COVID visitation restrictions lifted at NY nursing homes

Families with a loved one at a nursing home are celebrating a policy change in New York. The Department of Health has lifted all visitation restrictions.

The announcement came late Tuesday, and is in line with the federal guidelines for visitation that came out last Friday.

Now all residents can have visitors in long-term care facilities at any time.

The policy is in place regardless of any COVID-19 cases that may come up in a nursing home. The new rules also allow visitors, even if those visitors are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Family members that have lobbied for these changes are excited to reunite with vulnerable family members.

For the 175 residents at Daughters of Sarah in Albany, it’s a day they’ve been waiting almost two years for. The seniors were living in virtual solitude without close contact from family or loved ones, only able to have visits through the nursing home windows or through desktop computer Zoom rooms.

Citing a national COVID-19 vaccination rate of 86% among nursing home residents, the federal government has directed the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes to open up their doors and allow visits for "all residents at all times," dropping many of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

Perhaps needless to say, residents and staff at Daughters of Sarah are overjoyed to hear the news.

"My daughter is coming Sunday, so we’ll get to hug each other," said Leila Lipman, a resident of Daughters of Sarah.

"It’s interesting, [The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has said that in high or substantially high areas of COVID transmission, we still have to social distance, and wear masks, and hygiene within the rooms of the residents," said Daughters of Sarah CEO Mark Koblenz. "However, if the resident wants to contact, the resident can have their decision to take their masks off and the family can interact."

Visits must be allowed to take place indoors for all residents, whether they’re vaccinated or not, even when a facility is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak investigation.

At Daughters of Sarah, they will still require masks in the common areas, but not in residents’ rooms.

Even though visits under those conditions are "not recommended" by CMS, they must be allowed if it’s what the resident chooses.