Submitted by Bria Lewis, Esq., Staff Attorney
On March 3, 2022, NYS Department of Health (DOH) updated their visitation guidelines for adult care facilities (ACFs). These rules echo the guidelines that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released on November 12, 2021 (see previous CELJ blog post) for nursing homes. We welcome the updated guidance from DOH as the guidelines have not been updated since July.
All ACFs must provide immediate access to any resident of visitors of their choice, including but not limited to immediate family or other relatives of the resident and any others who are visiting with the consent of the resident. This is subject to the resident’s right to deny or withdraw consent at any time. Visitation should always be person-centered with consideration of the individual residents’ physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, and support their individual quality of life.
All residents and visitors should wear face coverings or masks and physically distance when in the facility. The guidance states that ACFs may not limit the number of visitors a resident may have at any one time, or the frequency or length of visits for residents, or require advance scheduling of visits.
Additional details from the guidance are as follows:
Visitation during an Outbreak
While it is safer for visitors not to enter the facility at that time, visitors are still allowed in the facility and should be made fully aware of potential risks associated with visitation during and outbreak investigation. Residents and their visitors should wear face masks during the visit regardless of their vaccination status, and the visit should occur in the resident room.
Visitation in Resident Rooms
Visitation is allowed to occur in the resident room. If the resident has a roommate, visitation can still occur as long as physical distancing can be maintained. If a resident’s roommate is unvaccinated or immunocompromised (regardless of vaccination status) then visits should not be permitted in the resident’s room, if possible. Instead, if the immunocompromised resident or roommate is unable to leave the room, then the ACF should enable in-room visitation while adhering to the core principles of infection prevention.
Testing and Vaccination
Visitors cannot be required to be vaccinated (or show proof of such) as a condition of visitation. However, the facility is allowed to screen for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to visitation. Visitors who have a positive viral test for COVID-19, symptoms of COVID-19, or currently meet the criteria for quarantine, should not enter the facility. In this situation, the facility is required to facilitate virtual or telephonic visitation.
According to DOH each facility is required to have appropriate policies and procedures in place to address infection control and prevention after outings. The ACF staff must remind the resident and anyone accompanying the resident to follow all recommended infection prevention practices including wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distance, and practicing hand hygiene.
There are different scenarios for whether a resident would need to quarantine after an outing:
- If the resident (or family member or other individual associated with the resident) reports a possible close contact to an individual with COVID-19 while outside the ACF, and the resident is unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, the resident should be placed in quarantine.
- If the resident becomes symptomatic for COVID-19, the resident should be placed on transmission-based precautions regardless of vaccination status
- Residents who leave the facility for 24 hours or longer should generally be managed as a new admission or readmission, as recommended by the CDC’s “Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes.”
a. In general, all unvaccinated residents who are new admissions and readmissions should be placed in a 14- day quarantine, even if they have a negative test upon admission.
b. Fully vaccinated residents and residents within 90 days of a SARS-CoV-2 infection do not need to be placed in quarantine.
Communal Activities and Dining
While adhering to the core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention, communal activities and dining may occur.
The Center for Elder Law & Justice is available to help. If you are a resident or family member of a resident in a long-term care facility, and have questions or concerns about visitation, please contact us at (716) 853-3087. In addition, our free legal advice helpline can provide answers to brief legal questions to residents of New York State who are 55 or older. Call at 1-844-481-0973 between 9am and 11am to reach an attorney directly or call and leave a message. The helpline can also be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above content is to be used for informational purposes only and is subject to change at any time. This information does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.