LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson read a letter from a nursing home resident during a press briefing Oct. 6, then he made an announcement.
The letter asked Hutchinson a question: When will I see my children again?
The writer said the governor had the answer and he could make the decision that would allow family to visit nursing home residents.
As the COVID-19 pandemic expanded earlier this year, visitation to nursing homes was prohibited in mid-March as officials feared the virus would run rampant through nursing homes where social distancing is difficult and there were sometimes shortages of personal protective equipment.
But Hutchinson said Tuesday that minimum visitation at long-term care facilities may happen, if approved by the resident’s healthcare provider, for medical treatment and compassionate care situations.
Compassionate care could include mental health issues, such as when a resident may not have had any human touch for some time.
The governor said visitation can occur at long-term care facilities that meet certain criteria, including:
• The facility has not had a newly positive COVID-19 case diagnosed in 14 days.
• The facility meets all staffing requirements.
• The facility has adequate PPE to meet the needs of residents and staff.
• The facility screens every visitor, employee, contractor and vendor entering the building.
The facility can restrict access to persons who do not meet screening criteria.
“This is a very, very important step that is necessary, that is the right thing to do,” Hutchinson said Tuesday. “And we are very concerned about continued good health in our long-term care facilities. This should enhance the visitation opportunities. It doesn’t make it perfect. It’s still a protected environment.”
Hutchinson also read a letter from a 12-year-old girl in Bryant. That student and contemporaries want to observe Halloween. Plus, the writer’s birthday is around Halloween, so it would be a good present.
The girl said people handing out candy can wear masks and gloves, as can the children.
“If we can go to school, then I think certainly we should be able to trick or treat,” the girl wrote.
Hutchinson said he wasn’t aware of any directives banning trick or treating, but he did offer some guidance.
He said trick or treaters should be sure to wear a cloth face instead of just a costume mask alone, or even under the costume mask.
Parents should limit the number of houses children visit and they should only be allowed to eat factory wrapped candy after it has been wiped off with a sanitary wipe.
He also recommended low-risk activities like decorating your house, carving and decorating pumpkins or having a virtual costume contest.
Before announcing that Arkansas had hit a record high with 529 people hospitalized, Hutchinson said the reported positive diagnoses of President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, has brought on a new level of seriousness among Arkansans about the pandemic with more people opting to follow the state directive to wear face coverings in public.
Still, he warned that the influenza season is upon us and “we don’t want double trouble,” so he encouraged everyone to get their flu shots soon.