Opinion: Welcome news for Ga.’s seniors, loved ones

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S OPINION

Georgia’s seniors have paid a heavy price during this pandemic, given their heftier risk for infection, serious illness – or death – that can come with infirmities of advanced age.

A highly visible sign of this has been the lockdown of senior care facilities. The COVID-19 deaths of more than 2,000 Georgians so far in senior homes shows the danger of a virus that’s proved proficient at spreading rapidly in such places.

Barring visitors as part of infection control procedures was prudent but also traumatic for those who found themselves suddenly separated from physical contact with loved ones.

This week brought some encouraging news as state officials announced new guidance toward resuming limited visitation at senior care operations. Late Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp detailed new procedures by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The measures offer long-awaited encouragement to those who have agonized over not being able to visit residents of senior homes – not to mention seniors themselves who have missed the human interactions we all once took for granted.

The procedures unveiled Tuesday seem to balance the desire for in-person visits with the significant risks still posed by the coronavirus. The state’s new policies provide recommendations tailored to conditions that have proved nothing if not dynamic.

The DPH’s new plan accounts for levels of infection in facilities and in the surrounding county. Access to facilities can be eased or restricted based on that information, which seems prudent in the wake of an epidemic that’s killed more than 6,000 Georgians so far.

We’ve been critical of Gov. Kemp’s desire to quickly reopen Georgia. But the latest plans seem to offer a reasonable and prudent balance between public safety and the very-human desire to reconnect.

Another human factor that will likely come into play is an understandable urge, if not rush, by many to quickly push for in-person visits.

That desire must be tempered against the public health realities of a still-dangerous pandemic and the related need for operators to digest the new orders before reopening their doors, even slightly.

“Our members are right now all working to comb thru orders and develop policies,” said Ginny Helms, president of LeadingAge Georgia, which represents nonprofit care facilities.

Needed patience will pay off.

And will be worth it as Georgians may soon once again be able to visit some loved ones in a safe and socially distanced manner.