For the first time in four months, families will be allowed to visit their loved ones inside senior care homes, as Minnesota health authorities cautiously lift lockdown restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus among vulnerable older adults. The Minnesota Department of Health is recommending that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities allow certain family members and outside caregivers inside these facilities to help monitor residents’ care and alleviate the harmful effects of prolonged isolation and loneliness. These “essential caregivers” will be designated by the facilities and will be allowed to make scheduled visits lasting up to three hours a day, or until caregiving tasks are completed, under new guidelines issued Friday. The announcement marks the most significant step so far toward the reopening of Minnesota’s 1,700 senior care communities, which have come to resemble locked fortresses since the pandemic began. With virtually all visitors barred from nursing homes since mid-March, senior home residents have endured months of wrenching isolation in their rooms.