New York to lift suspension on visitors at hospitals, group homes as coronavirus outbreak eases

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that the state will allow hospitals and group homes to accept visitors at their discretion after limiting access to the facilities since mid-March. 

Visitors will be required to follow state guidelines, which include limiting their time with patients, requiring personal protective equipment and subjecting guests to symptom and temperature checks. 

“This was always a balance of public health versus the personal relationships and people who are in hospitals who desperately want to see loved ones and loved ones who want to see people in hospitals,” Cuomo said at his daily press briefing. 

On Monday, the state reported its lowest three-day average of Covid-19 deaths and its lowest level of hospitalizations since the outbreak began in mid-March, Cuomo said.

Group homes certified by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will be allowed to welcome visitors beginning Friday after notifying the state and implementing safety guidelines. Nursing homes are not included in the order, Cuomo said. 

“We’re still studying it. There’s still a high risk, and when the health department advises me that it’s safe, we’ll do it,” he said. “I understand the demand. I understand the desire. But the health department doesn’t think the reward justifies the risk at this point.”

New York suspended all visits to hospitals on March 18 except when medically necessary or for family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations, according to a state order.

At the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak in April, the state, with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, quickly converted numerous buildings and areas into makeshift hospitals to help health-care workers from being overwhelmed by the flood of coronavirus patients. 

Last month, Cuomo said the state would allow visitors at a handful of hospitals across the state as part of a pilot program. Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Health Commissioner, said that the state will use the information gleaned from the hospitals during the program and adapt it to the state’s nursing homes. 

Cuomo warned on Tuesday that more than 20 states in the U.S., mostly in the West and South, have seen an increase in reported Covid-19 cases and said it was because they reopened too quickly. He reiterated the importance of a careful, phased reopening based on data. 

Results from a sample of 12,000 random antibody tests from May 1 to June 13 found that 13.4% of people tested positive statewide, Cuomo said. A positive antibody test indicates that someone was once infected with the virus and has since recovered. New York City increased to 21.6% positive, he said.  

“New York City, it’s not good to see the number going up, but it’s manageable,” Cuomo said. 

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