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Central Georgians have hope to see loved ones in nursing homes as Kemp phases in visitation rules

The governor has put out a three-part plan for nursing homes and assisted living centers to eventually let in visitors

JONES COUNTY, Ga. — Governor Brian Kemp extended the shelter-in-place for Georgia's medically fragile Tuesday due to COVID-19, but he also opened the door for family to start visiting relatives and friends in long-term care facilities for the first time in months.  

The older folks in our society have suffered through the pandemic since many haven't had a chance to visit face to face with their families. The governor is proposing a three-phase plan. Many of us are in level 1 right now, but the goal is to get to level 3 and allow in person visits for folks like Sharon Amor.

"I haven't been able to go in and be with her physically since February, so that's hard," Amor sadly reflected on not being able to visit her mother.

Amor's mom just turned 101 inside Autumn Lane Nursing Home and Rehab facility. She visits her twice every day.

"Some staff come to the room and raise the blind and raise the window about two inches," she explained.

Sharon might get the chance to see her mom in person soon.

Governor Kemp laid out a plan based on testing inside the facility and in the community.

Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District explains, "What the facilities need to look at is their own positivity within their facility so that their residents and staff are being regularly tested."

Hokanson says all 13 counties in the district, which covers Bibb, Houston, Monroe, and 10 other counties,  is in phase 1.

That means their COVID-19 numbers would have to drop before facilities can open up.

"That COVID county case rate will be less than 50 per 100,000 county residents and a 14-day countywide county positivity of not less than 5 percent," he said.

Hokanson says if we have any chance on getting areas into phase 3, it's going to take all of us getting on board with preventing the coronavirus.

And as for Sharon, she just longs for the day she can give her mom a hug.

"That would mean so much. She's 101, so, you know, I know my time with her is limited," she admitted.

A community ombudsman will also be involved in the phases and decision making.

Hokanson cautioned that just as businesses and schools opened back up, some nursing homes may find themselves opening up only to have to shut down again.