New York Lowers Coronavirus Threshold For Nursing Home Visits

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FILE - In this June 15, 2020, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo removes a mask as he holds a news conference in Tarrytown, N.Y. New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, already among the highest in the nation, could actually be a significant undercount. Unlike every other state with major outbreaks, New York only counts residents who died on nursing home property and not those who died in hospitals. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

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New York will begin allowing visitors to see loved ones at nursing homes that have been coronavirus-free for 14 days, up from 28 days under previous rules, the health commissioner said Tuesday.

The policy goes into effect Thursday, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said. State health officials will monitor to ensure more visits don’t increase COVID-19 cases, he 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,” Zucker said.

The state halted most visits at care homes March 13, though visits that were medically necessary or for end-of life services were allowed.

In July, the state began to allow restricted visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities without a COVID-19 case among residents or staffers for 28 days.

Visitors must present a verified negative test result within the previous seven days, and facility staffers must refuse anyone who fails to do so. Staffers must also turn away people who show symptoms or don’t pass screening questions.

Visits will be limited to outdoor areas with weather permitting, though visits of no more than 10 people in an inside well-ventilated space can be allowed on a case-by-case basis. Visits will be prohibited in resident rooms or care areas, in most cases.

Nearly 6,500 residents have died or likely died of COVID-19 at nursing homes as of Sunday, according to state data. The data also includes at least 177 deaths among residents at adult care homes.

(AP)