Wyoming residents with family members in long-term care facilities may soon be able to see their loved ones again, though folks in Teton County may have to wait a bit longer.

Nursing homes have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, with high death rates being seen in facilities around the country. In response to that elevated risk, Wyoming put restrictions in place, halting visitation to nursing homes and other long-term care centers.

That was meant to keep family members from importing the virus to a facility. With reopening happening across broad parts of society, the state is now easing those restrictions.

The Wyoming Department of Health issued guidance Tuesday that long-term care facilities could start allowing outdoor visitation with specific procedures in place. First, visitation must take place in a designated outdoor space.

Only two visitors will be allowed at a time, and they are to be screened for symptoms of respiratory illness. Staff and residents must wear surgical masks, and visitors must wear some form of face covering.

During visits, a staff member trained in patient safety and infection control would have to be present the entire time.

“We recognize how challenging this pandemic has been for Wyoming’s aging population and their families,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a statement. “Isolation can be debilitating for our seniors. I’m glad we are able to take this step to make in-person visits possible in a safe manner.”

The guidance is not a mandate, so individual facilities can decide to still restrict visitation. Legacy Lodge Executive Director Miekka Zander couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment on whether her facility would allow outdoor visitation.

St. John’s Health is starting to explore options. For instance, it allowed family members of Living Center residents to come to the facility’s courtyard Tuesday to sign the “topping off” beam, the final piece of the metal structure that will be installed in the new Sage Living center. While not a true visit, allowing people to sign the beam was an introductory step toward letting the broader public back in the facility.

Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly told the Jackson Hole Daily on Wednesday that CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre and other hospital administrators would like to allow family members back in.

“We are interested in developing a safe way that our residents can visit outdoors with family and are meeting with the Living Center team this week to work out a plan,” she said.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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