The Department of Health (DOH) announced on July 10 that that outside visitation and limited indoor visitation and activities can resume in nursing homes and adult care facilities so long as the facility meets specific benchmarks.  We discuss what those benchmarks are and the limitations on visitation below.

We encourage residents and families who have questions to contact their nursing home or adult care facility for specific information on that facility’s plan. Resident safety is of the utmost importance, and it takes the full care team: the resident, their family/representatives, and staff, to ensure residents receive visitors of their choice, their risk of contracting COVID-19 is low as possible, and residents can have quality of care and life that they are entitled by law.

We also want to make clear, that while DOH has allowed for limited visitation, it does not absolve nursing homes or adult care facilities of their obligation to ensure residents remain in contact with their family and others through phone, virtual, or other means.

The announcement by DOH can be found here: https://www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2020/2020-07-10_resumption_of_limited_nh_visitation.htm

Nursing Homes 

In addition to being located in a Phase 3 region in NYS, nursing homes may resume limited visitation (and activities) starting July 15 so long as the nursing home:

  • Is in full compliance with all state and federal requirements including state Executive Orders and guidance, and the federally required submission of COVID-19 data.
  • Has protocols to cohort residents by COVID-19 status such as positive, negative, and unknown. The nursing home must also have separate staffing teams to provide care with COVID-19 positive and nonpositive residents.
  • Has completed and submitted a copy of its NY Forward Safety Plan to DOH.
    • The plan must clearly state the space(s) to be used for visitation (outdoors and indoors) and include the number of visitors and residents who could be safely socially distanced within the spaces.
  • Has no staffing shortages as evidenced by the nursing home’s individual staffing plan and as reported pursuant to federal COVID-19 data reporting requirements.
  • Has not had any new onset of COVID-19 among residents and staff.
  • Has not had any new onset of COVID-19 among staff or residents as reported to DOH for at least 28 days.
  • Has access to adequate testing, a testing plan in place, and an executed and operationalized arrangement with laboratories to process the tests.
  • Adheres to written screen protocols for all staff during each shift, each resident daily, and all persons entering the facility or grounds of the nursing home, including visitors.
  • Posts its formal visitation plan on its public website and broadcast it via email or social media to provide visitors with clear guidelines for visiting and to announce if and when visitation is paused due to an increase in the number of residents and/or staff with a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

When the nursing home meets the above requirements, visitation may resume so long as it follows the below guidelines (that also must be included in its NY Forward Safety Plan):

  • Visitation should be limited to outdoor areas.
  • Visitation can be inside, under certain circumstances, as defined by the nursing home, in a well-ventilated space with no more than 10 individuals who are appropriately socially distanced and wearing a facemask/covering.
  • Visitation is prohibited in resident rooms or care areas.
  • Specialty practitioner, podiatric, and dental services may continue with strict adherence to infection control guidelines.
  • The nursing home must also create an interdisciplinary team to review its visitation program compliance.
  • Limited visitation includes, but is not limited to: family members, loved ones, long-term care ombudsmen, and resident advocacy organizations, so long as the following conditions are met:
    • There are adequate staff present to allow for personnel to help with the transition of residents, monitoring of visitation, and cleaning/disinfecting areas used for visitation after each visit.
  • Visitors are screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to resident access. Visitation will be refused if the visitor shows any COVID-19 symptoms or does not pass the screening questions.
  • Visitors will be required to provide information to the nursing home and the nursing must maintain not only the screening information but visitor specific information that includes:
    • First and last name of the visitor;
    • Physical (street) address of the visitor;
    • Daytime and evening telephone number of the visitor;
    • Date and time of visit;
    • Email address (if available); and
    • A notation that indicates the visitor cleared the screening.
  • Visitors must wear a face mask or face covering which covers both the nose and mouth at all times when on the premises of the nursing home.
    • The nursing home must have adequate supply of masks on hand for visitors and must make them available to visitors who lack an acceptable face covering.
  • Visitors must maintain social distancing, except when assisting with wheelchair mobility.
  • Facilities must provide alcohol-based hand rug (at least 60% alcohol) to residents, visitors, and representatives of the long-term care ombudsman visiting residents.
    • These individuals must be able to demonstrate appropriate use.
  • No more than 10% of the residents shall have visitors at any one time, and only two visitors will be allowed per resident at any one time.
    • Any visitor under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult at least age 18.
  • Current COVID-19 positive residents, residents with COVID-19 signs/symptoms, and residents in a 14-day quarantine or observation period are not eligible for visits.
  • The nursing home maintains signage regarding facemask utilization and hand hygiene and uses applicable floor markings to cue social distancing delineations.
  • There is adequate PPE made available by the nursing home to ensure residents wear a facemask or face covering (if medically tolerated).
  • The nursing home should develop a short, easy-to-read fact sheet outlining visitor expectations that includes appropriate hand hygiene and face coverings. The fact sheet must be provided upon initial screening to all visitors.
  • If any visitor does not adhere to the DOH/nursing homes’ protocol, the visitor will be prohibited from visiting for the duration of the COVID-19 state declared public health emergency.
  • Nursing homes are allowed to establish additional guidelines as needed to ensure resident and staff safety. This includes hours of visitation that must be clearly delineated, in policy and within the visitation fact sheet.

DOH reserves the right to restrict visitation at any point.

In addition to the guidelines on visitation, DOH also states that nursing homes must continue to refrain from sending residents to non-medically necessary trips outside the nursing home, and communal dining and hairdresser services remain suspended.

Adult Care Facilities 

In addition to being located in a Phase 3 region in NYS, adult care facilities may resume limited visitation (and activities) from the date of this advisory  as the adult care facility:

  • Has completed and submitted a copy of its NY Forward Safety Plan to DOH.
    • The plan must include attestation of compliance with all State and federal guidelines including state Executive orders and guidance related to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
  • Has complied with the staff testing requirements, including the furlough of staff who have tested COVID-19 positive, and the facility has no staffing shortages.
  • All consenting in-house residents have undergone COVID-19 testing and has not had new confirmed COVID-19 among staff or residents in the last 28 days, as reported to DOH.
  • Has undergone an Infection Control survey on or after May 1, 2020 by DOH and found to be in substantial compliance.
  • Is compliant with all reporting requirements associated with COVID-19 response.
  • Posts its formal visitation plan on its public website and broadcast it via email or social media to provide visitors with clear guidelines for visiting and to announce if and when visitation is paused due to an increase in the number of residents and/or staff with a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis

When the adult care facility meets the above requirements, the facility may allow for visitors if:

  • The visitor is at least 18 years of age, or if younger, accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age.
  • There are adequate staff present to allow for personnel to help with the transition of residents, monitoring visitation, and cleaning/disinfecting visitation areas after each visit.
  • Visitors are screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to resident access. Visitation will be refused if the visitor shows any COVID-19 symptoms or does not pass the screening questions.
  • Visitors will be required to provide information to the nursing home and the nursing must maintain not only the screening information but visitor specific information that includes:
    • First and last name of the visitor;
    • Physical (street) address of the visitor;
    • Daytime and evening telephone number of the visitor;
    • Date and time of visit;
    • Email address (if available); and
    • A notation that indicates the visitor cleared the screening.
  • Visitation should be limited to outdoor areas.
  • Visitation can be inside, under certain circumstances, as defined by the facility, in a well-ventilated space with no more than 10 individuals who are appropriately socially distanced and wearing a facemask/covering.
    • At no time shall the total number of visitors exceed 10% of the in-house resident census.
  • Current COVID-19 positive residents, residents with COVID-19 signs/symptoms, and residents in a 14-day quarantine or observation period are not eligible for visits.
  • The facility maintains signage regarding facemask utilization and hand hygiene practices and uses applicable floor markings to cue social distancing delineations.
  • Areas where visitors and residents meet are appropriately disinfected between visitations using an EPA-approved disinfectant.
  • There is adequate PPE to ensure residents wear a facemask or face covering during visitation.
  • Visitors wear a face covering at all times. The facility will provide a facemask if the visitor shows up lacking a face covering.
  • Facility provides alcohol-based hand sanitizer to visitors and residents, and staff demonstrate appropriate use.
  • The facility is allowed to establish additional guidelines as needed to ensure resident and staff safety. Such guidelines shall include provisions for limiting the number of visitors at any one time and limited visitor hours to ensure all residents may have visitation.
  • The facility should develop a short, easy-to-read fact sheet outlining visitor expectations including appropriate hand hygiene and face covering requirements. The fact sheet must be provided upon initial screening to all visitors and must clearly state the hours of visitation during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If the adult care facility fails to comply with the above requirements or fails to meet the benchmark to maintain visitation, the facility must immediately halt visitation and inform the DOH regional office. DOH can also at any time halt visitation due to community or facility spread of infection, or based on DOH’s identification of failure to comply with any of the elements stated above.

In addition to the guidelines on visitation, DOH also states the communal dining remains suspended.

Center for Elder Law & Justice Is Available to Help

Have questions about visitation guidelines for nursing homes or adult care facilities? We are here to assist. Contact our office at (716) 853-3087 or our helpline 1-844-481-0973 any time and leave a message, or reach an attorney directly by calling between 9am-11am. You may also e-mail the helpline at helpline@elderjusiceny.org with your name and phone number. All messages left with the helpline will be returned within 1 business day.

PLEASE NOTE: This information provided above is subject to change and should not be construed as legal advice.

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