New York state is mandating nursing homes not allow visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday afternoon that the state’s approximately 620 nursing homes can only allow “medically necessary” visits, given that older adults are at high risk of suffering serious complications from the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19.
The ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
“If you care about someone in a nursing home, the last thing you want is to endanger that person,” Cuomo said. “A grandchild going to visit his or her grandmother who walks in the virus, you’re not doing anyone a service.”
The New York State Department of Health had already advised nursing homes over the weekend to take precautions, like limiting visiting hours and screening visitors for flu-like symptoms, and ordered nursing homes near the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle to not allow any visitors.
Some Western New York nursing homes, including the Elderwood chain, had already voluntarily banned visitation on Wednesday, while the president of New York State Health Facilities Association, the state’s for-profit nursing home trade group, told WBFO Wednesday many other nursing homes across the state would follow suit.
However, Cuomo’s announcement Thursday makes the bans mandatory.
While none of New York’s 325 confirmed coronavirus cases have occurred in a nursing home, an outbreak at Seattle-area nursing homes has resulted in 19 deaths thus far.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that older adults, typically defined as those 60 and over, are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Those 80 and over have a coronavirus fatality rate of about 15%, by far the highest of any age group.
Cuomo said exceptions may be made for families trying to visit a nursing home resident receiving end-of-life care. The state of Connecticut has enacted a similar policy for its nursing homes.
The state will also ask nursing homes to set up Skyping and other online communication so families can tele-visit residents, Cuomo said.
Additionally, the state is requiring nursing home staff be screened for sickness before they enter the facility and requiring them to wear surgical masks.
Cuomo said there is no timetable on how long the nursing home visitation ban will last. His coronavirus executive order lasts until at least April 6.