Hospitals, group homes opening back up to visitors — nursing homes still on hold

Visitation will return to hospitals and group homes across New York state this week, but Governor Andrew Cuomo said families with loved ones in nursing homes will have to wait a little longer before meeting in person again.

Mr. Cuomo announced at his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday that hospitals and group homes will be allowed to accept visitors at their own discretion beginning Friday. Potential visitors should check first with their local hospitals and they will be expected to follow state guidelines that include the wearing of masks and temperature checks if they are allowed on site.

“Obviously we need to be careful but we’ll allow visitors in hospitals,” Mr. Cuomo said, before adding that group homes will also be allowed to accept visitors as long as they first notify the state of their plans to do so.

When asked where that leaves nursing homes, the governor said “they’re not included at this time.”

“I understand the desire [to reopen nursing homes], but the health department doesn’t think the reward outweighs the risk at this point,” the governor said.

Asked if he believes it’s OK to leave nursing home patients “without an advocate,” the governor said “no.”

“[But] I don’t think they should have an advocate that could kill them or someone else,” he said. “I wouldn’t call that an advocate.”

Some state hospitals had been allowed to accept visitors under a pilot program that was announced May 19. Health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Tuesday that the results of that program are being studied in determing how to expand visitation at hospitals and other facilities. Asked if a similar program might be implemented for nursing homes, Dr. Zucker said “we’re looking at all the options at this point.”

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have accounted for nearly 6,100 of the state’s 24,579 presumed coronavirus deaths, according to data released Sunday by the DOH. There have been 567 confirmed COVID-19 fatalities at Suffolk County nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and 241 additional deaths presumed to be caused by COVID-19.

Both Mr. Cuomo and Dr. Zucker both declined to give a timeline for when nursing homes might be permitted to accept visitors.

Hospitals, group homes and nursing homes have been mostly closed to visitors since mid-March, with certain exceptions for pediatric patients and others.