ALBANY, N.Y. — Families have been waiting months to see their loved ones in person since the coronavirus pandemic started back in March.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that hospitals can resume patient visits immediately at their discretion. The hospitals and visitors will have abide by state guidelines, including wearing PPE.
Group home visits can resume Friday, also at their discretion. Those homes, however, must notify the state of its intentions first.
Here in Western New York, Aspire is going to welcome families to see their loved ones starting Friday with new safety protocols so everyone can stay healthy. Aspire helps people with developmental disabilities through its day hab and community living group homes in Western New York.
Aspire will be following all CDC and Department of Health regulations.
"Maintain social distancing, wear a mask, temperatures will probably be checked," said Renee Filip, president and CEO of Aspire. "We're going to probably try to do most of the visitations outside, because it's just a safer option to be. But we're going to we're going to be trying to make it feel as comfortable and as familial as possible. But that's really kind of the protocol. I hate to say the new normal because it's a little overused, but I think that's the biggest differences is that they're going to see that, you know, the mask needs to be followed, possible temperature checks, you know, being very vigilant on that, and that's not going to end because our individuals are our primary concern and they're like family to us as well."
Filip also says none of the people Aspire supports have tested positive for COVID-19.
Cuomo says nursing homes are not included in this latest action, saying the reward is not worth the risk. The governor said these facilities are still considered high risk and when the health department feels it safe to do so, visits to those facilities will resume as well. Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker added the state is considering a pilot visitation program similar to the one put in place for hospitals last month, but provided no additional details.
Martin Powers' son lives in a group home. His wife lives at a senior living facility. He hasn't been able to visit with either of them in-person since March.
"The problem we're having is that where somebody like my son is, is kind of doing okay, a little upset with the world and all, like I said," Powers said. "With my wife, the isolation is really degrading her health, mentally and physically. I mean, she's lost the ability to walk while she is been incarcerated, if you will."
Powers doesn't know when he will be able to visit his wife in-person again. But he will be able to visit his son starting this week.
"What the OPWDD is doing is allowing us to have this sit on the deck, and we'll do all the spatial or social distancing, and we'll do the masks and all that," Powers said.
Powers, like many Western New Yorkers with loved ones living away from home, is frustrated about the lack of information about visits to nursing homes. He even moved into a place right next to where his wife lives so he could visit her in-person every day.
"This is not just somebody at a nursing home. This is the girl I took to my senior class prom in high school, and she's been by my side ever since," Powers said. "This is a woman who was Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Clarence. This is a woman who was Chairman of the Planning Board in Clarence for many years. And I'm losing her inch by inch. Inch by inch. But the current state policy is making me lose her by two inches at a time, just speeding up the process."
2 On Your Side checked in with Catholic Health, ECMC, and Kaleida on Tuesday. No one was available for interviews before we finished this story, but ECMC released the following statement:
“Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced patient visitation can resume at the discretion of hospitals. The Governor also said that the resumption of patient visitation must follow state guidelines, which we expect to receive soon from the Department of Health. With these guidelines, ECMC will release updated patient visitation information tomorrow morning.”
Catholic Health, and Kaleida told us they're working on getting more information about upcoming hospital visits.
Roswell took part in a two-week pilot program allowing visitors last month.
Tuesday, the OPWDD gave us an updated statement regarding visitation in group homes:
“As Governor Cuomo announced during his daily press briefing today, group homes may begin visitation as early as Friday. OPWDD will be issuing guidance later this week that service providers and visitors must follow which will require symptom and temperature checks and face masks, as well as other safety precautions.”