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News Staying Safe this Holiday Season: Letter to Families of those in Long Term and Congregate Care Facilities

11/23/2020
  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Low risk: Celebrate virtually Low-medium risk: Visit your loved one at their residence Very high risk- not recommended: Bring your loved one home to celebrate with your household and/or other households

Dear Families,

In response to the latest guidance from the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and rising COVID-19 cases across the country, we are updating our guidance to families on celebrating Thanksgiving with their loved ones in a congregate setting. The safest way to celebrate is at home, with the people you live with. Gatherings with loved ones you do not live with, including loved ones in congregate settings, can increase your chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.

We know that the holidays are an important time for you and your loved ones. As you make plans to visit and celebrate with your loved one, we encourage you to celebrate virtually or visit your loved one at their facility or residence in line with the residence’s safety guidelines.

Staying Safe this Holiday Season

The Department of Public Health (DPH) released guidance earlier this month that all Massachusetts residents should follow, offering considerations for how to keep friends, families and our communities safe during the holiday season. 

There are important considerations when planning celebrations with a loved one who lives in a congregate setting. Many people living in congregate settings are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 and may have health conditions putting them at a higher risk of becoming sick, or even severely ill, with COVID-19. Because of this, we strongly discourage bringing your loved one home for any in-person gatherings.

There are a number of ways to safely celebrate the holidays with your loved one. Due to the rise in cases across the state and country, we recommend participating in a lower risk visit with your loved one.

Examples of Ways to Celebrate

Low risk: Celebrate virtually with your loved one using methods such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or Google Duo.

Low-medium risk: Visit your loved one at their residence. Bring a favorite Thanksgiving food or a holiday treat (within the facility’s guidelines), following safety guidelines including mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. The risk level of a visit to the facility or residence depends on the number of visitors and the potential exposure to COVID-19 that any of the visitors may have had.

Very high risk- not recommended: Bring your loved one home to celebrate with your household and/or other households. We strongly discourage any gatherings with people outside your home. Your loved one may need to quarantine for 14 days upon return to their congregate care setting.

Guidelines on Visits and Travel

All in-person visits and off-sites must follow established guidance and protocols Please check the latest visitation guidance for long-term care facilities, ALRs, and congregate care settings and contact your loved one’s residence about setting up an in-person visit or making off-site arrangements.

Prior to any in-person visit, all participants should screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test.  Please check Mass.gov/GetTested for locations.

Out-of-state family members visiting for the holidays must comply with all travel requirements outlined in the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel order. You are exempt from these requirements if your travel is limited to a brief trip to visit a person in a long-term are or congregate care setting. For example, driving from Rhode Island (or another high-risk state) to Massachusetts to visit a parent in a nursing home for 45 minutes, and then immediately returning home.

For the safety of your loved one and the community, we ask that you refrain from bringing your loved one into your home for a holiday gathering. However, if you choose to do so, we encourage you to communicate with the facility or residence beforehand to understand their policies. Facilities and residences may require your loved one to quarantine for 14 days when they return to the facility or residence if you bring them home for a celebration, out of concern for the safety of your loved one and others. If your loved one must quarantine, they may be asked to quarantine in a temporary room for the safety of others.

Additional Resources

In addition to discussing with your loved one’s facility or residence, there are resources available to discuss how to safely celebrate with your loved one. Families of loved ones in long-term care settings, including ALRs, can contact the Nursing Home Family Resource at 617-660-5399. Families of loved ones in other congregate settings should reach out to their loved one’s case manager, social worker, or service coordinator for additional support.

We hope that you and your loved ones have a safe and healthy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Marylou Sudders

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Additional Resources for Staying Safe this Holiday Season: Letter to Families of those in Long Term and Congregate Care Facilities

Executive Office of Health and Human Services 

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services is the largest secretariat in state government and is comprised of 12 agencies, in addition to 2 soldiers’ homes and the MassHealth program. Our efforts are focused on the health, resilience, and independence of the one in four residents of the Commonwealth we serve. Our public health programs touch every community in the Commonwealth.
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