Long awaited: New York simplifies visiting rules in care facilities local news

ALBANIA – Visitors can now return to New York care homes and gather care facilities, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, and on Thursday announced amended policies that removed the requirement that a facility be free of new COVID-19 infections for two weeks, to resume the visit.

The state health department on Thursday released updated guidelines on resuming visits to New York’s 613 nursing homes and adult care facilities for all residents, with limited exceptions for unvaccinated residents, visits to areas with high COVID-19 positivity and lower vaccination rates, residents with a confirmed Coronavirus infection or those in quarantine.

All facilities must adhere to state-mandated infection control methods, including social distancing, wearing masks, and using personal protective equipment.

“From the very beginning, we have used science and data to strike the right balance between protecting our most vulnerable populations in nursing homes and the importance of safe contact with their loved ones,” Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. “We now have three effective vaccines that will significantly reduce COVID cases in long-term care, and a robust personal testing system to limit the spread of community upon entering a facility. Now is an appropriate time to take the next step and safely reconnect this community with their families. “

Indoor visits are limited to facilities in counties when the COVID-19 positivity rate exceeds 10% and less than 70% of the facility’s residents are fully vaccinated against the disease.

Visitors may be subjected to screening or temperature tests prior to entering a facility. Visitors who do not adhere to mandatory COVID infection prevention protocols will not be allowed to visit or will be asked to leave the protocol, as per the Ministry of Health’s latest visiting rules.

Compassionate and end-of-life care visits were and are always allowed.

Thursday’s update aligns New York community agency guidelines with the latest guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the fourth change in state regarding nursing home attendance in the past year.

The new visiting guidelines were issued to mark the one-year anniversary of the Department of Health’s controversial memo dated March 25, 2020 that allowed COVID-positive residents to return to their nursing homes or gather facilities to recover. Activists and officials have argued since late last spring over conflicting data and reports that the directive has resulted in a large number of the more than 15,000 deaths in the state’s nursing home.

Cuomo’s office released the updated guidelines late Thursday afternoon after families, activists and lawmakers held rallies and memorials nationwide throughout the day to commemorate the anniversary and honor the lives lost.

The state suspended the first visit to nursing homes and nursing homes on March 12, 2020, at the start of the first COVID-19 outbreak last spring. New York City and the state became the global epicenter of the virus as the pandemic began.

The state expanded the visit because New York’s coronavirus positivity rate has successively decreased and vaccination rates have continued to rise since January.

The state’s COVID-19 infection rate peaked at 7.94% on January 4, following the expected spike after Thanksgiving and the associated Christmas season that lasted through New Years Day. The state’s positivity rate dropped to 3.01% Thursday, down an 80% decrease over the past 12 weeks.

“We understand the emotional toll this community took as it was separated from loved ones in a particularly challenging year,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner for the Department of Health. “We are confident that these facilities can continue to employ rigorous infection control methods that enable a safe visit that they have missed very much.”

According to the state’s online COVID vaccine tracker at covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov, approximately 77% of nursing home and adult care residents had received the coronavirus vaccine by Friday.

At least 70% of the population must be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity against a disease.

To date, more than 8.2 million doses have been administered in the state, which equates to about 27.5% of New Yorkers who receive at least one dose of vaccine. This emerges from a statement by the governor.

The state has not set a COVID infection threshold to reduce the number of visits or reinstate a ban on visitors to community facilities, health ministry officials said Thursday.

Department representatives referred questions to Zucker’s testimony.

On September 15, the health department began allowing people who had a negative coronavirus test within the past seven days to visit nursing homes that had been COVID-free for at least 14 days. The department provided free rapid tests to visitors to facilities that had not been re-infected for two weeks.

The health department strongly recommended that all facilities offer testing to visitors as COVID-19 continues to be present in all communities, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Visiting guidelines were updated a third time on Feb.23 to remove the negative test requirement if a nursing home has not had a new viral infection for two weeks if the county where the facility is located had a positivity rate of 5% or less.

Later that winter, visits to community facilities in the state’s 62 counties with infection rates below 5% were encouraged, health department officials said Thursday.

Nursing home staff have been hired to test negative for the virus twice a week since May 10.

1199SEIU nursing home workers were due to lay 150 carnations Thursday afternoon to represent the 15,000 residents’ lives lost to COVID. In addition to Albany, Harlem, Hicksville and Peekskill, monuments were planned for many areas in the hinterland.

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