As states begin to ease coronavirus lockdown rules, the decision to reopen individual eldercare facilities should rest entirely with the clinicians who provide direct resident care, says the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

In a Wednesday statement, the group urged clinicians to help ensure that eldercare facilities are “the last to open” to visitors and vendors — regardless of the status of the surrounding community. Medical directors and directors of nursing should work alongside their colleagues, regional leaders, local health departments and hospital systems to help ensure a cautious reopening made on a case-by-case basis, it said. 

Local transmission rates continue to vary widely and questions remain about the availability of reliable testing and a possible wave of new infections in the fall. For those reasons and others, nursing facilities and assisted living communities should hesitate to quickly relax social distancing policies and personal protective equipment requirements, the group added.

“We know that family members in particular are eager to see their loved ones, but we must ensure that our older adults who are most at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 stay safe,” concluded AMDA Executive Director Christopher E. Laxton, CAE.

Estimates suggest that between 40% and 56% of COVID-19 deaths are nursing home related.