New York lawmakers push for more nursing home visitations

Oct 16, 2020

Last month, New York State reduced the number of days a nursing home must be free from COVID-19 in order for families to visit from 28 days to 14, which the state Department of Health said will open up access to 500 of the state's 613 nursing homes. But a group of upstate lawmakers say there are still too many barriers in place.

One of the most criticized state regulations is the requirement that nursing home visitors must present a test result showing they are negative for COVID-19 within seven days of their visit. Some Republican lawmakers like Cortland County Sen. James Seward say this requirement is impractical in some cases because the results can take more than seven days to come back and Finger Lakes Sen. Pam Helming said if the state is going to make this mandatory, it should expand access to free testing.

Mohawk valley Sen. Joe Griffo said Gov. Cuomo's administration may be going too far to prevent more nursing home outbreaks like the state experienced earlier this year when it directed nursing homes to readmit recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals. 

"I’m acknowledging the risk is real and we need to ensure we are following proper guidelines and protocols to ensure safety, but these new protocols in some cases, I think, are almost impossible to meet and I think it may be overcompensating for mistakes made in the past," Griffo said. 

Griffo and Sen. Rachel May from Syracuse have introduced bills that would permit family members to help nursing home staff care for their relatives in an effort to relieve understaffed facilities and to reunite more families.

"Let’s find a way to ensure beyond window visits and using technology that we can have some interaction because in some cases listening to family members, some of these residents are really rapidly deteriorating in their physical state and condition," Griffo said.