MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health has announced “cautious steps” being made in further loosening some long-term care (LTC) restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will allow for controlled visits from family and friends at low-risk LTC facilities later this month.

On Monday, MDH released new visitation guidance that identifies two levels of visitation and activities for LTC facilities based on risk. Essentially, long-term care facilities will either be deemed Level 1 or Level 2, with Level 1 being the most restrictive.

MORE: Long-term Care Visitation and Activities Recommendations Summary (MDH)

LTC facilities must be Level 1 if there has been a COVID-19 exposure in the past 28 days. Only essential caregivers will be allowed to visit, but outdoor visitation and window visits are still allowed.

Level 2 will allow for controlled visits from family and friends, and trips outside the facility. Guests are asked to schedule the visit with the LTC facility.

“The visitor may take the resident outside for a walk, or during their time of visitation, but must maintain 6 feet of social distance after transporting the resident outside. Pushing a wheelchair is an acceptable activity while wearing proper mask or face covering,” MDH said.

According to MDH, several other risk factors, besides exposure, will be considered in assessing higher levels of visitation and activities. These include level of cases in the community, facility size and the extent that staff is working at other LTC facilities. Appropriate testing and a written testing plan will also be required.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm says this is another step in balancing safety concerns with the well-being of the residents.

“We will be dealing with COVID-19 for a long time, and it is important to find a way to allow residents to interact with their loved ones safely,” Malcolm said. “Residents have been isolated for months, and that presents significant risks for their emotional and social well-being. This guidance helps facilities keep their COVID-19 guard up while taking cautious steps toward ensuring residents have more social connections and interaction.”

Level 2 visitors will need to schedule their visit, should expect to be screened and will need to wear a mask or other face covering at all times.

Level 2 facilities will need to immediately switch to Level 1 if a COVID-19 case is identified.

The guidance will take effect on Aug. 29.

Click here for more on the new guidance.