The state Department of Health will once again allow visitations at nursing homes following new guidance from federal health officials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced. 

The announcement comes amid growing scrutiny of the Cuomo administration's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and disclosure of fatality. 

The state Department of Health will recommend the use of rapid COVID-19 tests for visitors at the facilities prior to entry. The DOH will provide the rapid tests of the nursing homes free of charge, Cuomo said. 

"I believe the testing is the key to reopening and we're opening rapid testing sites as we speak," Cuomo said.

More than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died since the start of the pandemic in March in New York. About 73% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated in New York.

Cuomo is facing growing criticism in New York over his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. Cuomo on Monday said he regretted not making nursing home data public sooner after state lawmakers and members of the publc had been seeking it since the summer.