The embattled governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has finally lifted COVID-19 visitation restrictions at state nursing homes.
The restrictions had been in place since the start of the pandemic last year.
Persistently high rates of COVID-19 had left the majority of the state’s nursing homes off limits to visitors, despite relaxed guidance meant to help reopen them.
Until this week, under state and federal rules, they could admit visitors only if they had no new infections among either patients or staff for 14 days.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has relaxed restrictions on nursing homes and is allowing families to visit once again
That mark proved too hard for most to reach. A little more than half of the state’s 616 nursing homes were ineligible for indoor visits in mid-March, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare.
The figures were the highest percentage of any state.
New York has now updated its visitation rules in a way that will now allow visits to resume under certain conditions, even if a resident or staffer has recently tested positive.
The rules also permits visits at all times and for all residents.
Previously, visitors were only allowed if there were no COVID infections among patients or staff for the past 14 days
‘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,’ Cuomo said.
‘Now is an appropriate time to take the next step and safely reconnect this community with their families.’
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said, ‘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.’
Cuomo’s announcement came during a week in which grieving families held vigils and events to commemorate more than 15,000 residents who died in nursing homes and other senior care facilities from the coronavirus over the past year.
Cuomo’s announcement came during a week in which grieving families held vigils and events to commemorate more than 15,000 residents who died in nursing homes and other senior care facilities from the coronavirus over the past year
Haydee Pabey holds a picture of the deceased Elba Pabey as demonstrators gathered last Thursday for a rally decrying Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic
Cuomo has faces accusations that a March 2020 directive from his administration helped spread sickness and death among residents, something the state disputes.
More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was eventually scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks.
The directive barred nursing homes from refusing people just because they had COVID-19.
It was intended to free up space in hospitals swamped in the early days of the pandemic and came under criticism from advocates for nursing home residents and their relatives, who said it had the potential to spread the virus in a state that at the time already had the nation’s highest nursing home death toll.
In February, the Cuomo administration was forced to acknowledge it had been underreporting the overall number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents. Figures were revised upwards by almost another 6,500 deaths.
Demonstrators gather for a rally decrying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the previous years outbreak of COVID-19 on Thursday
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing of his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic noting that the number of positive cases has dropped by more than 80 percent since Mid-January after another post-holiday surge in COVID cases.
Nursing home advocates are pleased that the state is finally lifting the restrictions on visits by family members but questioned Cuomo’s motives.
‘I’m happy the governor is allowing visitations. But I do question the timing,’ said Vivian Zayas, co-founder of Voices For Seniors to Fox News.
‘There are the seniors who died because of the isolation. That number is enormous. Five or ten thousand people died because of loneliness. They gave up,’ Zayas said.
‘Cuomo puts out positive news to spin off negative news about his investigations. The change in policy is too little, too late.’
Susan Sineo stands beside a presentation depicting the number 15,000 to denote estimated nursing home deaths. Cuomo is facing a federal inquiry into the state’s reporting of COVID-19 among nursing home residents
Along with a number of state and federal investigations over nursing homes COVID policy, he is also facing claims of sexual harassment.
Another probe was launched this week over reports Cuomo used state staffers to improperly arrange coronavirus tests for his relatives and favored officials during the start of pandemic.
On that score, a Cuomo spokesman has denied wrongdoing but the early access to testing has not been disputed.
‘We’re surprised Cuomo is still in office,’ Zayas said. ‘Our resolve to see this through is still strong — of Cuomo being impeached or resigning. We want Cuomo held accountable at the federal level and the state level.’
Lindsey Boylan and other politicians hold a rally to impeach Cuomo in Washington Square Park last weekend