ALBANY — All counties in the Capital Region and most others across upstate appear to meet slightly relaxed nursing home visitation requirements that will take effect Friday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new protocol Monday. It will allow slightly easier access for relatives who’ve been locked out of many nursing homes across New York for much of the past year but the biggest limiting factor is unchanged: Visitation is prohibited if any resident or employee of the nursing home has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
Cuomo announced Monday that if the county in which a nursing home is located has a seven-day rolling positive test average of less than 5%, visitors need not be tested before entering the facility.
They are strongly encouraged to be tested for COVID, and free rapid-result tests will be available on-site, but the tests are not required.
For counties with seven-day average tests of 5% to 10%, nursing home visitors must test negative upon arrival or present a negative result from a test administered not more than 72 hours earlier.
Nursing home visitation is prohibited in counties with a positive test rate greater than 10%.
Eight counties in New York currently fall in the 5% to 10% range, including Fulton County at 6.3%. The other 54 counties are all below 5%, thanks to a steady and sustained decrease in number of new infections after a December/January surge blamed on holiday gatherings.
“One of the most devastating aspects of this virus has been how it separated families from their loved ones, making an already difficult situation even harder to bear,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “Thanks to the dedication of New Yorkers, we’re now at a point where we can begin to expand nursing home visitations under strict guidelines to protect the health and safety of residents.”
More than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other eldercare facilities in New York have died of COVID during the pandemic. Cuomo and his Health Department have been criticized harshly for policies and decisions that may have increased the death toll early on, and they subsequently imposed strict restrictions to keep COVID out of nursing homes.
Visitation for purposes of compassionate care has been exempt from some of those restrictions, and continues to be.
Also, with spring on the way, the state is encouraging outdoor visits wherever possible.
In other COVID-related developments Tuesday:
- Local departments of health reminded residents that the mass vaccination site to be opened March 3 at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany will begin taking appointments at 8 a.m. Wednesday via the state AM I ELIGIBLE website or the state hotline (1-833-NYS-4VAX). . The site will be reserved for the first week for residents of the following Albany, Schenectady and Troy ZIP codes: 12202, 12206, 12207, 12209, 12210, 12180, 12222, 12304, 12305, 12307 and 12308.
- A Long Island resident was confirmed infected with the South African variant of the COVID-19 virus, the second known case in the state. Also, 18 new cases of the UK variant were confirmed Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 154 known UK cases.
- The official state death toll rose by 86 to 38,031, including two resident deaths each in Saratoga and Warren counties and one each in Montgomery and Washington counties.
- The seven-day positive test average was 3.5% statewide, 2.0% in the Capital Region and 1.6% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the positive rate was Albany 1.6%, Fulton 6.3%, Montgomery 4.9%, Rensselaer 1.5%, Saratoga 2.6%, Schenectady 2.2% and Schoharie 3.4%.
- Statewide, 5,977 COVID-positive patients were hospitalized, including 166 in the Capital Region and 116 in the Mohawk Valley.