After months of being barred from family visitations because of COVID-19, local nursing homes are starting to allow in-person visits between loved ones.
In July, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker announced nursing homes and adult-care facilities could begin allowing in-person visits after they had been banned in early March at the start of the pandemic.
Facilities are required to followed a list of safety protocols designed to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.
Prior to allowing visits, facilities must have been free of COVID-19 cases for at least 28 days. Visitors must have their temperature checked, wear a mask and maintain social distance of 6 feet.
Facilities may allow up to 10% of their residents to have visitors at any one time, and residents are allowed to have up to two visitors at a time.
Several local nursing homes and adult-care facilities drafted safety plans and have begun to resume in-person visitations.
Pine Haven Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Philmont announced Thursday that it has reopened the facility for visiting for the first time in five months.
“The Pine Haven staff is delighted to have reached this major milestone. We worked very hard to comply with all the necessary New York state, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and county Health Department requirements in order to offer limited visits,” Pine Haven Executive Director John Kolenda said in a statement. “Visitation is going very well and everyone is so excited to see their loved ones again.”
Pine Haven is allowing visitations only by appointment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Twenty-minute appointments can be made by contacting the Pine Haven Social Service Department.
Visits will take place in designated outdoor areas, weather permitting, or indoors if there is bad weather.
Under the rules of limited visitation, Pine Haven also offers residents virtual visits with friends and family on electronic tablets, and window visitations where residents and family members meet through a closed window.
“This resumption of limited visits does not mean that we are relaxing our precautions in any way,” Kolenda said. “Our staff will continue to follow rigorous safety protocols and all visitors will be required to do so as well.”
The Eliot at Catskill, in Jefferson Heights, resumed limited visitations two weeks ago in its sunroom, which is located at the rear of the facility. Visitors are asked to schedule an appointment with at least 24 hours notice and are allowed to visit for 45 minutes.
“Our families are very happy,” Eliot at Catskill Administrator Colleen Vincent said Friday. “It’s still not ideal. They would like to be able to come in the building and they would like to be able to spend time in their rooms with them and things like that, but they are very grateful. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback.”
Visiting times give the facility the opportunity to properly clean and sanitize the visitors’ area between residents, Vincent said.
The Livingston Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hudson began allowing 50-minute visits on its patio.
Visitors can schedule an appointment by calling the front desk. Visitors should make an appointment 24 hours in advance. Appointments can be scheduled Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“I know that these past few months have been extremely stressful and trying for so many of us,” Livingston Hills Administrator Aislinn A. Smith said in a message to families Aug. 20. “Although this temporary visitation schedule does have many restrictions, it is a step in the right direction.”
The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation began arranging appointments for in-person visits Aug. 24, according to notices to family members.
In-person visits at The Pines are for 20 minutes. They take place outdoors under the pavilion, weather permitting. Weekend visits will begin Sunday, according to Gwen Alleva, with National Health Care Associates Centers, which operates The Pines.
Six feet of social distancing must be maintained and face coverings must be worn at all times. All appointments must be arranged to take place Monday through Friday. There is no weekend visitation.
“With the knowledge we now have about how COVID-19 came into nursing homes — mainly through asymptomatic staff and visitors through no fault of their own — it is critical that as we resume visitations to these facilities we do it in a smart and cautious way to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in July.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in each facility, and make adjustments based on the facts and data moving forward,” Zucker said.