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Department of Veterans Affairs adopts no visitors policy including Ft. Meade, Hot Springs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday that more than 134 nursing homes across the country have adopted a “no visitors” policy in an effort to lower the risk of exposure to the coronavirus among older veterans who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said earlier Tuesday that those facilities, which house more than 8,000 veterans, are “going into an emergency situation.

“The move is an effort to protect residents and patients who are elderly or with weakened immune systems from exposure to the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still considers COVID-19 to be a low threat to the general American public, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced, March 10, new safeguards aimed at limiting COVID-19 exposure risk for two of its most susceptible patient populations: nursing home residents and spinal-cord injury patients,” the VA said in a press release.

VA community living centers nationwide, including the in Hot Springs, S.D., and  Ft. Meade near Sturgis, have implemented “no visitor” rules, effective immediately. “All VA nursing homes will adopt a “No Visitor” stance, meaning no outside visitors will be permitted to see residents,” the release said.

The only exceptions to this no visitor stance “will be in compassionate cases, when Veterans are in their last stages of life on hospice units,” according to the department.

According to the publication Military Times, all VA medical facilities began screening visitors for COVID-19 earlier this month, and many have started limiting the number of visitors. The new “no visitor” rule at nursing homes escalates the level of precaution taken to protect their most vulnerable patients.

Other measures taken at the community living centers on Tuesday include screening all nursing home staff daily and suspending new admissions. The VA did say, however, that resident transfers from other VA facilities will continue, once medical personnel have determined that the patient is not at risk from or likely to transmit the COVID-19 virus.

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