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Families may be able to see their loved ones at long-term care facilities as soon as next week, according to a new plan from Gov. Jay Inslee.

In introducing the four-phase plan at a news conference Thursday, Inslee said he’s taking seriously the mental health concerns of residents in long-term care, who have been isolated since his order ending in-person visitations due to COVID-19 in March.

“The upshot of what we will announce today will mean more grandmothers visiting their grandchildren,” he said. “It will mean more fathers visiting their sons. It will mean more friends getting together.”

Starting next week, long-term residents will be able to meet outside with a maximum of two people per day at facilities. Restrictions will be further relaxed as they advance toward Phase 4.

These facilities will need to go 28 days without a positive COVID-19 case among residents or staff, and will have to have 14 days’ worth of personal protective equipment on hand to apply to advance to the next phase, he said.

They will need to have access to regular testing as well, Inslee said. Masking and social distancing will be required at all times.

Limited indoor visitation will return in Phase 2, according to the plan.

While the metrics in this plan are separate from the statewide Safe Start plan, they are related, he said. Long-term care facilities can’t advance in a phase past where their county is.

“(Counties with) higher disease transmission rates will keep a facility at an earlier phase, even if the other criteria are met,” Inslee said.

John Weismann, state secretary of health, said 894 COVID-19 deaths are connected to these facilities — about 56% of deaths statewide.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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