New rules covering visitation to nursing homes take effect Friday.
For counties with COVID-19 positivity rates below 5 percent on a 7-day rolling average, the state prefers but will not mandate testing of visits, and rapid tests can be used. Visitors may provide proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination no less than 14 days from the date of the visit and no more than 90 days prior to the visit.
For counties with COVID-19 positivity rates between 5-10 percent on a 7-day rolling average, visitor testing is required and visitors must either have had a negative COVID-19 test, within 72 hours or facilities can use rapid tests to meet the requirement.
Visitation will not be permitted if the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is greater than 10 percent.
Based on the needs of residents and a facility’s structure, visitation can be conducted in resident rooms, dedicated visitation spaces and outdoors. The number of visitors to the nursing home must not exceed 20 percent of the resident census at any time and the number of visitors and time allocated to visitation should be considerate of this capacity limitation. Department of Health rules
Meanwhile, a former secretary to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo argued Thursday in support of the March 25, 2020 order that barred nursing homes from refusing admission or readmission of people who had COVID-19. Unlike many other states, New York initially attributed the deaths of nursing home patients to the places they died, usually hospitals. That has led some patients’ families and members of the state legislature to accuse the governor of covering up total nursing home deaths and to demands for an investigation of his administration.
Steven Cohen said, “To begin, last year, when it became clear that New York was in the midst of a crisis, DoH issued an advisory addressing nursing homes (the “March 25 advisory”) and the circumstances in which patients were to be admitted or readmitted into nursing homes. That advisory, and what followed its issuance, has been much discussed. What has been lost in the discussion is that the March 25 advisory followed federal CDC guidance. Indeed, the CDC guidance on which the March 25 advisory is based is still in place. It has not been rescinded or superseded. Throughout last year, and into the Biden Administration, the CDC has not changed the guidance. At a minimum, this suggests the CDC continues to support this guidance and believe that it was — and still is — appropriate. Given CDC’s position, it follows that the March 25 advisory was also appropriate.
“A similar view has been expressed by DoH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Dr. Zucker is a nationally credentialed health care professional. He has previously stated that the March 25 advisory was based on public health concerns. He also explained that in spring 2020, hospitals in New York were on the verge of being overwhelmed. There was a need for hospitals to have patients, who were no longer infectious and not in need of hospitalization, to be released from hospital care. With respect to patients who were returning, or being admitted to, nursing homes, the March 25 advisory did not operate in isolation from other laws and obligations. While nursing homes would not be permitted to deny admittance based solely on a diagnosis of COVID, nursing homes were to accept patients ONLY IF they had the proper precautions in place to provide appropriate care.
“Just last week, Dr. Zucker reiterated that even with the advantage of hindsight, he would make the same decision again. Numerous health and hospital officials support this position. This is the very same view expressed by the leaders of five major New York hospital systems: New York-Presbyterian, Mount Sinai Health System, Northwell Health, NYU Langone Health and Montefiore. With the passage of time, it is important to remember the very real concerns of March and April 2020: If the hospitals became overwhelmed — which was a real possibility given the projections — tens of thousands more would have died.”
The Associated Press reported Feb.11 that more than 9,000 patients with the virus were sent to nursing homes.