On March 23rd, 2020, Governor Justice announced that West Virginians should stay at home after the first sign of COVID-19 community spread. This is the best way to prevent further spread and protects our most vulnerable elderly West Virginians and those with pre-existing conditions.

West Virginia hospices have been preparing for this and the public can be reassured that hospice staff are being screened and all precautions are being taken to protect hospice patients and their families. Screening includes checking temperature and asking about any symptoms. Staff will also be asked about recent travel to areas with COVID-19 community spread or contact with people who might have the virus. Hospices are also screening patients and their families before they visit. During this pandemic, some hospice visits may be made by telehealth, using approved methods, to cut back on in-person contacts. However, some in-person visits are vitally important and will continue.

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to wash your hands thoroughly and cover coughs and sneezes. You should also sanitize door knobs and surfaces that may be contaminated. Hospice staff will advise on infection control measures and any additional precautions that may be needed. Many great resources are available on the West Virginia Coronavirus website https://dhhr.wv.gov/Coronavirus%20Disease-COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx

Families should be aware that visiting is being restricted in nursing facilities, but when patients are at end of life (and this includes hospice patients), visitors should be allowed access. Hospice team members are considered to be essential health care workers and so CMS has issued guidance to ensure that they are allowed to continue providing care to their patients residing in facilities. However, each facility does have the right to make decisions about access.

Our goal is to keep people at home as much as possible where they are less likely to become infected. To contact your local hospice https://hospicewv.org/hospices/