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Alaska’s assisted-living Pioneer Homes closed to visitors

The Pioneer Home in Sitka, Jan 10, 2020. (Anne Raup / ADN)

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Alaska suspended all visitations to the state’s six Pioneer Homes starting Tuesday evening in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision, announced in a letter from Heidi Hamilton, the direct care supervisor at Alaska Pioneer Homes, comes after an announcement Friday that limited visitation at the state-run assisted-living facilities to one visitor per resident per day, along with increased health screening for visitors.

“The risk to the residents’ health is just too great to not take all possible precautions,” Hamilton said in the letter.

The end of visitation begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, including for family members. Hamilton encouraged contacting individuals within the facilities through alternative means.

“Each home has different capabilities regarding internet services, iPad availability, and Skype/FaceTime abilities. Please reach out to the homes to set up a plan that will work for you,” Hamilton said.

There are Pioneer Homes in Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Palmer.

Residents of Pioneer Homes will still be allowed to leave as they please, according to the letter, though Hamilton noted that the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults limit close contact with others and to avoid crowds.”

Upon returning to the facilities, residents will go through a health screening, Hamilton said.

The closure is set to continue indefinitely, according to the letter.

Also on Friday, the state’s Department of Health and Social Services announced that statewide, it is suspending “all long-term services and supports that occur in congregate settings, including senior centers, adult day services and any site-based day habilitation or supported employment activities where individuals gather together.”

The department announced that it is working with the federal government to determine whether services can be provided in homes.

“The state recognizes the importance of these settings and the services they provide, but is seeking to prevent harm to those we serve through the promotion of social distancing,” the announcement said.

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