ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New visitation guidance is now in effect for nursing homes across New York State.
Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, nursing home visitors will now have to show proof of a negative COVID test before visiting, and wear a proper medical mask.
A cloth mask alone will no longer cut it if you’re going to visit a loved one in a nursing home. Instead you’ll have to wear what’s called a medical or surgical mask.
You’ve probably owned a box of these some point in your life; they’re the blue paper masks found in stores. Or, a mask of even higher protection, like N95 or KN95 is permitted as well.
For the testing requirements, the state is asking nursing homes to check if a visitor has a negative test at least one day prior to visiting for rapid tests, and at least two days prior for PCR.
According to Gov. Kathy Hochul, millions of tests have already been sent out to homes, statewide.
Marydel Wypych, chair for Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice, believes this is a smart move.
“It’s very important that visitors continue to get in to see residents, we don’t want to go back to the time when COVID was peaking, that people could not visit their loved ones,” she said.
Pat Muir is someone who visits her father in a local nursing home, multiple times a week. She says while the task may seem a daunting at first, she’s happy to do it if it means keeping everyone safe.
“We could be infected and not know it, we could be perfectly asymptomatic, we don’t want to carry it in there,” she said.
While tests should be handy in most homes by now, Governor Hochul is urging the public to consider testing on their own time. The reason, has to do with staffing shortages nursing homes are facing across the system. This is just one more task on their plate.
As a result, Wypych says some homes have even cut down on hours or days for visitation.
“So say they can only come until 5 o’clock, that’s not going to work for some families, they can’t get their until 5 because of work,” she said.
Muir says this is a prime example of why visitation is so important in these times. It’s more than a coffee chat. It’s assisting with basic needs; groceries, grooming and just enjoying quality time together.
“They lose so much without being able to have that interaction. That’s a big part of what gets lost when families can’t go in there,” said Muir.
There are a few exemptions to these regulations. EMS providers are exempt, and visitors will be exempt if a resident is nearing end-of-life.
A full statement from local nursing home Jewish Senior Life can be found here:
“In regards to the new NYS guidelines for visitation, Michael King, president and CEO says, “Jewish Senior Life supports any intervention that will identify a COVID infection prior to exposing any of our residents. Staffing the visitor testing area for this will definitely impact us. We have always provided surgical masks to our visitors and began offering testing on Monday for those that wanted to do it. We were fortunate to have ordered rapid tests ahead of the surge, so we will accept negative results from both rapid and PCR tests. We’re taking these measures to be proactive; and we’re also encouraging employees to get the booster before the mandate.”