ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Health announced Friday that residents in nursing homes can once again have visitors.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities closed their doors to visitors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facilities will be allowed to resume visitation so long as they have been without COVID-19 for at least 28 days.
Residents will only be allowed two visitors at a time. Visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face masks, and socially distance during their visit.
At least one of the two visitors must be 18 or older.
“With the knowledge we now have about how COVID-19 came into nursing homes – mainly through asymptomatic staff and visitors through no fault of their own – it is critical that as we resume visitations to these facilities we do it in a smart and cautious way to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in each facility, and make adjustments based on the facts and data moving forward. I know how painful it has been for residents of these facilities to endure such a long period of time without seeing family and loved ones, and my hope is that this adjustment to the visitation policy will provide some comfort to everyone.”
Only 10 percent of the residents can be allowed visitors at any time in order to maintain proper social distancing.
Nursing homes that will be allowing visitors are required to send a visitation plan to the NYSDOH and affirm they are following guidelines.
According the NYSOH, nursing homes in Phase 3 regions may resume limited visitation and activities beginning July 15th and only if they meet the state's conditions.
A spokesperson with the NYSDOH told 2 On Your Side there are approximately 150 nursing homes in New York State that would currently qualify, but this is a fluid and constantly evolving situation.
Health officials also announced on-site visitation for the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman program can resume beginning July 15.
Ombudsman staff must use PPE during their visit and must be screened as if they were a staff person of the nursing home. They will also have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL), a statewide association representing over 450 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, issued a statement saying in part, “We applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker for opening up nursing homes to visitation throughout New York.
"It has been since early March of this year that our residents have been unable to receive visitors in person as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our residents have become skilled at using various digital communication platforms to connect with their loved ones, digital interaction doesn’t compare to the joy of in-person interaction."