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ST. LOUIS – It is a welcome development for families. The state of Missouri has given the green light to outdoor visits at long-term care communities.

For the last three months, families and loved ones haven’t been able to visit residents in long-term care settings, including nursing homes.

Carolyn (who asked we not include her last name) said the wait has been painful. Her sibling lives in an assisted living community in the St. Louis area.

“We have not seen our loved one since March. So that’s three months,” she said.

The Department of Health and Senior Services announced facilities could start to let families visit under certain conditions.

The DHSS says in order to open to visitors, a center must be free of new COVID-19 diagnoses for 28 days.

They must also continue to adhere to CDC guidelines and practice social distancing and good hygiene, and wear face masks.

Families must remain outside of buildings. The only kinds of visits permitted will be outdoor visits and open-window visits.

The news is a step in the right direction. But the public—and facilities—have a long way to go.

Marjorie Moore, executive director of Voyce, a local organization that advocates for residents at assisted living facilities, noted that not all facilities will get to reopen immediately.

“We have a feeling that facilities will have to open and close over time. Especially those that are here in St. Louis County. We have 79 facilities that have COVID diagnoses. And right now, that’s about 60 percent of them,” she said.

She said the easing of restrictions is promising, however. It is a good goal for all parties to exercise patience and caution.

“Our main message to families is to be incredibly careful, if you do go, to your facility. If you’re scheduled to see your mom or your grandmother, of your father, whoever, and you’re not feeling well, that day – do not go. Make sure that you’re keeping their health at the highest regard,” she said.