The Cuomo administration is relaxing coronavirus restrictions at nursing homes to allow family members in-person visits with loved ones for the first time since the pandemic hit in March.
The announcement Tuesday by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker comes just three days after relatives of nursing home residents held a rally outside the governor’s Manhattan office protesting the restrictive policy.
The new policy will resume limited visitation for facilities that have been without COVID-19 for at least 14 days — half the 28-day rule that has been in effect since early July.
Nursing home advocates and family members said the 28-day infection free policy was too restrictive, with only a small percentage of the 613 nursing homes meeting the criteria to allow visitors.
But Zucker said the updated guidance will allow visitation in approximately 500 of the state’s 613 nursing homes.
“We understand how trying it has been for New Yorkers to not see their loved ones and the challenges they’ve had to endure during this unprecedented pandemic,” Zucker said in a statement.
“The number of nursing homes that have taken the necessary steps to protect residents from the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 while working to reopen to outside visitors, shows that adhering to the DOH visitation guideline is the smart and cautious approach to allowing visitations. We continue to be guided by science and concern for residents’ welfare and will monitor nursing homes that host visitors, to make sure this action does not lead to an increase in cases.”
Last week the DOH also relaxed visitation requirements from 28 to 14 days at assisted living and adult care facilities. The less restrictive nursing home visitation policy will go into effect Thursday.
It will require visitors to present a negative test result within the prior seven days or be refused entry. Visitors will also be barred if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms, or don’t pass screening questions.
The number of visitors to the nursing home must not exceed 10 percent of the resident population at any time and only two visitors will be allowed per resident at a given time.
Visitors must undergo temperature checks, wear face coverings and socially distance during the visit. Children under the age of 18 are prohibited.
Nursing Homes accepting visitors will be required to send their visitation plan to the health department and attest that they are following the rules.
More than 6,600 deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities are linked to the coronavirus.
But critics say the death toll could be double that because state officials have refused to divulge how many nursing home residents died of COVID after being transported to hospitals for treatment.
Cuomo admitted that the coronavirus spread through nursing homes “like fire through dry grass.”
But his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic has arguably been his achilles heel. He came under fire for a March 25 health department order that required nursing homes to accept recovering coronavirus patients from hospitals — a policy that was later rescinded.
The Justice Department is looking at whether the policies of New York and three other states contributed to the COVID-19 death count in nursing homes.
Family members with loved ones in nursing homes welcomed the lessening of visitation restrictions.
“I’m just so excited, I’m just so relieved, I just can’t believe it,” said Stephanie Stewart, 58, of Dutchess County, whose mom, Mimi Nichols, 85, resides in the New York State Veteran’s Home in Montrose:
“It seems like, not just us but so many people across the whole state have been doing things contacting different groups that could help us and nothing was happening but — you made my day.”
“I’m so excited to see my mom, she needs us. “We have a facetime call on Friday so hopefully we see her before then.”
“We kept our foot on the gas pedal and we never gave up.”
Said Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the NYS Health Facilities Association/ NYS Center for Assisted Living, also applauded the move.
“This change will go a long way in advancing the physical and psychological well-being of nursing home residents, their families and our staff,” said Hanse, who represents 425 nursing facilities..
“It has been since early March of this year that nursing home residents have been unable to receive visitors in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While nursing homes and their residents have become highly skilled at using various digital communication platforms to connect with loved ones, digital interaction doesn’t compare to the joy of in-person interaction.”
Man shot minutes after being acquitted of fatal gang shooting
A Fresno man who was acquitted of a deadly shooting was wounded and his girlfriend killed minutes after he walked out of jail, his attorney said Wednesday.
Michael Garcia, 21, was shot four times and remained hospitalized.
“They were waiting at the jail for him,” his attorney, Eric Castellon told the Fresno Bee.
Garcia was attacked about 10 p.m. Tuesday while in a car on State Route 180 in Fresno. His girlfriend died. The Fresno County coroner’s office identified her Wednesday as Ernestine Thomas, 21, of Fresno.
“They were planning on leaving so they could get away from all this madness” Castellon said of the couple. “It’s a gang hit, that’s for sure.”
Garcia’s family had received apparent threats on social media, Castellon told the Bee.
No arrests were immediately made.
Garcia was acquitted of charges that he shot and killed Gregory Garza, 23, last year in northwest Fresno. Police had said the shooting stemmed from a dispute over gang ties.
Castellon said his client didn’t have any gang ties and wasn’t the killer.
“He wasn’t the shooter. Witness identifications didn’t match up. Ballistics didn’t match up,” Castellon said.
Woman tased, arrested for not wearing mask at football game
A woman at a grade-school football game in Ohio on Wednesday was reportedly tasered and arrested by a police officer for not wearing a face mask in the stands.
The woman was sitting in the bleachers with her mother when she got into an altercation with the cop about mask-wearing at a middle school in the town of Logan, The Marietta Times reported.
Video of the incident, which was posted to YouTube, shows the woman resisting as the officer struggled to handcuff her for nearly two minutes before he deployed his taser.
The woman, identified in the report as Alecia Kitts, repeatedly tells the officer to “get off of me,” the video shows.
“You’re not arresting me for nothing, I ain’t doing nothing wrong,” she yells after the officer ordered her to place her hands behind her back.
Once the officer tasered Kitts, she fell to a lower tier of the bleachers, according to the footage.
The use of force shocked others watching the game.
“Tasing this lady over not wearing a damn mask,” a witness could be heard saying.
As the woman is finally hauled away, her mother pleads with the cop: “Come on, it’s just a mask!”
Kitts, who appeared to have an American-flag themed mask in her back shorts pocket, was rooting for the visiting team from Marietta City Schools at the time.
The Logan Police Department told The Marietta Times the incident is under investigation.
Logan Athletic Director, Theresa Schultheiss, told the newspaper that Kitts and her mother were the only two in a crowd of 300 fans who were “having issues” complying with the state’s mask requirement.
“This rule has been in effect since we were told we could play,” said Schultheiss.
“Everyone that came through ticketing tonight was reminded, we had regular announcements over the PA reminding you that mouths and noses needed to be covered and we had signs at the bathrooms.”
North Korean sailors shoot, burn South Korean official
A South Korean government official who may have tried to defect to North Korea was shot to death and then set on fire by Navy sailors from the communist country, a report said Thursday.
The 47-year-old man vanished from a boat on Monday that was carrying 18 other South Korean officials who were investigating potential illegal fishing near the water border between the two rival nations, the Associated Press reported.
North Korean officials, wearing gas masks, found him in their waters floating on a small object on Tuesday and alerted the Navy, the AP reported, citing a statement from Seoul.
North Korean sailors then approached him from a boat and shot him to death, according to the statement, which cited surveillance intelligence.
The sailors put on gas masks and other protective equipment, then doused the man’s body with gasoline and set him on fire, according to the report.
A South Korean defense official told the AP that the sailors may have killed the man in accordance with their strict coronavirus measures, which require them to shoot anyone trying to illegally cross their border.
The official added that little is known about the man, but they believe he may have tried to defect to the totalitarian state.
North Korea has claimed it hasn’t had a single coronavirus case since the pandemic began.
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