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Nursing home visitation depends on facilities remaining COVID-19 free for 2 weeks

2 On Your Side reached out to the State Health Department to find out how many nursing homes have been COVID-19 free for a two week period.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Visitors will be allowed to see loved ones in nursing homes starting Friday, but there are guidelines. It's recommended that visitors get tested, but it all depends on the positivity rate of the county.

The New York State Health Commissioner reminded everyone that visitation will be restricted if there is a COVID-19 case within 14 days. This is in accordance with federal guidance.

2 On Your Side reached out to the State Health Department to find out how many nursing homes have been COVID-19 free for a two week period. A spokesperson for the department said out of 613 nursing homes across the state, 188 have been COVID free over a two week period. 

The spokesperson also said 18 nursing homes in Western New York are eligible for visitation.

The state also tracks vaccinations of residents and workers in skilled nursing facilities.

As of Monday, February 22, 75 percent of nursing home residents have been vaccinated. Only 54 percent of workers received the vaccination.

2 On Your Side reached out to the union representing local nursing homes. 

Todd Hobler, 1199SEIU vice-president for WNY Nursing Homes issued this statement: 

“Healthcare workers have the same concerns surrounding the risk of potential side effects, apprehension about the speed at which this vaccine was developed, and our nation’s history of medical discrimination and racism as members of the general public do. Our union believes that the development and trials have been thorough to date, and that information on the vaccine’s efficacy has been clear and forthcoming. We strongly encourage our members to get the vaccine as we believe it is a vital tool to help us protect our families, our residents and patients and move forward from COVID-19. We are working hard to provide education and resources to keep our membership informed and answer questions as they arise."

Mark Blue chairs the state vaccination health equity task force and is a believer in the vaccine. He says many workers live in zip codes where vaccination numbers are low. 

"We do know that the population of workers are from communities that exist in 14211, 14215, 14208, 14212, 14214 all zip codes of Buffalo, even suburban communities," Blue said." If they are aware of it, if they are vaccinated then that will curb a lot of what's happening in nursing homes."

He thinks word of mouth will help those who are hesitant to get the shot.

"If people are vaccinated, those who are working in there, then the likely probability of those patients and residents in those nursing homes won't have it (COVID-19)."

This is the number for the COVID vaccine hotline in New York State: 833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).