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Nursing home visitation bill is called a Catch-22 by staff

Ann Pautler (from left) and her father Albert Pautler visit their mother and wife, Marilyn Pautler, at the Elderwood at Lancaster nursing home in August.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to allow two or more designated family members to visit their loved ones in nursing home facilities.

The bill aligns with the  New York State Department of Health’s March 25 guidelines which allows visitation at all times for all residents once COVID-19 safety protocols are followed. 

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Harry Bronson, said the bill will lift the limits on visitation indefinitely.

“If we're unfortunate to have to go through another pandemic, this bill will be in place for the future, so that those families and future families will not have to go through isolation all over again,” said Bronson.

However, some nursing home employees, like Christopher Brown, are calling the visitation law a Catch-22. Brown is a traveling nurse manager and he’s witnessed the effects COVID-19 had on patients and their families. He said the emergence of different strains still makes transmission a real issue.

“You want these people to be able to spend time with their loved ones and their family, but then again, the threat of COVID is still real,” said Brown.

In response to Brown’s concern, Bronson said the activities of nursing home staff outside of work can also pose a health threat to residents, so family members shouldn’t be singled out.

“What is the health or medical difference on whether we let staff in, or we let a family member in? That's the premise here,” said Bronson.

The bill goes into effect immediately, but some details will shift within the next 45 days as the State Health Department updates their regulations.