There are two keys to safely reuniting eldercare facility residents and their families after COVID-19 lockdowns: bringing infection numbers down in adjacent communities, and universal testing that includes on-site visitor tests, says a leading industry advocate.

In a Sunday Fox News interview, American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson was asked what scenario would allow residents and families to reconnect.

Parkinson acknowledged the devastating consequences of facility lockdowns on residents’ quality of life. Despite staff attempts to connect families virtually through apps like Facetime, “there’s just no alternative to being together, and then the tragic scenes of people dying without their loved ones … it’s horrible,” he said.

When considering whether to open facilities, the leading consideration must be infection levels in surrounding communities, as this will determine the risk level inside an eldercare facility, he said. 

“If we spike back up in COVID cases … we’re going to end up with more COVID in nursing homes. So issue one is let’s keep COVID down in the communities.” 

Adequate testing of all staff and residents will offer further protection, he added. And the “ideal” situation would be the addition of “on-site testing throughout the summer,” he concluded. “[W]e do recognize it’s extremely important to get these folks back with their families.”

The interview is available in its entirety on Youtube.