New York Lowers Coronavirus Threshold For Nursing Home Visits

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

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.

Also announced Tuesday, coronavirus rates in New York State remain low, but the state has broken its streak of 38 days below a positive test rate of 1%. Monday’s rate was 1.04%.

At the same time, other states have gotten their rates down after big spikes this summer. That means some can come off New York’s travel advisory list. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio were removed. Puerto Rico was added back on.

That leaves 28 states on the list, including Texas and Florida. People who have traveled to any of those states, including New Yorkers, have to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival to New York.

NCPR’s David Sommerstein contributed to this story.