New York loosening long-term care visitation rules

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 5:21 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - New York state is loosening its restrictions on visitations inside long-term care facilities and a Plattsburgh assisted living facility is offering a creative way for residents to meet with loved ones -- a COVID visitation cottage.

“It respects everyone’s wishes -- for residents who still want to have in-person visits and those residents who don’t want to have people inside,” said Raeanne McLaughlin with Pine Harbour Assisted Living.

The cottage has benefits for people like Carl Zurrahn, who got to visit with his son and daughter-in-law Thursday. “I think this has worked out very good,” he said. This weekend, he gets to see his year-old great-grandson. “His name is Gabriel.”

The visits are made possible by a loosening of restrictions for visitors at the state’s long-term care facilities. Masks are required as well as sanitizing and sign-ins. It’s all under the watchful eye of 91-year-old Marilyn Donahue, a volunteer-turned-staff member. “Many of them haven’t seen each other for a year or more probably. The tears come and then the smiles,” Donahue said.

Each visit lasts 30 minutes and a resident can have up to two visitors at once. Social distancing is still required, vaccinated or not. “Right now there are still no hugs when they come, which is probably one of the hardest parts about the visitation,” McLaughlin said.

But the upside of the change is the removal of the 14-day quarantine requirements. Prior to March 25th, any COVID in a facility or non-compliance with any COVID regulations meant all visits had to be canceled. “If a person with COVID wouldn’t be able to have visitation, but it doesn’t stop everyone else from being able to have visitation,” McLaughlin said.

The other big change, particularly important to Zurrahn, is that residents are allowed to leave the facility and return without needing a negative test. “I might be able to go to the casino for my birthday,” he said.

Since November, the state was requiring a negative test of any resident upon return unless they left for a medical appointment “They couldn’t even go get a carton of milk without getting a negative test and quarantine for 14-days, so it was really impossible, but those restrictions were lifted,” McLaughlin said.

Visitors at Pine Harbour must call ahead and make an appointment to make sure they have proper staff and space inside the cottage.

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