Many nursing home visitations halted by 28-day COVID-19 restriction

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In mid-July, New York State opened nursing homes and adult living facilities to visitors. But many facilities are not seeing an influx of loved ones.

That’s mostly due to new strict guidelines, which include a 28-day restriction on visits if a resident or staff member tests positive for coronavirus.

Some families and residents are now making a plea for a better plan.

FaceTime is how Rosemary Centi has been communicating with her elderly mother. At 92, her mom Santina, is a resident at Schenectady Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.

NEWS10’s Anya Tucker spoke with Rosemary and asked when she last saw her mom in person.

“March, mid-March was the last time I had any physical contact with my mother,” said Rosemary.

Rosemary said Schenectady Center sent a message last week saying a staff member tested positive.

“So that put us back another 28 days, and that I object to. Being empathetic or sympathetic is not enough. It’s just not enough. I want to touch my mother.”

Janet Siebrecht is a resident at Fort Hudson in Fort Edward where they are also under a 28-day quarantine. For her, that means waiting even longer to see her husband in person.

“I know I would feel a lot better if I could at least touch him. But it’s not working out that way.”

She said the isolation is taking a heavy toll on her and her fellow residents at the nursing home and she does not understand why restaurants and gyms can open with social distancing and not nursing homes.

“I feel like we are being robbed of whatever time we have left. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do,” said Janet.

Rosemary wonders why the state settled on 28-days, instead of 14 — the recommended length of isolation for COVID-19.

“I go to church and sit six feet away from people, and I wear a mask; why can’t I do that with my mom,” she added.

NEWS10 reached out to the New York State Department of Health to ask if there was any way the 28-day rule could be adjusted or exceptions made for visits with social distancing.

This is the comment and information they provided:

“While DOH understands the need to walk a fine line between allowing visitors while also keeping residents safe during this unprecedented pandemic, our position has not changed.  As we said from the beginning, science and safety would guide our decision to resume visitations to nursing homes, and it has.  Given the increase in cases nationally, we commend New York State’s nursing homes for all they – and all New Yorkers – have done to flatten the curve and to stay safe.”    

The follow additional information was also provided by Jeffrey Hammond, Public Information Officer:

Recently, NYS DOH provided an opportunity for up to $1 million in funding for long term care facilities to purchase tablets, webcams, headphones, or other accessories to help residents stay connected with family during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We understand that it is particularly difficult to be away from loved ones and older adults are particularly at risk for the determinantal effects of loneliness and isolation. 

1.       The number of NH that are in full compliance and therefore able to initiate visitation plans: 290 of which 211 submitted plans

2.       On the first day of eligibility:  22

3.       There are 613 nursing homes in NYS.

As stated in DOH’s July 10 announcement, “CMS does not recommend reopening facilities to visitors (except for compassionate care situations) until phase three when: There have been no new, nursing home onset COVID-19 cases in the nursing home for 28 days.” Although CMS guidance only references new onset resident cases during the past 28 days, New York has gone further to protect our most vulnerable, and based on statistics nationwide, the policies support those decisions.

Here is DOH’s July 17 announcement of $1 million in funding to help residents stay connected with family: https://www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2020/2020-07-17_services_for_long_term_care_residents.htm


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