FARGO, N.D. (KVLY) After hearing from many frustrated residents, and as a long-term care facility resident himself, Chris Larson says he knows things need to change.
“These residents are experiencing heartbreak and I just have a feeling that if we don’t do something soon, we’re going to lose more residents to broken hearts than we are to COVID-19,” Larson said.
Many facilities in the Valley have their residents locked down in their rooms 24/7 to help slow the spread of COVID-19, as the North Dakota Department of Health reports just over 20 percent of the state's cases come from care facilities. The lock downs in turn have left residents without visitations or interactions with other residents for weeks.
“Pushing to get some guidelines out next week that will hopefully allow visitations in facilities safely, that’s my number one concern is safely, and as soon as we possibly can," Larson explained.
Larson says the Reuniting Residents and Families Task Force was created earlier this month and already has their first meeting next Tuesday in hopes of nailing down guidelines to slowly start opening care facilities back up.
“Initially we want to begin by introducing them back to congregate dining and activities and then quickly move into how we safely bring families back into the nursing homes,” he said.
Larson says he’s not sure how visitations will look yet, as there are a lot of factors and data to take into consideration.
“If we open up, we don’t want to have an outbreak that could potentially harm residents. This is not going to be a free-for all approach, it’s going to be an approach where we take it one step at a time, it’s going to be phased approach, but we’re going to keep families in mind,” he said.
Larson says the task force’s goal is to finalize their guidelines at next week's first meeting, in hopes of then passing them on to Governor Doug Burgum for the final verdict.
“We just have to do it in a manner that’s safe and that we don’t lose any more residents than we already have," Larson said.
Larson says the task force is made up of administrators from local care facilities, state legislators, as well as members from the Departement of Human Services and the health department.