LUMBERTON – At least two local long-term care facilities plan to reintroduce visiting guidelines in the coming weeks as the state Department of Health and Human Services reported a drop in cases on Thursday at facilities such as nursing homes across the state.

Wesley Pines Retirement Community leaders will meet on Friday to discuss their “rollout plan” for visits, said Amy Shooter, retirement community marketing director. She expects the visits to begin next week.

“We need to make sure we meet all of the criteria set by NCDHHS. We cannot be in the outbreak status and have to go 14 days without positive cases, ”she said in a statement.

There have been 19 cases in the age community where four residents were found positive for COVID-19, according to the NCDHHS website. The other cases concerned employees.

The WoodHaven Care, Alzheimer’s and Rehabilitation Center had 68 cases, 34 of which were reported among residents and the others among staff. A resident died as a result of the virus, according to the NCDHHS.

“WoodHaven is also seeing a decrease in positive cases among our residents,” said Lori Dove, vice president and chief administrative officer of UNC Health Southeastern. “We anticipate that we will no longer have an outbreak status by the end of March, which would allow us to allow hands-free visits such as those from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ) has been described for a long time. Guidelines for care. “

Coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities have “declined rapidly in recent weeks,” according to an NCDHHS statement released Thursday.

“In qualified nursing homes, adult nursing homes, and other licensed facilities, case rates have fallen more than 15-fold since the peak of the broadcast in January 2021. With new cases falling rapidly, most facilities currently meet the criteria to resume indoor visits while continuing to follow infection prevention recommendations, “the NCDHHS reads in part.

Early vaccination prioritization for residents, employees and a lack of broadcasting opportunities for members outside the community are factors that have contributed to the decline in the rate, according to the statement.

“Since the pandemic began, the NCDHHS response has focused on a five-point strategy for long-term care facilities, including prevention, staffing, testing, outbreak management and oversight. The state has established regional infection prevention teams to support facilities. personal protective equipment provided; helped eliminate staff shortages; Provision of infection prevention and control training and targeted funding; mandatory examination; and completed infection control inspections in more than 400 North Carolina nursing homes, ”said NCDHHS.

More than 205,000 vaccines have been given to people who live and work in long-term care facilities. The vaccines will continue until the end of the month.

Declines in cases mean that many facilities can resume indoor visits if they meet the safety criteria set by NCDHHS. Medicare-certified care facilities must meet additional criteria required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Protecting our residents and long-term care workers is a top priority in our pandemic response efforts, and it is encouraging to see cases decline in these situations,” said Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, NCDHHS secretary.

“I know it has been a long, difficult year for residents and families, but these actions have saved lives and now allow us to resume safe indoor touring. While we need to continue infection prevention practices, this decline is also a positive sign of the impact vaccination is having in our communities, ”she said.

In other COVID-19 news, NCDHHS also plans to expand access to rapid tests in public K-12 schools.

Tests are provided free of charge to all local education agencies (LEAs) and charter schools for testing students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms. It is also used to check employees.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend diagnostic and screening tests as an additional preventive measure to essential mask reduction and physical distancing strategies that are in line with DHHS StrongSchoolNC guidelines, among others,” said NCDHHS .

From December 2020 to February 2021, NCDHHS piloted COVID-19 testing with 17 public school districts and 11 charter schools.

“This has been a huge benefit for our working parents and staff,” said April Hardy, school nurse for Lenoir County Public Schools and Lenoir County Health Department liaison. “Our employees were able to identify positive cases quickly and follow up on contacts in a timely manner. This will keep our school safe. Additionally, staff and students identified as close contacts were able to return to school earlier with such easily accessible tests. “

The experience of Lenoir County Schools and other pilot participants has influenced the nationwide expansion of testing for K-12 schools.

“In order to reduce the spread of the virus as our schools reopen, measures to contain the virus are vital,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, NCDHHS State Director of Health and Chief Medical Officer. “We look forward to expanding beyond the pilot schools in order to offer interested LEAs and charter schools this additional level of abatement.”

LEAs and charter schools can request tests for any of the following options. No tests are required for schools to give in-person tuition.

– Testing of all individuals, including students, their families and school staff, who are symptomatic or known to have had a confirmed positive case, and / or

– Once a week screening of all adults – including teachers and staff

All LEAs and charter schools interested in testing must meet certain requirements, including obtaining parent / guardian consent prior to testing, maintaining adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, training staff to conduct tests, or working with a local health care provider and reporting public health test results.

For more information on requirements, see StrongSchool NC’s Preliminary Guide to the K-12 COVID-19 Antigen Test. For more information on school openings, mitigation measures, or other school-specific guidance or questions, please email