State loosens up on nursing home visitation guidelines, many restrictions still stand

COVID-19

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some more headway in returning to normal on nursing home visitations. State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced Tuesday nursing homes in New York will be able to resume limited visitations for facilities that have been COVID-free for 14 days. This is a revision to the previous policy from July, which required a 28-day wait.

This updated guidance allows visitations with restrictions in about 500 of the state’s 613 nursing homes. Dr. Zucker said Tuesday that he understands how trying it has been for New Yorkers to not see their loved ones during the pandemic. He went on to say his office will still, “monitor visitors to make sure this action does not lead to an increase in cases.”

Nate Sweeney, Vice President of Skilled Services at St. John’s, reminds everyone that these visitations are still only meant for outdoors and the restrictions from July are still in place, with some additions.

“These visits are still outside, they are still socially distant. Families just as you mentioned will have to produce a negative verified Covid test from the past seven days before their visit. And they’re going to have to wear PPE throughout the visit,” says Sweeney. 

Visitors under the age of 18 are prohibited, and only two visitors will be allowed per resident at a time.

Tammy O’Brien, whose father is in a care facility, says this is long overdue, and asks who is going to pay for all the weekly COVID-19 tests? She feels that will add up fast.

“Is my insurance company going to want to pay for me to have a weekly covid test to go see my family? I really don’t think so. So who is going to foot that bill?,” said Norsen. “If it’s me, I’m going to be sending it to New York State. I think by now we should be open. Wide open, especially with winter coming,” says O’Brien.

Rebecca Pontera with Rochester Presbyterian Home says while their facility is different from a nursing home, (they are actually Assisted Living and Memory Care), much of the state guidelines on visitations still apply to them. 

Pontera says, “This is indeed good news for elders, families and loved-ones.  It’s been an emotional roller coaster for so many over the past six months. People need to see their loved-ones and feel connected.  Most communities have worked hard to keep their elders and their loved-ones connected in many realms.  Virtual gatherings, telephone communications and written communications are great but people need human contact to sustain.  Surely, we’ve been trying to keep everyone ‘safe’ while balancing many variables of life and the uncertainties that COVID-19 has brought.  We truly understand the precautions that were implemented in an effort to protect a vulnerable and high risk population.  We also understand how awful this has felt for our Elders and loved-ones.”

The full updated guidance can be found here, and goes into effect Thursday, September 17.

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