UPDATED: Nursing homes closed to visitors amid coronavirus outbreaks

By Anna Jauhola
Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Kittson County are now closed to visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak reaching Minnesota and nearby states.
Kittson Healthcare announced restricted visitation to its residents’ families Thursday, March 12. Cindy Urbaniak, nursing home administrator, said as the coronavirus – known as COVID-19 – has reached the state the facility wanted to take a proactive stance rather than reactive.
“We are moving ahead with restricting nursing home visiting,” she said Wednesday afternoon, March 11. “We were just in a meeting talking about what trigger points would put this into action. And we thought, ‘Why would we even wait for a trigger?”
As of Wednesday, March 18, the entire Kittson Healthcare facility – nursing homes, assisted living and hospital – is closed to visitors. Urbaniak has been updating the Kittson County information hotline, which states anyone wishing to visit residents should call them through phone or video. 
Minnesota has reported 77 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all in the Twin Cities area, as of Wednesday. North Dakota confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Thursday in Ward County. The number of positive cases in North Dakota jumped to six as of Wednesday. Canada’s department of health reports 569 total cases of the virus in Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Alberta. These numbers are constantly changing.
The Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control have issued many of these recommendations as far as restricting visitors. As the virus and situation change rapidly, Kittson Healthcare and Karlstad Senior Living will follow recommendations to keep their residents safe.
Urbaniak said visitors can still see their loved ones, but only one or two people at a time will be allowed. Urbaniak said they strongly encourage all visitors to avoid going door to door and only visit their own residents. Each person will be required to wash their hands or use sanitizer immediately upon entering the facilities.
“Hugging, kissing, handshaking is discouraged. Social distancing of 6 feet is encouraged,” Urbaniak wrote in the letter.
If visitors have any signs of respiratory illness, have respiratory illness or have been in an area with diagnosed COVID-19 cases, they should not visit. She said all these recommendations are put into effect to protect the residents because those most affected by the virus are 65 and older.
Karlstad Senior Living is under the umbrella of Accura Healthcare out of Iowa. Administrator Penny Black, RN, said both the nursing home and assisted living underwent visitation restrictions on Tuesday, March 10. Then Accura Healthcare implemented a total lockdown in all their facilities across Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota late Wednesday afternoon.
“We belong to Accura Healthcare and they are not budging on this,” Black said. “There will be no visitors.”
She said each employee is screened as they enter the facility to ensure their temperature is normal and complete a questionnaire to determine whether they present or have a possibility of presenting COVID-19 symptoms.
Some families are upset about the total lockdown, Black said. However, on the advice of Accura, families are able to take residents out of the facility for a visit, she added.
“We would take a resident and deliver them to a vehicle and screen them as they re-enter the facility,” Black said. “But we don’t want family coming through the door.”
Anyone with concerns should contact Kittson Healthcare at 843-3612 or Karlstad Senior Living at 436-2161. The clinics in Hallock and Karlstad are open and taking appointments. For updated information, you can call the county hotline at 218-843-8888.
Also, visit the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health websites for updated information at cdc.gov and health.state.mn.us.

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