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Rapp plan should become law

Legislation proposed by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, to allow families to designate essential caregivers who can visit loved ones in congregate care facilities should become law.

There was sentiment by some Democrats in the state Capitol who felt the issue had been resolved simply by the Centers for Disease Control and state Health Department saying visitations in nursing homes and other facilities can resume.

They are wrong.

While this pandemic is, hopefully, winding down, it’s entirely possible we may find ourselves in this situation again. If that happens, one of the mistakes that should not be repeated is keeping senior citizens separated from all of their loved ones. Rapp’s legislation is careful to spell out that essential caregivers have to abide by safety guidelines set by the facility and the state and gives facilities the ability to lock out visitors in extreme cases. It’s a better system than the endless watiing for visits families endured over the past year.

We don’t agree with everything in Rapp’s bill, however. An amended version of the bill allows essential caregivers to be kept out of nursing homes or other facilities if a facility’s staff is locked in. We agree with the logic that, if caregivers can’t be allowed in because of the risk to residents, that workers should be kept in the facilities to keep residents safe. But logic alone, as any Star Trek fan can attest, does not always make the best policy. This is one of those times.

It is entirely possible that such a clause may make it harder for nursing homes to fill open positions, especially during a health emergency like COVID-19. It also is unfair to workers and their families. The amendment should be removed from the bill before the Senate passes Rapp’s legislation — and Gov. Tom Wolf certainly shouldn’t sign a piece of legislation that could result in workers being locked in facilities.

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