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Nursing home visits still limited by COVID-19

Many 2 On Your Side viewers have questions about the rules in place at nursing homes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The pandemic is still putting limitations on visits at nursing homes, and many 2 On Your Side viewers have contacted us with questions about the rules. 

2 On Your Side got an email from a woman whose mom is in a nursing home. She didn't want to go on-camera, but told us, "We are still only allowed half-hour visits. With everything opening, and no mask required in most places, and the infection rate down, I see a drastic decline in my mom who is in one in Niagara County. Can you please help?"

2 On Your Side looked through the state's latest guidance online. Issued in March, it is eight pages long and spells out all of the rules for families visiting nursing homes during the pandemic. While it does say indoor visits should be allowed regardless of vaccination status, except for being limited in a few circumstances like if a resident has COVID-19, we couldn't find anything about time limits for visits. So, we went to the New York State Department of Health for answers.

A spokesperson told us, "To be clear: DOH's nursing home visitation guidance does not limit the length of time for nursing home visits."

The state guidance does say "nursing homes should consider scheduling visits for a specified length of time to help ensure all residents are able to receive visitors."

So, your nursing home administrator should be able to help you better understand the rules at your loved one's nursing home and why they're in place.

Deanna M. also emailed us with concerns about her 109-year-old mother, who is a COVID-19 survivor.

Deanna did not want to go on-camera, but shared this, "The public thinks that nursing home visitation is now fully open to families, however, that is not the case. I do not consider two 1/2 hour visits per week enough, but it is a start. Our loved ones need to see their families more than that."

Deanna told us that her mom is at Beechwood. In a letter posted online Friday, Beechwood's administrator said they're starting a second visit schedule to allow for outdoor in-person visits this week. After completing the health screening process, family members will be able to have "an extended outdoor visit (45 minutes in duration)" with their loved one.

That's in addition to the other types of visits already underway, so that will give Deanna and the other families more options. 

We wanted to find out what other places are doing, too. A spokesperson for Kaleida told 2 On Your Side that it has two Long Term Care facilities and they are following the NYS Department of Health guidelines.

NYSDOH full statement: 

“To be clear: DOH’s nursing home visitation guidance does not limit the length of time for nursing home visits. The guidance clearly states, “Facilities should allow indoor visitation at all times and for all residents -- regardless of vaccination status -- except for a few circumstances when visitation should be limited due to a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and compassionate care visits should be permitted at all times. As a result, all nursing homes statewide are currently eligible to reopen to visitors – while still protecting their residents from this deadly virus.”