VA nursing homes to stop visitations, new admissions amid coronavirus, except in special cases

Amid the threat of coronavirus, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would stop visitations and new admissions at its 134 nursing homes to protect two of its most susceptible patient populations: nursing home residents and spinal-cord injury patients.

“While the COVID-19 risk to average Americans remains low, these commonsense measures will help protect some of our most vulnerable patients,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement. “VA will make every effort to minimize the impact of these policies on veterans while putting patient safety first.”

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The only exceptions are special cases such as when veterans are in their last stages of life in hospice.

The nursing homes are home to more than 41,000 veterans across the country.

The virus has infected more than 700 people in the U.S. and killed at least 27, with one state after another recording its first infections in quick succession. New Jersey reported its first coronavirus death Tuesday. Worldwide, nearly 120,000 have been infected and over 4,200 have died.

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For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover in a matter of weeks, as has happened with three-quarters of those infected in mainland China.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.