ST. PAUL -- LeadingAge Minnesota and Care Providers of Minnesota on Thursday, March 12, advised nursing homes and assisted living providers throughout Minnesota to take action immediately to restrict visitor access to only essential visits because of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Minnesota and nationwide.

The recommendations are based on guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a release.

All visitors -- including family members, contractors, and volunteers -- are being asked to temporarily avoid visiting nursing homes and assisted living settings except for essential circumstances. For those limiting their visits, providers will work to ensure that loved ones can communicate with residents by using video chat, calling, texting, or checking in on social media, the release said.

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Providers should also provide families with regular updates on the status of their operations.

"We know that family members and friends want to be with their loved ones, but the current COVID-19 outbreak requires us to make every reasonable effort to protect our residents and staff," said Patti Cullen, CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, in the release. "We hope that a more cautious approach will be effective and temporary."

Gayle Kvenvold, CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota, said that while information about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, is evolving, nursing homes are the greatest risk for the most serious infections. The virus is especially threatening to the elderly and those with underlying health complications. A Washington State nursing home was particularly hit hard, with more than 19 deaths at the facility as of Wednesday.

"We believe that aggressive steps focused on prevention are the best way of reducing the risk of the type of outbreak that occurred in Washington State," Kvenvold said in the release.

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