New York officials on Thursday announced new guidelines for nursing home visitation in the state, a move meant to align with federal guidelines.
The move comes as state lawmakers have pushed for Cuomo to sign a bill revising nursing home visitation rules.
The new guidance announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker will permit visitation at all times and for all residents. There will be "limited exceptions" for residents who have not been vaccinated in areas where there is high community spread and lower resident vaccination rates. Limits would also be placed on residents who have COVID-19 or those who are in quarantine.
The new guidance will replace February 23 rules that required nursing homes to be COVID-19 free for two weeks.
"From the very beginning, we've used science and data to find the appropriate balance between protecting our most vulnerable populations in nursing homes and the importance of allowing safe contact with their loved ones," Cuomo said. "We now have three effective vaccines that are leading to significant decreases in long term care COVID cases and a robust staff testing system to limit community spread from entering a facility. Now is an appropriate time to take the next step and safely reconnect this community with their families."
Nursing home residents were among the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Positive cases have decreased by 80 percent since January in the facilities. State officials are encouraging visitors to be tested prior to seeing a loved one.
"We understand the emotional toll that this community has experienced by being separated from their loved ones during a particularly challenging year," Zucker said. "We're confident that these facilities can continue strong infection control practices that will allow for the safe visitation they have dearly missed."
The change also comes a year to the day after a controversial and since-rescinded guidance by the state that nursing homes not turn away COVID-positive patients.
Cuomo has faced scrutiny for the policy and the state is under federal investigation for how nursing home deaths were reported during the pandemic.
The full guidnace can be found here.