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NY to allow limited visitation at nursing homes

Jul 10, 2020

New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
Credit Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

New York state will now allow limited and regulated visitation at nursing homes that have been free of COVID-19 for at least 28 days, the state Department of Health said Friday.

Given that the state claimed earlier this week that visitors were partly responsible for previously spreading the virus at those facilities, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said they’re proceeding with caution.

“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,” Zucker said.

Nursing homes will be required to follow strict guidelines when allowing visitors:

  • Residents will be allowed two visitors at a time.
  • Visitors must wear face coverings and socially distance while in the facility.
  • Each visitor will be required to undergo a temperature check upon entry.
  • At least one of the two visitors must be an adult.
  • Only 10% of residents may have visitors at any given time.

Nursing homes will also be required to send plans for welcoming visitors to the health department, according to the agency.

Facilities will only be allowed to have visitors if there have been no new COVID-19 cases at the nursing home for at least 28 days. That standard was set by the federal government, not the state.

Zucker said the state may adjust the guidance around visitation at nursing homes if the data changes moving forward. Residents were previously only allowed to have visitors if they were presumed to be near death.

“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,” Zucker said.

The guidance comes after DOH released a report earlier this week concluding that nursing home staff and visitors initially brought the virus into those facilities, and that the state’s actions didn’t contribute to that spread.

Some had criticized the state for previously requiring nursing homes to accept patients from the hospital who were positive for COVID-19, so long as they could adequately care for them and keep them separated from others. That order was later modified.

The report from DOH was the result of an investigation ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo into what happened at nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. About a quarter of the state’s deaths have been linked to those facilities.

State lawmakers have said they may hold hearings on the state’s handling of nursing homes, but no dates have been set as of yet.