Saturday, September 23

New York follows federal guidelines and authorizes unrestricted visits to nursing homes after 19 months

A pleasant surprise received this Thursday the Dominican Hector de Jesus when he went to the Isabella nursing home in Upper Manhattan to bring food to his cousin who has been an intern for all the months of the pandemic. This time, without an appointment, they informed him that he could visit and hug his relative.

“How good that now that Christmas is coming they allow us to visit them at regular times and without many rules. This people has suffered a lot of loneliness and sadness. We didn’t see him for months when they closed everything due to the pandemic, ”the immigrant reacted.

The good news for Hector is extensive for all New York nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

Starting this week, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) adopted federal government regulations that eliminate all restrictions that required a limited number of visitors, appointment scheduling, and closing measures when a resident tests positive for COVID. -19 in some center.

What’s more, it is not required to show the vaccination card or a negative coronavirus test.

Nursing home inmates can now receive visits at all times, even when there is a coronavirus outbreak at your facility.

NY: Better get vaccinated!

Even if the restrictions change, family members still need to follow some guidelines.

Visitors who test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19 should not enter nursing homes, in addition the use of masks is essential and stay at least six feet away from other groups.

CMS advises, but does not require, that nursing homes in areas with high levels of virus transmission offer discard testing, but facilities that do not offer testing should encourage visitors to self-test. before going to the visits.

The NY Department of Health immediately adopted the changes announced Tuesday, but underlining that “the best way to protect our loved ones and make sure we can visit them in a care facility is to get vaccinated. And get a booster if you are already immunized. And also wear a mask ”.

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The federal guide does not contemplate the “mandatory vaccine” To enter these centers, for this reason New Yorkers are urged to take protective and follow-up measures, when in addition 92% of all medical and assistance personnel in nursing homes are immunized.

Infection rates in nursing homes in all New York counties will continue to be monitored and health authorities will continue to motivate those who have a loved one in these spaces to receive the injectionspokesmen for the governor’s office said.

A worker at a rehabilitation center for the elderly, who preferred to omit her identity, told The newspaper what did you think “Absurd” that while in restaurants you have to show the vaccination passport and for the workers the doses were mandatory, now in these centers with such vulnerable people it is left to the discretion of each family member to be immunized or not.

“One would like to think that people are aware and that if they are not vaccinated he shouldn’t even look around here “, said the consulted outside a rehabilitation center in Washington Heights.

“End of the nightmare”

This measure in the midst of a panorama with a very high vaccination rate in New York, drastically changes the way in which this public health crisis had been approached, since March 2020, in these settings with one of the most vulnerable populations.

In a statement the Centers for Federal Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) They specified: “Visits are now allowed for all residents at all times. This population may feel socially isolated, which increases the risk of depression, anxiety and expressions of anguish “.

That knows perfectly well the Ecuadorian Sandra Mendoza, 50 years old, a Queens resident who shares that this news is the “end of a nightmare” that began last spring and that caught her with her father being held at a rehabilitation center in Sunnyside.

“There came a time when five months passed and we practically didn’t know anything. Only that he was alive. When they reopened with the possibility of limited visits, it was more time that it was closed, because there were always cases inside. My 80-year-old old man had panic attacks because he thought his whole family had died, ”Sandra said.

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Vivian Zayas and her sister (on the left), founders of Voces de Ancianos in NY, promote that what happened in these centers during the pandemic crisis is not erased from the memory of the country. (Photo: F. Martínez)

“Never again forbid visits”

The new federal measure, already implemented in New York, was applauded by some organizations that warn that the “Tragic history” of nursing homes During the pandemic, it should not be repeated. That is why they are fighting a law that would prohibit in future public health crises closing all access to family members.

This is how he interprets it, Vivian Zayas, co-founder of ‘Voices of the Elders’ who assures that it has been shown that it is highly dangerous for loved ones to completely lose control and supervision of internal elderly people.

“This cannot happen again under any circumstance, not even during new pandemics. We still receive reports from elders who went days without being cleaned, that they got depressed, they despaired, they died of sadness “, summarized.

For this reason, several coalitions support the draft of Essential Caregivers Act that was presented in Congress by the New York representative, Claudia Tenney, which provides that under any public health crisis, a reasonable number of family members can supervise these facilities to provide care and support.

The scope of the law would apply to long-term skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care, and rehabilitation facilities for the elderly.

Under current federal law, outside of a public health emergency, residents have the right to receive an unlimited number of caregivers.

Now in law HR 3733 a balance is struck by limiting the number of caregivers and visiting hours during a health emergency period, but never completely prohibit access.

“The important thing is that this painful experience is an impulse to avoid that these centers are out of the eyes of the relatives. Still at this point we do not know exactly what happened in those days of so much darkness, what we do know is that thousands of our parents and grandparents died“Said the activist.

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The great controversy

Nursing home residents have accounted for about a third of COVID-19 deaths nationwide and it has been one of the thorniest issues in handling the pandemic in New York.

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo, until his last day in office, was target of strong denunciations about his responsibility in the decision of the past March 25, 2020 transferring patients with COVID-19 that were “medically stable” to nursing homes, when the state hospitals were saturated with infected.

That controversy was ignited with another fuel, after New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed the opening of a criminal investigation that details that allegedly the number of elderly people who died during the initial months of this crisis had not been true: according to the calculations of this complaint are estimated that at least 50% more people died of the third age than the official number reported.

Ancianatos de NY:

  • 92% of New York nursing home staff have been vaccinated, while the national average is 82%, according to figures shown by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • 8,400 deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers between March and August of last year, were preliminary official figures from the New York State Department of Health (DOH)
  • 50% more deaths than those official figures they were registered in these centers, according to a 72-page report presented by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
  • 15,000 deaths would be, at least, the real total death toll.
  • 1,885 seniors reportedly died in hospitals and were not included in DOH’s official nursing home death count

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