TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Assisted living facilities in New Jersey will soon be allowed to hold outdoor in-person visits with residents, New Jersey health officials announced Friday.
Beginning Sunday, June 21, nursing homes, dementia care homes, pediatric transitional care homes and comprehensive personal care homes can permit visitors in designated outdoor spaces.
A staff member wearing a mask must stay with the resident during the visit, all parties must consent that they are aware of the risks and agree to comply with safety rules, and visitors have to stay six feet away.
"People don't realize since like March - that's like almost a third of a year - we've been isolated," said 82-year-old Tom McHale. He spoke with Action News through his window at Allegria at the Fountains in Atco, NJ.
He was thrilled to find out he'll soon be able to have in-person, outside visits with loved ones.
"I talk to my brother in law, my nephew. It's on the phone, but face to face is great," said McHale.
The facility's executive director, Brian Corliss, says they plan to start visits on Sunday, adding they've been planning for this for a while.
"The separation from their families has been so devastating, that we're really looking forward to have that happen again," said Corliss.
Corliss says several tents will be set up in a courtyard area with six-foot tables.
The announcement came Friday from health officials in Trenton.
"A resident who has tested positive is allowed visitation after they have met the criteria for discontinuation of their isolation," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
At Allegria, some families have already inquired about visiting appointments.
"They would do the visits through the window, and that served some need. But once again to be able to be face-to-face with them, it's just going to be amazing for their mental and psycho-social wellbeing," said Corliss.
Tom McHale agrees.
"I mean this is like freedom again!" he laughed.
The staff at Allegria says while they're excited about the visits they do plan to conduct thorough screenings for all visitors. They say out of about 400 residents, they had five total cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and they don't want any more.
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New Jersey to allow outdoor visits to nursing homes and other assisted living facilities starting Sunday