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New York to resume nursing home visitation with rapid COVID-19 testing. What to know

David Robinson
New York State Team

Nursing homes in New York will be permitted to resume visitation with pandemic-related safety precautions in place and rapid COVID-19 testing recommended before entry, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

The state Department of Health will be providing the rapid-testing resources to nursing homes to resume visitation, Cuomo said, adding the state agency would be releasing further details on Monday about other recommendations for resuming visits.

The announcement marked an easing of the current nursing home visitation rules, which require a facility to go at least 14 days without a new COVID-19 case before allowing visits.

Currently, visitors must also present a negative COVID-19 test result from within the seven days before entry.

Marti Mauro of Webster looks to see if her mom, Dottie Langenstein who lives at Heathwood Assisted Living & Memory Care in Penfield has come into the room yet on January 16, 2021.

The easing of restrictions comes after 72% of nursing home residents in New York have been vaccinated as part of the federal program distributing COVID-19 vaccines among long-term care facilities nationally, state data show.

The remaining 28% of residents have declined to take the COVID-19 vaccines, at least temporarily, according to Cuomo and state data.

Meanwhile, just 50% of nursing home workers in New York have taken the COVID-19 vaccines, despite the entire workforce being offered the shots.

More: New York eases COVID-19 visitation rules at nursing homes. What you need to know

How NY handled nursing home visitation 

Amid the vaccination rollout, advocates and family members have been urging state officials to ease nursing home visitation requirements, citing the added protection provided by vaccines and concerns residents were suffering emotional and psychological trauma due to the isolation.

The current guidelines were enacted in September, when state officials reduced the period a long-term care facility had to be COVID-free to 14 days, down from 28 days.

Other current restrictions include: 

  • The number of visitors to the nursing home must not exceed 10% of the resident census at any time.
  • Only two visitors will be allowed per resident at any one time.
  • Visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face coverings and socially distance during the visit.
  • Visitors under the age 18 are prohibited.

State officials have noted the rules from September were based on federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, guidance, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

It wasn't clear if any of the current restrictions would remain in place under the new guidelines.

Cuomo on Friday indicated that the new rules will continue to follow CDC and CMS guidance, as well as state Department of Health recommendations including the rapid-testing measures.

Resuming nursing home visits with the use of rapid COVID-19 tests, which can return results in about 15 minutes, is part of state officials' plan to use the devices to accelerate the economic reopening during the vaccine rollout, Cuomo said.

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David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached atdrobinson@gannett.com and followed on Twitter:@DrobinsonLoHud