The months since the start of the coronavirus in March may seem the longest to the residents of the nursing homes, according to DeAnn Ulmer, a Fullerton, North Dakota, resident who has lived at Ave Maria Village for the past three years.
"For me," she said, "it meant I didn't get to see my family for quite a long period of time. Things weren't open for us to have people come in."
For the early part of the pandemic, long-term residents weren't allowed visitors or to leave the facility except for medical appointments.
Ulmer said her only trip out of the Ave Maria facility was a brief hospitalization for pneumonia. Her visitors were limited to two people at a time, and everyone had to wear masks.
"We visited in a garage with them on a bench and me in a vehicle," she said.
Ulmer said it was preferable to having family come up to a window and then talking to them by cellphone which was the only type of visitation available at one point.
Tim Burchill, administrator of Ave Maria Village, said restrictions within Ave Maria Village have been reduced from levels in place initially after the start of the pandemic. Group activities are now allowed and meals are being served as a group in the dining room.
"No residents have tested positive," he said, referring to the mass testing of staff and residents that is conducted every two weeks. "If any tested positive, the rules would probably change."
Rock of Ages, a basic care facility in Jamestown, is still limiting visitation to meetings with family outdoors, said Jordan Shipley, administrator of the facility.
"We are hesitant to move into Phase 2 where visitors can come into the building," he said.
Shipley said Rock of Ages has had no positive tests for coronavirus in its staff or residents since the start of the pandemic.
"The state has been helpful in getting PPEs (personal protection equipment)," he said. "... we've had to shop around for disinfectants."
Eventide Jamestown did not return a call seeking comment on its family visit policy at its facility.
Burchill and Shipley said they are getting the supplies they need for patient and staff safety.
Personal protection equipment for staff is available but some supplies are increasing in price, Burchill said. Federal funding has helped offset any added costs the nursing homes have had to incur.
"So far, we can get everything we need," he said, "but we've been told that gloves will triple in price."
Burchill estimates Ave Maria Village uses about 2,000 pairs of gloves each day.
"We could use a lot more masks but we have found ways to use them efficiently," he said.
Each staff member is issued five masks a month he or she uses in a rotation. The masks not in use are stored in paper bags because the virus cannot survive for any length of time on the porous paper surface.
Ulmer said it is strange to see the staff wearing masks all the time.
"With the masks, it is hard to tell them apart," she said. "Lucky they have name tags."
Additional supplies and staff have added to the costs the nursing homes are incurring. Ave Maria has added a staff person to do health screenings of staff and visitors. An additional staff member has also been added to most shifts to help with patients.
"All the protective equipment and extra procedures slow people down," Burchill said.
Ulmer said the early days of the pandemic, when residents were required to stay isolated in their rooms, were the most difficult. Having a room with a nice view of an evergreen tree and a bird feeder helped her pass the time.
"I spent a lot of time watching TV too, it kept me sane," she said. "I don't know what the others did if they couldn't play bingo."