Dr. Macie Smith is the winner of the latest Golden Pen for her Aug. 4 letter urging nursing homes to allow visitors with stricter COVID-19 precautions, something state health officials agreed to by early September.
Since all nursing home visits were halted in March, Dr. Smith, a Columbia-area gerontologist, said she had seen the effects on senior citizens “from increased depression to early stage dementia” and urged a “semblance of balance.”
Dr. Smith argued that staffers, who often interact with a number of people and sometimes work in more than one care facility, present a risk of spreading COVID-19, but asked why nursing homes couldn’t “put in place precautions for one immediate family member like those in place for the staff?”
“Is it possible to set a schedule for who can visit a senior, have family members complete a symptoms questionnaire, have their temperature checked, require them to wear a mask, sanitize their hands and social distance?” she wrote. “I certainly think this warrants a closer look because depression kills, too.”
Indeed, on Sept. 1, the state health department announced it would start allowing South Carolina’s roughly 190 nursing homes to allow visitors under strict guidelines, including that all visits must be held outside. And unless visitors can present proof of a recent negative test for the virus, visits are limited to 15 minutes.
The Golden Pen is awarded monthly.
Winners also are invited to an annual luncheon with the newspaper’s editorial staff.