State allows visitation at adult care facilities but not all are opening their doors just yet

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Limited visitation for nursing homes and assisted living facilities began on Wednesday in New York State.

While there are many families who are thrilled they will finally have a chance to see their loved ones again, there are also many facilities that are not quite ready to accommodate visitors.

According to the state, in order for a facility to resume visitation, they must have no new confirmed resident or staff COVID-19 positive cases in a 28-day period. Facilities must also first submit their safety plans to the state Department of Health and meet all compliance metrics.

According to state health officials, statewide there are 22 nursing homes and 32 adult care facilities that are in full compliance and can institute visitation if they wish, but it’s not clear whether all of them did resume visitation on Wednesday.

There are roughly 160 other facilities that are eligible to reopen but have not yet submitted their plans. NEWS10 ABC has learned that many facilities are proceeding cautiously and want to make sure they are going about visitation in the safest and smartest possible way before they move forward.

Lisa Newcomb, the Executive Director for Empire State Association of Assisted Living, has been advocating for safe visitation for weeks.

“Now, our job is to provide our membership with the needed clarifications, guidelines, and tools in order to move forward in the most safe and sound manner,” said Newcomb.

She said it’s going to take a little while for facilities to get their visitation programs in place.

Rob Puglisi, Director of Marketing and Communications for Community Hospice, told News10 that The Eddy, which is part of St. Peter’s Health Partners, has seven nursing homes and six senior communities throughout the Capital Region.

“We’re working to make sure we meet all the requirements and guidelines that will allow us to safely allow family visits. At least a few of our nursing homes and senior communities should be able to open their doors to loved ones on a limited basis very soon.  We’re in constant touch with family members and will alert them as soon as the current policy changes,” said Puglisi.

Judi Hehir’s 89-year-old mother lives in the Terrace at The Eddy. She told News10 she used to visit her every day for several hours at a time. She was looking forward to getting back into that routine, but said she did anticipate some setbacks.

When she called on Tuesday to find out where things stood at her mother’s facility she was told they weren’t quite ready to accommodate visitation.

“I think the only concrete thing she (staff member) said was ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime this week’, which of course came as no surprise. I was encouraged, however, that there is some kind of reopening. That was encouraging to me,” said Hehir. 

It’s been a difficult few months for Elaine Hickey, of Niskayuna, too. Visitation restrictions have prevented her from seeing her daughter who is living in a group home, as well as her mother-in-law who lives in a nursing home and her father-in-law who is in assisted living. 

“We’re so excited. It’s important for all three of them to have their loved ones present,” said Hickey.

While her father-in-law’s facility is accepting visitors, appointments are already booked up through Monday. Her mother-in-law’s facility has a target date for visitations set for July 27th.

According to the state, no more than 10% of facility residents will be allowed to have visitors each day. Residents will also be limited to two visitors, one of which much be 18 or older. 

While both indoor and outdoor visitation is permitted, Newcomb said most facilities will likely choose the outdoor space more often than not, weather permitting.

“Everybody is being as cautious as possible. Nobody wants a case in their facility,” said Newcomb.

Newcomb said while she understands why the state implemented the 28-day clearance rule for coronavirus cases, she said that’s going to make it hard for many facilities and is hoping the state will eventually allow for some flexibility. 

Visitors will be screened, must wear a mask, and must maintain six feet of distancing. 

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