Outdoor visits now allowed at New Jersey long-term care facilities

By KYW Newsradio 1060

UPDATED: 5:34 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey is starting to allow outdoor visits at long-term care facilities, but there are strict protocols they have to follow in order to start welcoming families.

You've probably missed seeing your parents or grandparents face to face, but KYW Newsradio Medical Editor Dr. Brain McDonough said it's still not time to go hugging and kissing them just yet.

"Make sure that you're wearing your mask," he advised. "Make sure that you respect the 6-foot social distancing and that you definitely have washed your hands thoroughly before you see your loved one."

If your loved one is also wearing a mask, McDonough said you definitely reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

McDonough suggested it may be a good idea to limit the amount of people going to visit.

"Pick someone who has been very careful, maybe even quarantining, someone who is at very low risk of spreading the virus," he said. "Have that person be the person who spends quality time with your loved one."

Facilities also have to check each visitor's temperature, and a social worker must be present during the visit.

McDonough recommended picking a weekday when there may be a bigger staff to accommodate visitors.

"Sunday is certainly Father's Day and it's certainly a weekend and a great time to do it," he said, "but if you have another opportunity, you might want to do it on a day when the facility is more prepared to have you come, especially if your loved one can understand that you're picking a different day."

Susan Orchard was able to get in to visit her 101-year-old mother, Peg Hesel, whom she hadn't seen since December. Orchard traveled abroad after Christmas and caught a cold she didn't want to give her mother. And then the virus happened.

"We have been doing FaceTime, but FaceTime’s not quite the same, so it was really wonderful. Really good visit," she said. "I asked her how this was different and if it was better, and I think this was uplifting for her as well."

Orchard, a Delaware resident, and Hesel got to sit outside together at Wiley Christian Retirement Community in Marlton, which limits visits to 30 minutes.

"We stayed six feet apart, we were outside," she said. "In my understanding of this virus, it’s not easily transmitted outside. And we had masks on. I had felt totally comfortable."

That said a lot, as Orchard described herself as extremely paranoid about the virus. "Literally I have not touched anyone since February," she shared. "I keep my distance, I do my shopping every six weeks."

For Orchard, it was worth driving an hour each way to see her mother in person. "I really think it was wonderful that New Jersey opened up," she said. "I think we can do this safely and I think it’s really important for (the residents)."

For most others, however, you'll have to save your air hugs for Dad or Grandpa for another day. More than a dozen facilities told KYW Newsradio they were starting visits later this week due to staffing issues.