Unlike last year, indoor visits allowed during holidays at Triangle nursing homes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s a busy time of year for nursing homes and senior living centers with families coming to visit loved ones. Unlike last Christmas, indoor visits are allowed at long-term care facilities under North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidance.

Tom Ford, the Executive Director of The Cardinal at North Hills, a senior living center in Raleigh, said there’s at least a 75-80 percent jump in visitors the week of Christmas and New Year’s. He said The Cardinal has already seen about a 40-50 percent increase in visitors in recent weeks.

“Everyone wants to come visit, and that’s great, but we wanted to make sure it’s safe,” Ford said.

To come in, guests need to present proof of vaccination, wear a mask indoors, and go through a COVID-19 screening, which takes temperatures. Visitors are also encouraged to go straight to a resident’s apartment and not a common area.

“Holidays are about family. We’re so happy and proud that we can get back to that new normal,” Ford said.

Last Christmas, The Cardinal at North Hills only allowed outdoor visits. Resident Charles Wallas said things were lonely before residents were able to get vaccinated.

“Really during that whole period of time when we were unprotected we basically were hiding out,” Wallas said. “We wore masks. We couldn’t have visitors. It was very isolating.”

Statewide, about 87 percent of nursing home residents are fully vaccinated and about 54 percent of them have received a booster, according to data from the CDC. Ford said 99 percent of his residents have received a booster shot. Vaccinations, including booster shots, are required for staff.

“We saw about 5 percent of our workforce decided not to get the vaccination or booster, and that was their choice. And unfortunately, that means they could not work with us any longer,” Ford said.

Ford said weekly testing is also required for staff, and a majority of residents get tested voluntarily, as well.

Wallas said the COVID-19 protocols and knowing the vaccination status of others make him feel safe during the holiday season.

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