Families happy to see nursing home restrictions eased

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(WHAM) - Stephanie Shirley's mom is in a nursing home in Pittsford. She said it's been challenging to be limited to visiting her mother through a window for the last few months.

"Every time we leave, there's a tear that rolls on all of our faces," she said. "It's hard to see the isolation. Not even being able to get out of your room for meals. It's just not fair."

New guidance released Tuesday by the New York State Department of Health will reduce the amount of waiting time required for limited visitations to resume at nursing homes.

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced nursing homes that have been without COVID-19 for at least 14 days can have visitors. This policy is a revision to the 28-day guidelines previously put in place.

The new guidelines are scheduled to go into effect on Thursday, September 17.

Visitors will be required to bring a negative COVID-19 test result from within the last seven days. Anyone who shows symptoms of the virus or does not pass screening questions cannot be allowed in for a visit.

A maximum of two visitors will be allowed per resident; no more than 10 percent of the number of residents at nursing homes can be allowed in at once. Temperature checks, face coverings and social distancing are required during all visits. All visitors under the age 18 are also prohibited.

"We continue to be guided by science and concern for residents’ welfare and will monitor nursing homes that host visitors, to make sure this action does not lead to an increase in cases," Zucker said in a statement.

This will make limited visits available for an estimated 500 nursing homes in the state.

The 14-day visitation policy was put into place for adult care facilities and pediatric skilled nursing facilities last week.

Shirley and her loved ones have lobbied hard for changes, but they say there is still more that needs to be done, and they're letting Gov. Andrew Cuomo know.

It's important to them and their mom, Shirley said.

"She said, 'I don't want to waste these last years without seeing my kids,'" Shirley recalled. "We're a close family, and it's important to us, and she's been important to all of us. It's just not enough. And we could not see her next week because of COVID."