Governor issues new executive order for nursing homes

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing April 3, 2020. (Pool photo from Department of Public Safety)
Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing April 3, 2020. (Pool photo from Department of Public Safety)

Gov. Roy Cooper announced an executive order Wednesday, April 8, setting new rules for nursing homes to curb the spread of COVID-19. But Cooper offered no indication when life can start returning to what will be the new normal.

The new rules for the homes, or long-term care facilities, come as a number of them across the state struggle with outbreaks of the contagious respiratory disease. 

The state has identified 21 COVID-19 outbreaks in North Carolina, 18 of which are centered around the homes, said N.C. Department of Human Health and Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. 

In one of the state’s worst outbreaks, at least 60 people at an Orange County nursing and rehab center have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven residents have been hospitalized, and two are dead. 

The governor has already issued an executive order limiting visitors to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but now the state is requiring additional rules.

All staff must wear medical face masks. All must be screened daily for signs of the virus. Communal areas at the facilities must close. Residents with COVID-19 are urged to isolate in a separate part of the facility with designated staff. 

The facilities must notify local health departments of all new or suspected cases of COVID-19. 

Additionally, the new executive order lifts health care regulations to increase the number of hospital beds, medical equipment, and health care staffers available to combat the outbreak. Ambulatory surgical facilities will be allowed to operate as temporary hospitals. Child care rules will be streamlined to better care for children of essential workers. 

Copper issued a statewide stay-at home order March 30 to April 29, but whether he’ll extend it is unclear. 

The order seems to be slowing the spread of COVID-19, Cooper said during the news conference. Meanwhile, the state will continue to consult with public health experts and businesses to determine whether an extension is warranted, he said. 

N.C. residents can expect another executive order April 9 for retail stores to limit the number of people who can shop at the same time. 

Since the lockdown, more than 450,000 North Carolinians have filed claims for unemployment insurance.