ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Nursing homes were technically able to welcome visitors back beginning Friday, but many local ones aren’t eligible to open their doors until next week. A spokesperson from the New York State Department of Health said there are 610 nursing homes in the stat and 194 are currently eligible for visitors. There’s guidance they must follow to be eligible.
First, nursing homes must be COVID-free for 14 days before bringing back visitors. This isn’t anything new, but some family members of nursing home residents said this rule is continues to be a huge barrier to visiting again.
Tammy O’Brien’s father is in a nursing home and she hasn’t seen him in-person since the beginning of the pandemic. She may get to see him next Thursday, March 4 if the facility remains COVID-free until then.
“I’m looking forward to being able to be there with my dad again but as long as this 14-day period is there it’s not gonna happen,” O’Brien said. “It’s not a guarantee, somebody could come down with it and then you’re out of luck again.”
Once a facility is COVID-free for 14 days, visitation rules depend on the county’s overall positivity rate. If a county has a positivity rate of 5% or lower, testing isn’t required but encouraged. With 5-10% positivity, testing is required within 72 hours of visiting, and with 10% or higher, visitation isn’t allowed.
The NYSDOH said it will pay for testing. No more than 20% of residents can have visitors at the same time.
Hurlbut Care Communities said it will begin scheduled in-person visits at all its facilities beginning Monday, March 1. Visits will be limited to 45 minutes and on-site rapid testing will be available. They also said this in a statement to News 8:
“As we navigate this new phase of visitation, we ask for your continued patience and understanding. There are many factors that we must take into consideration in order to comply with the guidance outlined by the NYSDOH. We will continue taking all precautions including wearing personal protective equipment and using enhanced cleaning techniques. The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff has been, and will remain, our top priority throughout this guided visitation process.”
Kim Brown’s mother is in a nursing home and has declined severely during the pandemic. Brown wasn’t able to visit her for nine months and only can now because she’s on hospice. She said the governor needs to re-think this new guidance and actually make change.
All he did, the only thing that’s gonna be different is that facilities are supposed to have the rapid tests for us,” Brown said. “This entire situation is disappointing to the max. You can’t play with people like this, you’re playing with people’s lives here.”
Brown also said she’s confused as to why nursing homes need to be COVID-free for 14 days, but the quarantine guidance for positive cover patients is now 10 days.
News 8 asked NYSDOH this question, a spokesperson said this in a statement:
“While we understand the anguish this virus has caused nursing home residents and their families, by adhering to the new DOH visitation guidance nursing homes are taking the proper steps to protect the lives of nursing home residents. Due to continued community spread, keeping this virus out of congregate settings remains our top priority, and asymptomatic spread remains a concern in all corners of the state. That is why nursing homes must be COVID free for 14 days to be visitation eligible, which is in line with CDC/CMS guidance that has been in place since September. As we move forward, science and safety will continue to guide our decisions on visitations and we’ll continue to closely watch the data while also acknowledging that this pandemic is not over and people are still at risk.”