Gov. Inslee announces “Safe Start” reopening plan for long-term care facilities

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday a “Safe Start” phased reopening plan for long-term care facilities.

“We know that the COVID pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Washingtonians who are living in our long-term care facilities,” said Inslee, “in the spring, by necessity, we implemented restrictions on [them], which included restrictions on visitations.”

This phased plan would allow families to visit loved ones in these care centers, who have been kept inside since the pandemic began.

“[It] has meant isolation for folks, now, for months,” said Inslee. “It’s made families who’ve missed their loved ones for Mothers’ Day, they missed Fathers’ Day, they missed seeing their friends and their relatives.”

In Phase 1, facilities will allow “compassionate care,” window, outdoor and remote visits. In Phase 2 and 3, limited indoor visits would be allowed.

Phase 4 means visitation returns to normal.

To move through the phased plan, the care facilities would need to go 28 days without a resident or staff member testing positive for COVID-19, have consistent testing, as well as have a 14-day supply of PPE on hand.

On top of that, Inslee said moving to the next phase would also be based on the conditions inside the facilities and key metrics have to line up with the county.

Qualifying to move through the phases is also dependent on the rate of COVID transmission in the counties—a long-term care facility that otherwise meets the criteria to advance a stage might have to wait if their county has high infection rates.

Facilities will stay in Phase 1 if the county case rate per 100,000 residents exceeds 75. The case rate requirement will drop as facilities progress to each phase, making it harder to move forward. According to the Department of Health, Spokane County is at 215.4.

Even if all these requirements are met, the Department of Health has to give the green light.

“We all look forward to eventual return to normalcy in these facilities and believe this phased in approach is really the first step of making that happen,” said Cheryl Strange, secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services.

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