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New York State Department of Health Updates on Skilled Nursing Facility Visitation

submitted by Bria Lewis, Esq. and Liam McMahon

On September 15, 2020, the NYS Department of Health released updated guidelines for Skilled Nursing Facility Visitation. The first update to visitation guidelines is facilities must have no new confirmed staff or resident COVID-19 reported cases for 14 days. (The prior threshold for visitation was 28 days.) Secondly, all visitors must now present a verified negative COVID-19 test result within the last 7 days prior to a visit to a nursing home facility. A visitor will be refused entry if they are not able to present a negative test result.

On September 17, 2020, the NYS Department of Health updated its guidance to provide additional clarification:

  • Visitors can be under age 18.
  • Compassionate care/end of life visits do not require tests.
  • Facilities who have met the prior visitation requirements (ie: 28 day COVID-19 free rule) have a one week grace period for testing to account for visits already scheduled during that week.

Regardless of whether the facility meets the 14 day threshold, these updated visitation guidelines do not absolve the nursing homes responsibility to ensure that resident and family communication is ongoing and supported by virtual visits, whenever possible. Moreover, the guidance does not change visitation for medically necessary or end-of-life services.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home you’d like to visit, here are some useful questions to ask your nursing home:

• When will the facility be open for visitation?
• When was the most recent case of COVID in the facility?
• Who can I contact to arrange a visit?
• What is expected of visitors during their visit?
• Do you have a fact sheet that explains what visitors can expect?
• Where can I get tested (see below)?

Currently, the Erie County Department of Health provides free Coronavirus testing. Call 716-858-2929 to schedule an appointment. An appointment is required to be tested. Testing is offered 3 days a week from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm at the locations listed below. All Erie County testing sites are currently drive-through testing sites. Visit www.erie.gov/covid19 or call 716-858-2929 for the latest information on COVID Testing.


Amherst Parks Department
450 Maple Road
Williamsville, NY 14221


SUNY Erie Community College – South Campus
4041 Southwestern Blvd.
Orchard Park, NY 14127


Buffalo Niagara Convention Center
153 Franklin Street
Buffalo, NY 14202

The New York State Department of Health currently offers COVID testing at no charge 6 days a week from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm at the address listed below (9:00 am to 1:30pm on Saturdays). This testing site is also a drive-through testing site and also requires an appointment. New York State will often also provide limited time “pop-up” testing in other locations. To schedule an appointment or ask for the latest testing information, call 1-888-364-3065.

Monday – Saturday

KeyBank Center
1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza
Buffalo, NY 14203

Search for a New York State testing site near you:

Schedule an appointment at a New York State testing site online: https://covid19screening.health.ny.gov/

For more information on the current federal and state COVID-19 guidance for nursing homes and adult care facilities visit our guidance review document at: https://elderjusticeny.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/SNF-and-ACF-Guidance-Timeline-September-15-V-1.05.pdf This document offers a timeline of all state and federal COVID-19 guidance and regulations for nursing homes and adult care facilities. It is updated regularly on our website. Find the latest version by visiting our resources tab and selecting Nursing Home and Assisted Living Resources.

The Center for Elder Law & Justice is available to provide assistance. If you are a resident or family member of a resident in a nursing home or adult care facility and have questions, call us at (716) 853-3087.

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