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DHS: 'We know that these restrictions are a hardship ... but they are essential to mitigate the spread of disease.'

FILE PHOTO - Maryville resident Jessie Sposito, right, 103, gets a close-up look at Napoleon the Alpaca as Suzanne Burns, Maryville volunteer coordinator, center, pets the animals nose.To protect some of the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, the Oregon Department of Human Services has issued new restrictions on nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult foster homes.

In a statement released Tuesday, March 17, DHS said it would limit all visitors ar residential group homes in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

No one except essential medical and emergency personnel will be allowed into the care facilities unless the visitors are there to see residents who are at the end of life.

The restrictions impact all nursing facilities, assisting living facilities, residential care facilities, adult foster homes, and group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"We know that these restrictions are a hardship for residents of care facilities as well as their families and friends, but they are essential to mitigate the spread of disease," said DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht. "We encourage facilities to use technology to help residents maintain connections with their families and loved ones."

More than 60 people in Oregon have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A large percentage of those cases are at the Oregon Veterans' Home in Lebanon, where nine residents and one staff member have tested positive.

According to OHA, the employee was sent home when symptoms appeared and has remained in isolation ever since.

Nationwide, 30 deaths believed to be caused by the coronavirus have been linked to a nursing facility in Kirkland.

The Oregon Health Authority also recommends that older adults and people with underlying conditions take steps to ensure their safety. They should minimize contact with people who may be ill, avoid community gatherings, and order prescriptions by mail — in addition to washing their hands frequently.

The restrictions went into effect immediately.

"To effectively stop the spread of this disease, we must take every action possible to slow the rates of infection, especially to individuals for whom COVID-19 is life-threatening," said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority.

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