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Watchful

Visitation ban may be put in place again

At some point, West Virginians will just have to bite the bullet and begin getting back to “normal.” COVID-19 cannot rule our lives forever.

Still, Gov. Jim Justice’s reservations over a change in precautions against the disease at nursing homes is understandable.

Eighty-one of the 187 deaths of West Virginians due to the coronavirus, as of Tuesday, occurred in nursing homes.

When the second round of COVID-19 hit earlier this summer, many long-term care facilities reinstituted precautions such as bans or limits on visitors. That was wise.

On Monday, state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said a new system is being adopted to guide nursing home officials. It uses the color-coded map the DHHR has adopted to show the level of danger from COVID-19, county by county.

There will be no state ban on nursing home visitors in counties coded green (least risk) and yellow, Crouch said. Counties with orange designations can allow nursing home visits only for “compassionate care.” Those coded red must ban visitors.

All Northern Panhandle counties were designated green as of Tuesday. In fact, not a single county in the state was in the red category. Just two (Logan and Monroe), were rated orange.

We may be making progress against the epidemic, in other words.

But Justice said he is “tremendously concerned” about the new system. If there are new outbreaks of COVID-19 because of nursing home visitors, “we’re going to have to batten down the hatches and go back to no visitation,” he added.

Good. At the very first sign of trouble, the statewide visitation ban ought to be put back into effect — within minutes, not hours or days after learning there is a problem.

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