our lifetimes in long-term care, I wake up every day thankful to be in North Dakota.”