State health officials allow limited nursing home visitation

Visits limited to two people per resident

Tom Puckett
July 10, 2020 - 2:39 pm
Nursing home visit/Getty Images

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Families with loved ones in nursing homes across New York state are welcoming some big news from Albany.  Nursing home visits have returned, with restrictions.

State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker today announced nursing homes and long term care facilities in New York will be allowed to resume limited visitations for facilities that have been without COVID-19 for at least 28 days, a threshold set by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Residents in these facilities will be allowed two visitors at a time, and the visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face coverings and socially distance during the visit. At least one of the two visitors must be at least 18 years of age or older. For each facility, only 10 percent of the residents can be allowed visitors at any time; for example, in a 100-bed facility no more than 10 residents can have visitors per day in order to maintain proper social distancing and ensure safe compliance. Nursing Homes accepting visitors will be required to send their visitation plan to NYSDOH.

“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 to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation in each facility, and make adjustments based on the facts and data moving forward. 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 also announced the resumption of on-site visitation for the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which provides additional support to residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, effective July 15, 2020. Ombudsman staff must utilize appropriate PPE for the duration of the visit, and must be screened as if they were a staff person of such nursing home, including having to present a verified negative test result to the nursing home within the past week.

Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL), a statewide association representing over 450 nursing homes and assisted living facilities issued the following statement in response to today’s Department of Health announcement allowing visitation in nursing homes.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker for opening up nursing homes to visitation throughout New York. It has been since early March of this year that our residents have been unable to receive visitors in person as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our residents have become skilled at using various digital communication platforms to connect with their loved ones, digital interaction doesn’t compare to the joy of in-person interaction. Nursing homes throughout New York have made incredible strides in eradicating COVID-19 from their facilities and today’s visitation policy recognizes the success of their enormous efforts in battling this virus. The policies announced today by the Department of Health are thoughtful and truly safeguard residents, staff and visitors while allowing in-person resident visitation. Among other things, the Department of Health guidelines require a nursing home be free of COVID-19 for 28 days; two visitors per resident may visit at one time, and visitors must have their temperature taken prior to entry and utilize a face mask and socially distance themselves while in the nursing home. Additionally, no more than 10 percent of the residents of a nursing home may receive visitors at any one time. As such, a nursing home must develop a facility specific visitation plan and provide it to the Department of Health."

 

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