The increased risk of contracting COVID-19 has caused most long-term care providers to discourage residents from traveling to family gatherings for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, according to an industry audit. 

A new LeadingAge survey on how providers are handling participation in Thanksgiving celebrations found that 81% are encouraging residents to not travel, and remain at the facility, for the holiday. It also revealed that just 5% are suggesting that residents only travel locally to visit family and friends.

None of the providers who responded are encouraging out-of-state travel, the organization noted. Nine percent said they’re supportive of residents traveling for the holiday only in special circumstances, while the final 5% said they’re not providing any guidance on Thanksgiving travel. 

If residents do leave to visit family, 55% of providers said they’re implementing a combined approach of asking residents to disclose their travel plans, and self-quarantine and submit to COVID testing upon return. 

Holiday travel has been a point of concern for both the federal government and providers as coronavirus cases rise nationwide.

“These responses consistently reflect member concerns about travel and their residents’ increased risk of exposure, especially as COVID cases are on the rise across the country. Some states are starting to implement their own restrictions on travel, and any who travel to another state must know if they will have to self-quarantine upon arrival or return,” LeadingAge explained. 

Close to 50% of providers said they also are discouraging residents from inviting guests to their facilities for the holidays, except in special circumstances, like end of life and compassionate care situations.  

Twenty percent said they’re allowing residents to have a limited number of guests on the property, while 15% said residents can have a capped number of visitors in an outdoor setting only. 

LeadingAge added that some providers are planning to offer residents the option to have a Thanksgiving meal delivered to their home, along with a limited number of guest meals. Just 1% of respondents said they will be allowing residents’ visitors into the dining room, while none reported that residents could have visitors without limitation.

The survey also found 72% of providers offering staff members federal guidance regarding Thanksgiving travel. Twelve percent there would be no return-to-work restrictions for staff, while 9% said staff would be required to self-quarantine if they traveled out of state.