(WXXI News & AP) Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced that the state will allow people to visit residents in nursing homes in accordance with federal guidelines.
The New York State Department of Health recommends that visitors take a rapid test before entering a facility; the state will provide rapid tests to nursing homes at no cost.
Cuomo says that guidance on visitations will be available on Monday.
During a news conference Friday, Cuomo also supplied additional guidance on four COVID-19 mass vaccination sites that open up on March 3. One of them is in the parking lot of the former Kodak Hawkeye facility at St. Paul St. and Ave. E.
Cuomo says those four sites will initially be limited to residents of ZIP codes that have low vaccination rates.
Scheduling for those sites opens up on Wednesday at 8 a.m. and will be open for one week only.
4 additional mass vaxx sites in partnership w/ @FEMA will open Wednesday 3/3. Scheduling begins 8am on 2/24:
These sites will be limited initially to residents of ZIP codes w/ low vaccination rates.#VaccinateNY pic.twitter.com/Wmr66IHIw1
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) February 19, 2021
Cuomo and his health commissioner offered a full-throated defense Friday of their March decision to require nursing homes to accept patients recovering from COVID-19, saying it was the best option at the time to help free up desperately needed beds at the state's hospitals.
"We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again,'' said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
The Democratic governor has been increasingly under fire in recent weeks over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes last spring.
After months of dismissing criticism as baseless political theater, Cuomo said Friday he felt he needed to address it more forcefully because "lies" about his handling of the pandemic were angering people whose loved ones had died.
"I'm not going to make that mistake again," he said. "If you're lying to the people of the state of New York, I'm going to call it out. If you are lying in a report, I'm going to call it out. If you're lying in a newspaper because you have your own partisan agenda, I'm going to call it out."
The state now acknowledges that at least 15,000 long-term care residents died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had publicized as of late January that didn't include residents who died after being transferred to hospitals.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.