After months of protests staged by family members of the nursing staff in New York, the Cuomo administration is relaxing coronavirus restrictions at nursing homes to allow in-person visits from friends and family for the first time since the pandemic escalated in March.
Announced by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker late Tuesday, the new policy will resume limited visitation for facilities that have had no COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days — half the 28-day rule that has been in effect since early July. This decision comes just three days after relatives of nursing home residents held a rally outside the governor’s Manhattan office protesting the restrictive policy.
During the rally, nursing home advocates and family members said the 28-day infection-free policy was too restrictive and stringent, with only a small percentage of the 613 nursing homes meeting the criteria to allow visitors.
According to Zucker, the updated guidelines will now allow visitation in approximately 500 of the state’s 613 nursing homes. In his statement on Tuesday, Zucker said, “We understand how trying it has been for New Yorkers to not see their loved ones and the challenges they’ve had to endure during this unprecedented pandemic. The number of nursing homes that have taken the necessary steps to protect residents from the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 while working to reopen to outside visitors, shows that adhering to the DOH visitation guideline is the smart and cautious approach to allowing visitations. We continue to be guided by science and concern for residents’ welfare and will monitor nursing homes that host visitors, to make sure this action does not lead to an increase in cases.”
This being said, the administration has laid down a set of rules for visitors, in order to prevent any untoward transmission from happening. As part of these conditions, the number of visitors to each nursing home must not exceed 10 percent of the resident population at any time and only two visitors will be allowed per resident at a given time.
Visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face coverings, and observe social distancing during the visit. Children under the age of 18 are prohibited. Nursing Homes accepting visitors will be required to send their visitation plan to the health department and attest that they are following the rules.
Authorities have asked residents to exercise immense caution, now more than ever, as New York sees a steady decline in cases after being the epicenter of the virus for months. Since March, more than 6,600 deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities are linked to the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, heaving a sigh of relief, several citizens are glad they can see their loved ones again.