The New York State Department of Health announced effective immediately they are significantly reducing restrictions when it comes to visiting loved ones in nursing homes. The rollout of vaccine and an 80% decrease in positive cases across that state since January played a huge role in the state making this decision.

New York State Director of Health Dr. Howard Zucker says,

We understand the emotional toll that this community has experienced by being separated from their loved ones during a particularly challenging year. We're confident that these facilities can continue strong infection control practices that will allow for the safe visitation they have dearly missed.

The latest guidelines, which are based on the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, permits visitation at all times for all residents. There are of course a few exceptions. Prior to yesterday's announcement a nursing home could allow visitation but only if the facility was COVID-19 free for 14 days (staff and residents). Now, the following procedures, or "best practices," have been put into place. Nursing home staff welcoming visitors must take the following steps to ensure the health and well being of those residents.

  • Everyone who enters a facility as a visitor must be screened with a temperature check, questions and observations and denial of admittance for anyone with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who has been exposed, regardless if visitor has been vaccinated.
  • Hands must be washed or sanitized. The state recommends the use of an alcohol based hand rub.
  • The use of face coverings and masks that cover both the nose AND mouth.
  • Six feet of social distance must be maintained.
  • Educational signage must be installed throughout the building making visitors aware of all the risks, signs and symptoms, prevention of COVID-19 and use of masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched areas is a must.
  • Appropriate PPE must be used at all times by all staff.
  • There should be separate areas of the nursing home dedicated to those who need COVID-19 care.
  • Testing requirements previously put in place must continue to be followed for staff and residents.

All of these policies are also in sync with the Centers for Disease Control policies and must be adhered to at all times, according to the Department of Health. While outdoor visits are always ideal, it is finally easier for you to see a loved one inside the residence they are living in.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says,

We now have three effective vaccines that are leading to significant decreases in long term care COVID cases and a robust staff testing system to limit community spread from entering a facility. Now is an appropriate time to take the next step and safely reconnect this community with their families.

When possible the New York State Department of Health is also strongly recommending nursing homes to test visitors as the virus is still prevalent and spreading, even if it's at a lower rate than earlier this year. This is definitely welcome news for those who may not have seen their loved ones since the beginning of the Pandemic. You can read the state's complete guidelines in detail by clicking here.

Here are some tips for self-care during the pandemic: