CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced new guidance on visitation in nursing homes and assisted living facilities on Wednesday.

Facilities will now be required to open for in-person indoor visits as long as they meet a few criteria points:

  • A less than or equal to 10 percent positivity rate in the county in which the facility is located, using DHEC’s data
  • No COVID-19 cases among staff and/or residents in the past 14 days
  • Maintained Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention

The latest data shows 40 out of 46 counties have a percent positivity rate equal or below 10%. The counties that do not qualify for indoor visitation at this time are Allendale, Barnwell, Chesterfield, Lancaster, McCormick and York.

Dr. Jane Kelly, Assistant State Epidemiologist, says this change will be a positive one for the mental health and well-being of nursing home residents.

“The general intention of this is so that vaccinated grandparents can get together with their unvaccinated grandchildren,” she says.

State health leaders say visitors will not be required to be vaccinated, however, will still need to wear a mask and wash hands before and after the visit.

Kate Daugherty, Executive Director at The Bridge at Charleston in North Charleston, says 95% of her residents have been vaccinated and are more than ready to greet their loved ones again.

“During quarantine they had to eat all their meals in their rooms, the lack of visitation from their families, you know they don’t get their sprites and their cokes and the snacks — the things their families are used to bringing to them,” she says.

Daugherty says she will be checking the percent positivity rate every day for Charleston County before allowing any visitors to come through the facility.